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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in support of the Bill. I am particularly encouraged to hear the noble Lord, Lord Oakeshott, say that it should proceed with all due
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speed and to hear the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, say that the Bill is in good shape. I hope that that means that no amendments will be tabled for Grand Committee, or if anyone has probing amendments, perhaps we could talk about them beforehand, as that would certainly help.

It is not that I am anxious to inhibit discussion. I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, about the time of Third Reading. The time allotted was 45 minutes, and the Opposition spokesman who opened the debate said that they would not really need 45 minutes. I think they did in the end, but there was no particular complaint about that.

Lord Higgins: My Lords, in fact it was half an hour, not 45 minutes. The system is vastly different from the one that we used to have. If it was necessary to curtail debate because of filibustering or some urgency, at least half a day's debate was allocated to justify it. Now everything is programmed, which was unheard of 10 years ago. The way in which debate has been curtailed in the other place is deplorable.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am reluctant to have a debate on the procedures of the House of Commons, although I appreciate the noble Lord's motive if it were to affect the quality of the legislation that comes to us. But as he said, it has not. It has come to us in good shape. I shall not pursue that matter further.

Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay: My Lords, I am just responding to the Minister's request. Subject to his summing up and answering the points that I have raised, I have no plans to table amendments.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, that is helpful.

My only other introductory remark—if I can get to it—is to comment on what the noble Baroness, Lady Gale, said about plumbers and professors. Some people would say that there is a greater need for plumbers than professors. I rather think that if you called out a professor you would get one in 10 minutes in many parts of the country.

The noble Baroness made a valuable contribution because it was from personal experience involving a member of her family. She is right to say that one of the virtues of the Bill is that it removes the distinction—the discrimination—between education in a college and unwaged training. To that extent, I very much agree with her.

I find it more difficult to respond to her question about what happens after the 20th birthday. The member of her family started unwaged training at the age of 18 years 11 months. The benefit of the Bill will expire on the 20th birthday, which is well before the programme of unwaged training is complete. The reason for not making it a later date was because we thought it undesirable from a young person's point of view unnecessarily to delay entering an unwaged
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training programme. The Paymaster General heard that point in the House of Commons and undertook to have a review.

The noble Lord, Lord Haskel, made a valuable contribution. It referred to experience in Wakefield where, as he said, there is a significant lack of basic skills. That reminds me that I forgot to say when mentioning the Harington Scheme that it is for people with learning disabilities—those who would not get into further education or training in FE or sixth form colleges. I confirm to the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, that they are on entry to apprenticeship schemes funded by the Learning and Skills Council. Local LSCs are able to fund skills, although they have their own policies. But in most of the country funding is available to voluntary organisations.

The noble Lord, Lord Haskel, asked whether there was a risk that businesses would stop paying trainees. They pay trainees when it is to their advantage to do so, and do not when it is not. Programmes are funded by the Learning and Skills Council and frequently include an element of college attendance. If there were a risk of businesses stopping paying trainees, they would not do it by this method. The number of apprenticeships has increased significantly under this Government. I do not have the figures in front of me, but the TUC has indicated support for these measures, which it would not do if employers were capable of exploiting them.

The noble Lord also questioned whether young people could be exploited by their own families. If that were the case, it would apply much more widely to those in further education. I do not think that there is any evidence that they do. The benefits provide some money for the young person and some for the family, which is generally agreed to be the right way round.

The noble Lord, Lord Oakeshott, asked how many of the 80,000 in the cohort would benefit. The answer is all of them. We have provided in draft regulations a full list of all the government-arranged training programmes, including entry to employment and comparable schemes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. None of the 80,000 will not benefit. It is a coincidence that there are 80,000 unwaged traineeships and also 80,000 between their 19th and 20th birthdays. No one should be led to think that there is anything other than coincidence in that figure.

The noble Lord asked me a proper question from the Prince's Trust about why there are only government-supported training schemes and not work experience and more informal training schemes. That question was asked of the Paymaster General in another place who recognised that it is a significant issue. She said that there would be a response in the Statement accompanying the Budget in two weeks' time.

The noble Lord also asked about likely behavioural training changes and their cost effect. The answer to the latter question can be answered very easily. It is a zero sum game between further education or sixth form colleges and unwaged training. Both will now get the same financial support. The movement between those in colleges and those in unwaged training will not
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cost the Exchequer any more. We have given figures of £105 million, but the continuing costs will not be significant.

As to whether it will bring in behavioural changes in the sense of new entrants, that is a valid point to which we do not yet know the answer. We have been unable to do a pilot as we did for educational maintenance allowances. It provides a better choice that is not distorted by financial considerations at the age of 16 or later. If the choice is between education and unwaged training, neither affects the Exchequer.

I shall not go back to the little discussion with the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, about proceedings in the House of Commons but, as so often, he queried why the Treasury is responsible for this legislation. It is because Parliament passed it in the Tax Credits Act, the purpose of which was to integrate the tax system with family support. Since we now have 6 million families on tax credit, I do not think that there can be any serious doubt that it has not been advantageous. If there are queries about the administration of tax credits, I would only say that the Office of Government Commerce stated:

Lord Higgins: My Lords, a situation in which child tax credit has been wrongly paid by the Inland Revenue, which then claims it back from the poor families concerned, who have spent the money, cannot possibly be described in that way.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, we have debated this in this Chamber within the past week, as the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, knows. There is a trade off. Either a system is simple and is assessed only once a year—which leads to overpayment that has to be recovered—or the payment is continually reassessed. There can be different views about which is the better option, but no one can deny that they are legitimate options and that there is a trade off between them.

The noble Lord asked whether this means means-testing child benefit. We are talking about over-16s and there is already a test for child benefit: the independence of the young person and whether he is working 24 hours a week or more. He acknowledged that the Harington scheme would benefit from this legislation and asked whether there were other schemes that would not. As I think I indicated before, the programme of schemes set out in the draft regulations is pretty comprehensive. The noble Lord accused the Treasury of liking to take over social policy, but I think I am allowed to refrain from commenting on the views of Sodexho about obesity. That is one thing for which the Treasury is not responsible.

I hope that I have answered the questions raised in debate.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Grand Committee.

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 2.35 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
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[The Sitting was suspended from 2.32 to 2.35 p.m.]

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