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18 Feb 2008 : Column 9

Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, will my noble friend assist the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, who is clearly struggling with an issue of principle? To make sure that he does not have to struggle with that at a personal level, can she give me an assurance that she would resist any temptation to appoint him as a government adviser?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I never say “never” in any circumstances. The Public Administration Select Committee made an important point on skills and government. It said:

Perhaps on that basis the noble Earl might indeed consider becoming an adviser.

Employment: Long-term Unemployed

2.59 pm

Baroness Prosser asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): My Lords, since 1997 the number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance for more than one year has fallen by almost 75 per cent and for more than two years by nearly 90 per cent. The New Deal for Young People and New Deal 25 plus have helped over 1 million people into work. However, we recognise that there is more to do, which is why we are introducing the flexible New Deal to build on our success and to help even more people into work in the future.

Baroness Prosser: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. Does he accept the figures recently released by the Department for Work and Pensions that show that 800,000 people have been through the New Deal at least twice and that in some parts of the country half the participants have never been found employment? Does he agree that for some the New Deal is not a suitable vehicle and that intensive, basic education and family support are needed to get the hardest to help out of the deprivation of benefit dependency?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I would like to answer the question against the backdrop of employment being up by nearly 3 million since 1997, with 1 million fewer people on key out-of-work benefits. However, in a dynamic labour market, it is inevitable that people move in and out of employment. It is right that the latest available figures on the New Deal for Young People show that the number of customers who have started the programme twice or more is just over a quarter of the total. That is why we are designing changes to the jobseeker’s allowance regime from 2009.

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The revised regime will introduce a flexible New Deal and will increase support to and expectation of customers the longer they are unemployed. None of that negates the support that we should give everyone, particularly young people, with regard to education, training and support in the community and in the family.

Lord Bilimoria: My Lords, having served on the National Employment Panel for many years, I have seen the Government’s efforts in getting people from welfare to work, including the several New Deal initiatives. However, the sad reality is that there are many areas of the country where generations of people have never worked. One of the main reasons is that they are scared of losing their benefits. What are the Government’s plans for removing the benefits trap that continues to persist?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, the benefits trap is, in fact, illusory in pretty much every circumstance—although not in absolutely every circumstance. There are misunderstandings and misconceptions. Work certainly needs to be done to show people who wish to move into employment that they will be better off in employment. That is why we are trialling a new in-work credit, which will demonstrate to people that they will be better off when they move into work. It is an important point.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, is the Minister concerned that some people pay effective marginal rates of tax of 90 per cent and more because of the withdrawal of benefit? If people have to pay very high effective marginal rates of tax, that will encourage them not to take up employment. Will he say by how much the number of people who are economically inactive has grown under this Administration?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, on the first point, yes, it is true that there are high withdrawal rates from benefits, but in aggregate they are less severe than they were under the Government in which the noble Lord served. On inactivity levels, the absolute numbers have increased since 1997 but the percentage rate of inactivity has fallen since 1997. If you extract from those numbers the number of students—we should be pleased that there are more students in our country—who feature in the inactivity levels, you see that the absolute numbers and the percentage rate have declined under this Government.

Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay: My Lords—

Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords—

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, the Liberals have not had a turn on this Question and the other three sides of the House have. I suggest that there is time for both speakers if we get on with it.

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Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay: My Lords, the fall in long-term unemployment over the past 10 years is genuinely welcome, but there has been failure in dealing with the problem of young people, to which the Minister alluded. That situation has barely changed at all over the 10 years, while unemployment generally has halved. Why does the Minister think that that is so? What will he do to stop the New Deal being a revolving door for young people?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, there are issues for 16 and 17 year-olds, because most people do not come on to jobseeker’s allowance until the age of 18. Certainly, DCSF is revitalising its programme to look at the so-called NEETs. On the interface with New Deal, we will fast-track people under the new flexible arrangements so that those who have been unemployed for a period at the ages of 16 or 17 will no longer have to wait six months while they go through the first gateway into New Deal but can go on to that programme immediately. That will begin to make a significant difference. We should also recognise that, within the 16 to 24 year-old cohort, there are 693,000 more young people in full-time education. We should celebrate that.

Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, can the Minister advise the House what proportion of the long-term unemployed are of an age at which employers are reluctant to employ them?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I have no specific statistics on that, but we and Jobcentre Plus have a good deal of engagement with employers to ensure that those most historically disadvantaged in the job market are able to access it. That has been done through, for example, the local employment partnerships, the city strategies and other local initiatives. A good deal of work is being done, but I have no overall statistics. If they exist, I will happily write to my noble friend.

Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, what is the Minister’s reaction to Oxford Economic Forecasting’s paper of October 2005, “Transforming Employment Related Services”? It says:

getting the long-term unemployed back into work—

While I am on my feet, let me just add that the figures that the Minister gave were of course for unemployment benefit. The figures for long-term incapacity benefit have actually risen under this Government by 270,000.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, on that last point, the number of incapacity benefit claimants has not risen by 270,000 under this Government. Since 1997, there has been an increase of, I think, 27,000. The number of people on incapacity benefit rose

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inexorably for two decades but has now started to fall; indeed, it has now fallen for 17 successive quarters and is at an eight-year low. On procurement, the department constantly focuses on the most effective way of procuring services to help people back into employment. The mixed model is the right one: Jobcentre Plus doing its job, the third sector doing its job and the private sector being engaged as well. Part of the new commissioning strategy on which we are consulting will make significant improvements in the job outcomes for long-term unemployed people.

Communications Committee

3.08 pm

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That Lord Grocott be appointed a member of the Select Committee in place of Baroness Thornton, resigned.—(The Chairman of Committees.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.


Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, it may be helpful if I explain what is planned for today’s business. We had intended to take the Report stage of the Children and Young Persons Bill. However, shortly before the Recess, the Government tabled a set of amendments to the Bill, chiefly to respond to concerns raised by parliamentarians and others since the Bill was introduced. I do not think that the amendments will prove to be highly controversial, but they run to around 19 pages of changes to a fairly small Bill. Just before the House rose for the half-term Recess, the usual channels therefore agreed to recommit the Bill to permit further consideration. Today, the intention is to consider the government amendments and some of the non-government amendments to areas that have not been touched by the government amendments. A separate Report stage will follow in the normal way at a later date.

I take this opportunity to say that, with the permission of the House, my noble friend Lord Davies of Oldham will repeat a Statement entitled “Northern Rock” at a suitable time after 3.30 pm.

Children and Young Persons Bill [HL]

3.10 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Lord Adonis): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the Bill be recommitted to a Committee of the Whole House.—(Lord Adonis.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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Climate Change Bill [HL]

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Rooker on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the amendments for the Report stage be marshalled and considered in the following order:

Clauses 1 to 26

Schedule 1Clauses 27 to 38Schedule 2Clauses 39 to 41Schedule 3Clause 42Schedule 4Clauses 43 to 60Schedule 5Clauses 61 to 64Schedule 6Clauses 65 to 82.—(Baroness Royall of Blaisdon.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

European Communities (Finance) Bill

Read a third time, and passed.

Children and Young Persons Bill [HL]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Lord Adonis): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee (on Recommitment) on this Bill.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee (on Recommitment) accordingly.

[The LORD SPEAKER in the Chair.]

Clause 1 agreed to.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: Before Amendment No. 1 is moved, I should like to make a wider point about the Bill and pre-legislative scrutiny. This is a classic case of a Bill which, even more than previous Bills, was not well considered before it came into this House, where it has been substantially rewritten. The broader issue that the House needs to consider—perhaps the usual channels will take it on board—is that this is an exceptional circumstance for a Bill. The number of amendments is by a degree larger than the number of government amendments we have had to other Bills in previous years, and it should not become the norm.

Lord Adonis: As my noble friend the Chief Whip made clear, there were exceptional circumstances with regard to the Bill. We were exceptionally attentive to the wishes of the House and have tabled these amendments to respond to the debates in Grand Committee. I suggest that on that basis we move on to the amendments.

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Lord Thomas of Gresford: Has the Minister given notice to others that the recommitment is to start immediately following Questions? There was a suggestion that the Statement was to follow at this stage.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: It is normal practice for the recommitment of the Bill to follow Questions. The Statement will be taken as soon as it has been taken in the House of Commons. That is the normal procedure.

Clause 2 [Restrictions on arrangements under section 1]:

[Amendment No. 1 not moved.]

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 agreed to.

3.15 pm

Clause 4 [Regulation of providers of social work services]:

Lord Adonis moved Amendment No. 2:

The noble Lord said: These are minor and technical amendments necessary to ensure that, if the social work practice model is made available following the pilot phase, providers of social work services will be subject to registration and regulation under the Care Standards Act 2000 and inspection by the chief inspector, and to provide for amendments to Section 5 of the Care Standards Act to be made by the Health and Social Care Bill. These are straightforward, non-controversial amendments. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Adonis moved Amendments Nos. 3 and 4:

(a) if when this section comes into force the amendment made by paragraph 6(3) of Schedule 5 to the Health and Social Care Act 2008 has not come into force, in subsection (1)(a)(iii), for “and adoption support agencies” substitute “, adoption support agencies and providers of social work services”; and(b) if that amendment has come into force at that time or subsequently comes into force, in subsection (1A) after paragraph (e) insert “and,(f) providers of social work services in England or, where the activities of a provider of social work services are carried on from two or more branches, the branches in England.””

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 7 not moved.]

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Lord Adonis moved Amendment No. 8:

(a) persons who are receiving services under sections 23C to 24D of the 1989 Act; and(b) persons under the age of 25 of a prescribed description.

The noble Lord said: The Government are moving this amendment to reflect properly in statute the Secretary of State’s policy responsibilities for the well-being of children. Our intention is to demonstrate the Government’s long-term commitment to improving the lives of children and young people and in doing so to secure financial propriety for the Secretary of State to form relationships with partners effectively to deliver these improvements.

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