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Earl Russell: My Lords, I thank the Minister.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

2 Mar 1998 : Column 1080

Lord Sewel moved Amendment No. 75:

Page 19, line 17, at end insert--
("( ) The prohibition contained in section 40(4) of this Act and the duty imposed by section 41(2) of this Act shall not apply in relation to conditions imposed under subsection (3B) above." ").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 76 not moved.]

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 77:

Page 19, line 17 at end insert--
("(3F) In exercising his powers under this section, the Secretary of State shall ensure that any arrangements for the payment of grant in respect of tuition fees for the fourth or any subsequent year of study at a higher education institution in Scotland apply equally to a student whose parental home or normal place of residence for purposes other than attendance at that institution is in England, Wales or Northern Ireland as they do to a student whose parental home or normal place of residence for purposes other than attendance at that institution is in Scotland." ").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment was taken with Amendment No. 51, which the House accepted earlier. Therefore, I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 23 [Right of young persons to time off for study or training]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 78:

Page 20, line 48, at end insert ("; and
(b) shall be laid in draft before Parliament for approval by resolution of each House.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall be brief. The measures set out in Clause 23 are most serious and I shall not repeat the points that I made in Committee. At that time, I fully accepted the arguments put forward by the noble Baroness; namely, that these are two clauses which ought to be seen and considered by another place. For that reason, I withdrew my amendment which sought to remove them from the Bill.

Nevertheless, if employers are going to find themselves subject to the law in order to fulfil their obligations under the measures contained in Clause 23, I believe that it is incumbent upon the Government to place any regulations in draft before Parliament,

    "for approval by resolution of each House".

I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, two regulations would be covered by the amendment, both relating to insertions in the Employment Rights Act 1996. The first relates to the power to specify a body to award a qualification and the second to the power to prescribe the standard of achievement. As regards the power to prescribe that standard, we have already said that we want young people to get to Level 2--that is, five good GCSEs, an intermediate GNVQ or an NVQ Level 2. As for the power to award or authenticate qualifications, we have said that, for example, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority will be the guardian of standards in England.

Throughout the debate reference has been made to the report of the delegated powers committee which has considered regulations arriving under these clauses. The committee has agreed with the proposal in the

2 Mar 1998 : Column 1081

memorandum of the department that such statutory instruments should be subject to the negative resolution procedure and not the affirmative procedure. In all other respects, we have now accepted in full the recommendations of the committee and we consider that we can also do so in this case. I hope, therefore, that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the point made by the Minister is a fair one. However, there are a number of companies--and, again, I believe that I mentioned this in Committee--which are decidedly disquieted by what they see as prescription of the training. Many companies provide training which is entirely adequate for their employees to enable them to do the job for which they are employed. Some of the companies to which I refer are actually quite big companies. However, because they do not specifically fit the particular mode of training or the particular content of training that will be prescribed, they will be expected to provide additional training, to send people off campus for training or to make expensive modifications to their training.

We are discussing a rather serious matter. Therefore, even though I intend to withdraw my amendment, I would ask the noble Lord to ensure that, in the negotiations with commerce and industry, the Government will take those points on board and introduce as much flexibility as is consistent with the quality of training. I trust that companies will not be required to make unnecessary--or what they consider to be superfluous-- expenditure to meet the demands of a bureaucrat, as opposed to the demands that they would seek to address; namely, the quality training that is consistent with the people who work in their company doing the job for which they are employed. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

11.30 p.m.

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 78A:

After Clause 24, insert the following new clause--

Report to Parliament by Secretary of State

(" . The Secretary of State shall lay a report before both Houses of Parliament twelve months after the coming into force of this Part stating what, in his opinion, has been the effect of this Part on the labour market for persons aged 16 and 17.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the purpose of this amendment is to require the Secretary of State to report to Parliament on the impact of these provisions on the labour market for 16 and 17 year-olds one year after the coming into force of this part.

Local authorities are concerned that a combination of the exclusion of 16 to 17 year-olds from welfare-to-work and this right to time off will have a serious adverse impact on the employability of this age group. Local authorities are keen to ensure that the employment and training options for 16 and 17 year-old young people are enhanced.

While the Government's measures, as set out in these clauses, are welcome, they must be considered in the context of the assistance currently available to this age

2 Mar 1998 : Column 1082

group. Unlike their older counterparts, 16 and 17 year-olds are denied assistance from the social security system and have no recourse whatsoever to other moneys. Those who may have been accommodated or assisted by local authority social services departments are often compelled to seek financial support from social services departments. This is neither desirable in terms of providing consistent financial support to young people in need, nor in terms of local authority budgets, which show that, increasingly, payments under Section 17 of the Children Act have been used to meet the income support needs of young people denied help elsewhere. There is therefore a cost both to the individual and a cost which is unaccounted for in the local government finance settlement for local authorities in having to meet these income support needs.

This group of young people are not as yet eligible to participate in the Government's New Deal for the unemployed. The official school leaving age is 16 and the expectation is that those young people leaving school at this age will seek employment, training or education opportunities. They do, in effect, enter the labour market. However, as far as employers are concerned, subsidies are available for employing 18 to 24 year-olds under the welfare-to-work programme, which is not available to this younger age group. The impact of the welfare-to-work programme may be inadvertently compounded by the Government's proposal to require employers to release 16 and 17 year-olds for training. The measures will represent a further cost to employers in recruiting from this age range and may thus act as a potential disincentive. The Government estimate the full-year costs of compliance to employers to be in the range of £60 million to £130 million per annum--large sums.

The Government have recently launched their policy initiative, Investing in Young People, which together with projects in the new start strategy is intended to support, amongst others, those 16 and 17 year-olds. But the IIYP policy has yet to take effect in full and the new start projects are not a nationwide approach but are funded only in 17 pilot areas. In order to monitor these measures, and those in the Bill, and to assess whether they are the most effective way of achieving the Government's objective of improving opportunities for 16 and 17 year-olds, this amendment would provide the opportunity for a full parliamentary scrutiny of their effects.

In Committee my noble friend Lady Blackstone said,

    "The Government recognise that there is a potential issue here concerning the interaction of two important commitments. But we believe that that will be a local rather than national issue. However, we shall monitor closely the impact of the New Deal and will be able to assess its possible interaction with other policies. Of course that is important, but it is quite right to give priority to those young people aged 18 to 24 who have been unemployed for more than six months. But we wish to ensure that that does not put at risk the opportunities for 16 and 17 year-olds, a group who have the benefit of other opportunities such as modern apprenticeships, national traineeships and other government supported work-based training. But it is a group also which does not always take up those opportunities".--[Official Report, 26/1/98; col. 33.]

2 Mar 1998 : Column 1083

Can the Minister explain how the Government intend to monitor the New Deal and its impact on the proposals in the Bill? I want an answer. It is an important point. The 16 to 17 year-olds may be disadvantaged. I look forward to the Minister's response. I beg to move.

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