I beg to move amendment No. 10, in page 4. line 21, after 'period, insert
'or when engaged in a course of education or training.'
Before I deal with the precise terms of the amendment, it would be helpful to the House if I set it in the context of the clause from which it offers a further exemption. Competition among the clauses in the Bill to see which may be regarded as most objectionable is intense. However, when history makes its judgment on the Bill it will be by clause 4 that it will be best remembered.
For 40 years, supplementary benefit, or the social security system which preceded it, has been available to any person over 16 years. This clause excludes from such benefit anybody under 18, and, remarkably, it does so in the very decade that has seen more unemployment than ever before among those who arc affected by the clause.
In yesterday's debate on child benefit there was a passage of arms about what the Conservative party had meant in its manifesto when it referred to child benefit. The gulf between what it said in its manifesto at the last election and what it is doing in the clause with respect to teenagers is wider than anything that it has said in respect of child benefit. The manifesto stated:
We will take steps to ensure that those under 18 who deliberately choose to remain unemployed are not eligible for benefit.
Perhaps it should have occurred to us why the Government felt it necessary to take those steps. After all, a battery of powers are available to the DHSS to suspend benefit from anybody who it thinks chooses to be unemployed. It is simply not possible to choose to be unemployed and to claim benefit. I suspect, as many hon. Members no doubt do from the evidence of their constituency surgeries, that the powers against those suspected of choosing unemployment are being used far more readily and more easily than before.
Perhaps we should have been suspicious. We would have been correct in our suspicions, because, as the clause shows, the Government are riot suspending benefit froth those under 18 who deliberately choose to remain unemployed, but are suspending benefit from anybody under 18 who is not employed. It is an absolute ban. The proposal is as lonely and friendless as any adolescent whom it will affect.
I noticed, when reading the Official Report of the Committee proceedings, that the Under-Secretary of State and the Minister referred to YTS in glowing terms and appeared to pray in aid the success of YTS as the reason why it was no longer necessary to offer supplementary benefit or income support to 16 and 17-year-olds. This is not the place to debate YTS and I am sure that you, Madam Deputy Speaker, would call me to order if I attempted to do so. However, if the Government claim that the success of YTS is the reason why we no longer need to offer income support to 16 and 17-year-olds, they should listen to what is said by the people who administer the YTS scheme and made it the success that the Minister claims.
Everybody associated with YTS has begged the Government not to proceed with the clause. The MSC has persistently emphasised that it regards it as important that YTS is a voluntary scheme, both for the employer and for the young person. The youth training board of the MSC, which administers the YTS, has emphasised its policy that YTS should be voluntary. The Institute of Careers Officers Ltd., which the Under-Secretary of State prayed in aid in Committee, has stressed to the Government that YTS should be voluntary and not a system of conscription.
To all those bodies, it is highly appropriate to the success of YTS that it should be voluntary. The willingness of youngsters to enter the scheme and make a success of their place on the scheme depends on their doing so voluntarily and not being conscripted. All hon. Members who have achieved my exalted years must be familiar with the fact that one can get an adolescent to do something much more successfully when one has persuaded him to believe that he thought of it first and that it was his choice, rather than ordering him to do it.
As my hon. Friend says, that is also true of the Government. I shall endeavour to persuade them that they think that the clause is wrong and should be withdrawn.
If we were to consider the poverty lobby, it would not be possible to find anybody in the voluntary sector, responsible for welfare policy, to support this proposal. I suspect that we would not find anybody employed by the DHSS who would support it either, if people only dared to speak their minds. This measure will cause hardship to young people and, as everybody in the welfare debate knows, will increase household poverty.
There are some spectacular exceptions, such as His Royal Highness Prince Edward, but, by and large, those young people who find it difficult to obtain useful, remunerative work are in households with below average incomes. They are in households where parents are least able to support teenagers, who end up with no income of their own, but it would be inappropriate to develop that point.
It would be inappropriate to do that, because the clause is inappropriate to a Social Security Bill. The motive that has inspired the clause and the measure does not come from a consideration of equity or income support. The motive that inspires this proposal is the Government's policy in the labour market consistently to drive down the wages of young workers by excluding them from the protection of the wages councils, and by introducing young workers' schemes designed to subsidise poverty wages.
This is merely the latest step in a number of measures taken by the Government to make it more difficult for teenagers to resist any job, however badly paid, however poor a future it may offer and however temporary its nature. Ironically, it is precisely because they have created that labour market that this measure is spectacularly inappropriate to the context of that labour market. They have exposed teenagers to a labour market in which the jobs they obtain are increasingly casual, temporary and seasonal.
The life experience of many teenagers alternates between employment and unemployment. Survey after survey has shown that one in five young people aged under 18 have a chance of being unemployed within the next three months, and that one in eight teenagers are employed in a temporary or part-time job. The lifestyle of that large chunk of the teenage work force alternates between intervals out of work and intervals in work. The clause states that when they are out of work they will receive no benefit, and that while they are in work they will be expected to pay contributions towards unemployment and social security benefits.
The amendment seeks to widen the exemptions and to exclude another group of teenagers from the scope of the clause. In Committee, the Under-Secretary of State read into the record a list of the present, narrow exemptions. I am disappointed that there is no open exemption for 16 and 17-year-olds who are obliged to leave home because of physical abuse or because they are in danger from incest. The only exemption that is conceded in their case is that they will qualify for income support during the period when child benefit would otherwise have been payable to their parents. They will qualify only for the bridging period of three or four months until a YTS place becomes available.
As the Under-Secretary of State will appreciate, the problem with that is that the YTS allowance is not calculated to meet a trainee's housing costs. Many of the voluntary organisations which cater specifically for the needs of teenagers who have left home because they no longer have a place there have no idea how they will function if those teenagers cannot pay their rents because they can no longer obtain benefit.
Other groups of teenagers are exempted, but the exemptions are extremely limited. I was pleased to note that pregnant mothers will be exempt from the scope of the clause and be allowed to claim income support — not indefinitely, but at any rate for longer than the bridging allowance period. That is an important category, because there are 50,000 teenage pregnancies every year. However, on reading the provision for pregnant mothers, I was startled to discover that they will qualify for income support for only the last 11 weeks of pregnancy. For the first six months they will not be entitled to social security. Perhaps the Under-Secretary of State will explain how he expects a 16 or 17-year-old girl who is four or five months pregnant to obtain employment, or, for that matter, to obtain a YTS place and qualify for a YTS allowance. She will have to wait until the sixth month, when eventually she will qualify for income support.
The Under-Secretary of State may wish to rely on the other categories that are exempted. There will be exemptions in cases of—I quote the words from the list —"exceptional hardship". In Committee the Under-Secretary of State constantly referred to "severe hardship", but the list calls it "exceptional hardship". Normal hardship will not do; severe hardship will not do; it must be exceptional hardship.
That exemption is rather baroque, because the DHSS proposes that every case of exceptional hardship must be referred to DHSS head office. It is extraordinary that in cases where there will be the most urgent need for payment, the papers will he sent by post to DHSS head office, where they will join the long queue in the in tray, and there will be considerable delay before a reply is received from an adjudication officer, who will not have seen the claimant, to whom the claimant cannot make representations, and against whose decision the claimant has no right of appeal.
The amendment seeks to lever open the door to further exemptions. It would extend an automatic exemption to 16 and 17-year-olds who would rather study than join the youth training scheme. When the Prime Minister addressed the House in April, before the general election, she gave the range of options available to young people. She said that young people aged between 16 and 18
can stay on at school, can stay on in further education, can undertake a youth training scheme … or they can do a job."—[Official Report, 23 April 1987; Vol. 114, c. 787.]
The amendment seeks to give expression to the clear wishes and intentions of the Prime Minister, by enabling unemployed 16 and 17-year-olds to make a rational and fair choice between joining the youth training scheme and studying part-time. After all, it is a serious choice for them to make, and there may be many reasons why youngsters will wish to study rather than join the YTS.
More than a quarter of YTS trainees go back into unemployment when their courses finish. That factor will weigh with many 16 and 17-year-olds when considering whether to take up their guaranteed places. Half the YTS places train in skills which, in the words of a report issued by the Department of Employment, are not generally in short supply. By comparison, a 16 or 17-year-old entering a course of education, even on a part-time basis, could obtain a qualification which would enable him to continue into higher education. Under the 21-hour rule, he could obtain two A-levels and thereby qualify for a place in further education for which the youth training scheme would not qualify him.
The reasons why a 16 or 17-year-old might debate whether to join the YTS or go into education are strengthened by the passage of arms in Committee, when the Under-Secretary of State was pressed by Labour Members to guarantee a suitable place for every teenager. He will recall that he could not give such a guarantee. He could give a guarantee only that a place would be available, not that it would he suitable for a 16 or 17-year-old. In those circumstances, it is only fair that that youngster should have the right to say, "No, thank you. I do not want a place that I do not regard as suitable for me. I would rather spend my time studying."
The intent of our amendment may not be immediately obvious from its wording and, with some humility, I should say that I am not 102 per cent. confident that it gives expression to our intentions. The clause refers to income support being available
in prescribed circumstances and for a prescribed period
to 16 and 17-year-olds. If the amendment were accepted, the clause would refer to
prescribed circumstances and for a prescribed period or when engaged in a course of education or training.
when engaged in a course of education
is offered as an alternative only to the "prescribed period", not to the "prescribed circumstances". I accept that it would be impracticable to offer income support to every 16 and 17-year-old. If our amendment were carried it would be limited to the 16 and 17-year-olds who came within the "prescribed circumstances" of the clause.
Who would come within those prescribed circumstances? First, I wish to clarify the doubts about what will happen to the 21-hour rule. At present, about 30,000 16 and 17-year-olds are studying part-time under the 21-hour rule, which enables them to maintain a course of part-time study without jeopardising their supplementary benefit. In Committee the Minister of State said that the income support regulations will, in general, continue the 21-hour rule. It is correct to say that the 21-hour rule will remain available to everyone over the age of 18, just as it is available now. But after the Bill becomes law — if the House is unwise enough to put it on the statute book—that part and all other paragraphs of the regulations will no longer apply to those aged under 18.
Will the Under-Secretary clarify how he proposes to give effect to the statement by the Minister that the 21-hour rule will remain available? Will he also give a clear undertaking that 16 and 17-year-olds carrying out a part-time course of study under the 21- hour rule will be in the prescribed categories, and that their benefits will not be threatened when the Bill is enacted?
There are, of course, other groups who benefit from the present rules, and who appear to be jeopardised by the clause—for instance, teenagers who are separated from their parents, to whom I referred earlier. At present it is possible for such teenagers to obtain supplementary benefit, even for full-time courses of study. They would, however, appear to lose under the clause, unless it is amended along the lines that we propose. There are also school leavers, who at present do not qualify for the 21-hour rule until three months after leaving school. That is an onerous requirement, meaning that many will miss the start of further education college courses in August and September.
It is important to safeguard the interests of those groups and to preserve their right to enter courses of study rather than youth training schemes. If the clause passes on to the statute book unamended, the only group who will automatically qualify for income support while pursuing a course of study will be refugees studying English. While I welcome the exemption of refugees studying English, I see no reason why teenagers who have left school with no literacy skills and without basic English should be denied the opportunity to acquire those skills, which they will certainly need in the future.
The objective of the amendment is to preserve choice and freedom, to give teenagers the right to choose between education and YTS, and to decide for themselves which is the more suitable. In urging the acceptance of the amendment I do not resile from my objections to the principles of the clause, which I outlined at the beginning. I believe that if 16 and 17-year-olds are old enough to be employed, it is wrong in principle that they should be held to be not old enough to receive the benefits of being unemployed. I also believe that it is vindictive to visit this further discrimination on teenagers, who have seen their benefit cut 14 times under the present Government.
Unless the amendment is accepted, we shall vote for it in an attempt to soften the effects of the clause, and also to express our contempt for the clause as a whole.
It is a privilege for me to take part for the first time in this debate. The freedom of the Back Bencher at last allows me to rove over issues other than the energy issues on which the Minister and I used to spend most of our time.
I do not wish to rehearse the arguments put so effectively by my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) against clause 4 and in favour of the amendment. However, he rightly began by saying that the clause removed a 40-year-old right. Anyone should be squeamish and uneasy about that principle, even if about nothing else.
The clause removes a right to income support in the form of supplementary benefit which has existed for many years. If it were part and parcel of a comprehensive financial arrangement for 16 to 18-year-olds, we could at least have debated that argument. But the anomalies that already exist, and have existed for a considerable time—and for which we all bear some historic collective responsibility—are in no way altered or removed by the changes that the Government now propose.
There is a host of such anomalies in the provisions for 16 to 18-year-olds. My hon. Friend mentioned some of them: the 21-hour rule, the three-month rule, the 12-hour rule and whether a young person is in full-time education. In communities like mine, hon. Members have been grappling with such matters for some time in their Saturday surgeries.
We admit the need for a fundamental change in financial provision for this age group. However, the Government have removed rights without even attempting to deal with that host of anomalies. They propose to replace income support with YTS and MSC schemes: that will be the simple impact of the clause. It is relevant, therefore, to examine the relationship between financial support and the role played by YTS, the MSC and training allowances in the lives of 16 to 18-year-olds, and in the financial provision for them.
I was interested to read the recent publication by the Manpower Services Commission in Wales entitled "Corporate Plan 1987–1991". I recommend that the Minister obtain a copy, as I shall be asking him about some aspects of it in relation to clause 4. Chapter 2 lays down explicit objectives. Under the heading "Implementing the New Training Initiative", it states:
The aim of NTI Objective 2 is to move towards a position where all young people enter the labour market with a qualification relevant to employment. By 1991 the Commission would like to see the vast majority of young people in Wales entering the work force with recognised and relevant vocational qualification.
It continues—this is relevant to our argument—
To achieve this, there will need to be a comprehensive and coherent provision for all young people under the age of 18 to allow them to choose between continuing in full-time education entering training or a period of work experience combining work-related training and education. The role of YTS and TVEI in achieving this aim will need to be developed in conjunction with other developments.
The key reference is to the MSC's objective —presumably it is also the Government's objective—of a comprehensive and coherent provision for all young people under 18, to allow them to choose between continuing in full-time education and embarking on other forms of training. I should have thought that there was a logical correlation between that and comprehensive and coherent financial provision for such young people to make the choice, rather than financial provision that will distort the choices that they must make.
In my community it will be very difficult for a parent, friend or even Member of Parliament to advise a young person, as I am often asked to do, to engage in full-time education in a technical college. In giving such advice, I would be saying that that young person, and the family who must support him, will receive not a penny in training allowance — not £28, not £35 — or any other form of financial support, other than child benefit of £7, frozen and not uprated.
How can an adviser in a community such as mine, where parents are on very limited incomes, make any recommendation for full-time further technical education? As we know, education authorities are unfortunately not willing to offer grants. Those entering university or other kinds of college can receive grants from the county education authority, but financial support for young people entering technical education courses is very restricted.
The anomalies, and the distortion of market choice in education—let me use the terms that the Minister used —are becoming even more absurd as the MSC becomes more and more involved in technical education. Chunks of Merthyr's technical college are financed by or related to MSC-supported schemes. In the same institution, we have people who are supported by the MSC and who receive training allowances, and others who are not and who receive no allowance. A major financial penalty is now attached to young people choosing between full-time education and training. Choice, however, remains an MSC objective. That is a matter on which we should press the Minister, leaving aside our fundamental objection to the clause.
The anomalies in the present system are not restricted to 16 to 18-year-olds. Our 19-year-olds are in an even worse position. I wrote to the Secretary of State on 19 November about a 19-year-old called Jonathan Guard. I am disappointed not to have received a reply. I am told that such cases have to go to the DHSS, but it seems that we cannot get replies in a reasonable time. He goes to a technical college to undergo full-time education and receives no allowance or grant. Moreover, his mum and dad have lost child benefit. Is it not time that, instead of proposing nasty clauses such as this, we should make comprehensive and coherent training and education provision for 16 to 18-year-olds?
I should like to investigate how money has been allocated. We learn from the MSC's corporate plan for Wales that in 1987–88 £62·5 million was provided for 32,000 YTS places. That figure goes up to £68·7 million for 1988–89 and to £68·9 million for 1989–90. What assumptions have been made about the number of young people who will be driven into YTS? The voluntary arrangement has worked well in my area. I do not want to get involved in arguments about the problems of YTS. Young people are being driven into YTS by the financial penalties behind the clause. I should like the Minister to give us some detail about the assessments behind the figures that I have given.
How will the clause affect the numbers of people who enter schemes in the next two financial years? There must he such figures, because the Government have already prepared projected budgets. We want to know how sensible, worthwhile and suitable YTS places will be.
We have recently heard that the Department of Trade and Industry is to become a department of enterprise. In my community, the MSC is the second or third largest employer after Hoover and another company. It has become an industry of its own. Under the proposed arrangement, I assume that it will become an ever bigger "employer", not least because of the element of compulsion behind clause 4. It is tragic that schemes which work, which we have done much to promote and which have offered opportunities to our young people, are to become compulsory. We are to have conscription rather than choice. Even worse, however, the financial provisions and anomalies which remain are as bad as ever. That will militate against the comprehensive development of our young people's talents.
Clause 4 is a further example of the punitive regime that the Government want us to impose on young people. They go according to the adage of Lord Young, who maintains that young people who do not take a YTS place would rather lie around in bed all day than seek employment.
The clause applies to people who refuse a YTS place —the Minister made a few exemptions in Committee—and others who are not on a YTS course, for whatever reason. It will not matter whether they have been offered a place. The Government are anxious to sacrifice the free choice of youngsters on the altar of the public sector borrowing requirement.
Of the 92,000 16 and 17-year-olds in Britain who are in receipt of benefit, 30,000 benefit from the regulation which allows them to take part-time education which involves up to 12 or 21 hours a week. My hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) mentioned such people's ability to take A-levels. For about 25 years, I lectured to mature students and school leavers in further education. On the basis of six hours' study per subject per week, it was possible to take three A-levels. Many students have achieved high grades and gone on to training colleges and universities. I could name students who achieved second-class honours degrees at universities.
That option is now being stopped. The restriction will not apply to 16 and 17-year-olds whose parents have plenty of cash. It will not apply to the children of Ministers who are sent to the large comprehensive schools of Eton, Harrow and Rugby. They can afford that type of education. But it will probably apply to 20,000 or 30,000 young people annually in part-time education.
It is all very well for the Government to say, as they may say, that it is possible for young people to stay on at school until they are 18 and finish their course in that way, but it was the Minister, the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Portillo), who, referring to the choice of a YTS course, said:
it is appropriate that careers officers should be guided by the word 'suitable' when choosing a course."—[Official Report, Standing Committee E, I December 1987; c. 311.]
I repeat what I said in Committee: careers officers are not in their posts simply to he recruiting sergeants for YTS; they are there to give advice on the basis of the age, ability and aptitude of the young person concerned.
Often careers officers will tell young people in schools that a YTS course will be available to them, but If they were free to give advice on what would best suit an individual youngster, they would be able to add that it might be better to take a course in a college of further education. Many careers officers give that advice in schools, because they realise that many children—some would question whether they are children at 16 and 17 —fall foul of a rigid regime in school and develop better in the freer community of a further education college where they can develop their self-reliance and are not subjected to the same discipline as 10 and 11-year-olds further down the school system.
Now, however, careers officers must take something else into 'account. They must consider whether funds will be made available to those young people if they take a course in a college of further education. Those funds may not be available. The Minister may ask why they do not go to the local education committee. However, we all know how the Government have starved local education authorities of funds to enable them to award discretionary grants to young people taking 0 and A-level and other courses at college.
I cannot say that the Labour Government were all that they should have been because, as a lecturer, I was sending letters to— dare I mention the name, Madam Deputy Speaker — Shirley Williams at the Department of Education and Science, saying that more funds should be made available to enable young people to study. But one thing that that Labour Government did was to allow the introduction of regulations which permitted young people to study in college for up to 21 hours a week, and many benefited thereby.
There is no doubt that this clause, introduced by the Government, is contrary to the stated philosophy of the Conservative party, which is always talking about freedom of choice. Now the Government are saying that there can be no freedom of choice for those youngsters who refuse a YTS course.
In Committee the Minister promised—I think that he gave a hostage to fortune—that every 16 and 17-year-old school leaver next year would he offered a YTS place. We shall see. I very much doubt it. It must be a YTS place which is suited to the individual. I do not believe that that will happen, because many thousands of young people who have been on YTS courses have discovered that the courses have folded up or been so inadequate and unsuitable — and "suitable" was a word used by the Minister — that they have preferred to leave or been forced to do so. What is wrong with a young person deciding between his YTS course and a college course which he feels may be more suitable? There is nothing in our so-called free society that says that an individual must be employed in a particular job, but that is what will happen to 16 and 17-year-olds. They will be compelled to go on a YTS scheme or support will be withdrawn.
It may be argued that the Government will continue to pay child benefit, but many young people who take a college course do so against the wishes of their parents. Sometimes the parents are separated; sometimes there is friction between them. So the young person who is told by the careers officer that he can enlarge his opportunities and fulfil his potential by taking a college course will now have that possibility jeopardised as a result perhaps not of lack of thought, but certainly lack of appreciation of the position in which many young people find themselves. Ministers ought to ask themselves whether they would be so happy to support this measure if their son or daughter were told that it was a choice between a YTS course and no support whatever.
I support fully what my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston has said. I hope that if this amendment is not carried tonight, it will at least give rise to such a stir among parents and young people that the Government will soon be forced to tell the House that they have had to think again.
I begin by reiterating what my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) said about our disagreeing with the whole principle of clause 4. As we have no opportunity to debate that, we are doing our best to protect people as much as possible.
Much has been said about ordinary young people who will be severely affected by the proposals in the clause. That is bad enough, but there is another group in respect of which I had the privilege of moving an amendment in Committee. The aim of the amendment was to protect disabled young people who at present are able to enjoy further education — the 16 to 18-year-olds. This was considered necessary, not just by Opposition Members, but by groups which represent the young disabled, by the MSC, by Lord Joseph, as he now is, when he was Secretary of State for Education and Science.
There have been many reports and much information to show why it is necessary that young people who are disabled, either mentally or physically, should have the opportunity for further education, rather than go straight on to YTS. It does not mean that some young disabled people do not automatically go on to YTS schemes—they certainly do—but the young people about whom we are particularly concerned are those who are considered, by others and sometimes by themselves, as not immediately ready at the age of 16 to go on a YTS scheme. Experience shows that some of those who go on such schemes do not necessarily achieve the qualifications or gain the experience that more able young people do, simply because of their disabilities, and so are not given the work experience that they should have. This group of young people therefore need special consideration.
More than once in Committee the Minister gave us certain assurances, to which I shall refer later, because we want to make sure that it goes on record that all people in this category will be able to receive benefit for themselves. No doubt even the MSC is not happy about it, because it is still producing packages for lecturers to deal with disabled people, called "From Coping to Confidence". It is strange that those packages are still being produced when, under clause 4, the young people will be dissuaded, for financial reasons if nothing else, from attending the courses.
Many young disabled people who go to college have to make a statement that they are mentally disabled, or whatever. I said in Committee that this was done in the offices of the DHSS, but I have since learnt that that is not so. The young people have to go to their general practitioners, who, with great respect, may not be the best people to decide whether a mentally or physically disabled person needs this certification or statement, as I think it is called, which is an embarrassment to the young people. Many young people will not be prepared to go to their GPs to ask for a certificate so that they may qualify for college.
Parents do not like to admit that the young people are physically or mentally disabled. Colleges are not happy about encouraging the system. Under clause 4, they will have to accept a piece of paper stating that the young person is physically or mentally disabled. Many young people understandably are not prepared to accept that stigma.
One headmaster put it as follows:
Many of our least able young people cannot cope with the demands of Youth Training Schemes and yet would feel insulted and humiliated if they were referred to as disabled. The Warnock Report and 1981 Education Act were significant developments in ensuring that such young people as attended this (special) school were regarded and treated as normal youngsters. Schools like this one have very much supported and developed that concept. The labelling of them as disabled totally undermines the work which we have been carrying out.
The young people themselves have also rejected the labal of severely mentally handicapped. For example, 22 students at Bedford college have written:
We all left school and came to college because we know we were not ready for work, or ready to join a YTS course. We learn a little bit slower than other young people and come to college to spend a year preparing ourselves for adult life and work. We are very annoyed and disgusted to learn that we will have to register as mentally handicapped if we want any benefits. Why should we be penalised when we are improving our education in readiness for work?
The letter ends by saying:
Please will you help us in any way you can to further our case?
In the last year the strict medical test of severe mental handicap has caused grave difficulties and concern. It has meant that in some areas there has been a high drop-out rate. It has caused financial burdens for families and it has affected their pride. I have a letter from North Warwickshire college of technology and art, where all the students who joined the vocational induction course were "statemented" as requiring special education under the Education Act 1981. The tutor writes that the requirement has caused 19 of the 53 students to drop out of the course, that it has caused financial burden to the remaining 34 students and their families, and that it has also been an insult to the family pride.
In Committee the Under-Secretary of State said that he saw no problem and that regulation 11(b) had worked satisfactorily for some years. That is not the view of the National Schizophrenia Fellowship, whose advice worker has written:
This Regulation has not worked well in my opinion. The majority of people who suffer from schizophrenia will not accept that they are mentally ill and often have no insight into the illness, which means of course that they are extremely unlikely to register as mentally disabled. People with mental illness face many obstacles when trying to attend educational courses, and one more 'rule' may well deter them from even applying.
Again in Committee, the Under-Secretary reassured us that not only the severely disabled but the less severely disabled would continue to be able to claim benefit. The severely disabled who are covered by regulation 11(b) are those who are willing to subject themselves to being
labelled or "statemented". Will the Minister say that the regulation he will introduce will keep his promise of allowing the less severely disabled to have benefit?
As we have said, all expert opinion is that these young people are not ready for YTS. That is why they have been persuaded to go on training courses or educational courses, even up to the age of 21, before they go into YTS.
Indeed, a recent report commissioned by the MSC from Social and Community Planning Research shows that even now the YTS schemes providing the so-called "premium places", which include a large number of disabled young people, are under considerable pressure. Already 14 per cent. of people on premium places do not get an opportunity of work experience during their two years on YTS. which is a crucial part of making sure that they are ready for employment. A further 31 per cent. can get work experience only in the second year. The report recommends that consideration should be given to expanding the pre-YTS vocational assessment facilities, yet the effect of clause 4 will be virtually to kill off pre-YTS courses in further education.
It is no wonder that not just the Opposition but all the organisations, including the MSC and educationists, who are trying to help young people in this sphere are worried about the implications of clause 4. The Minister must give us more assurances that these young people will be provided for. I refer not just to the severely handicapped, but to those who are less handicapped. The Minister should ensure that the training places will remain open because there is no point putting money into this, backed by the MSC and by the Education Act, if we are making it almost impossible for disabled young people to go on such courses.
I cannot help thinking that the amendment is nothing more and nothing less than a smokescreen. It is not significant that it is the only amendment to be moved by the Opposition to clause 4, one of the key clauses in the Bill? Clause 4 relates precisely to 16 and 17-year-olds. The message in the clause is absolutely clear to young people: if they do not go out and get a job, stay at school or college, or get training on YTS, the community will not spend its money supporting them in idleness. [Interruption.]
Despite what we have just heard from the Strangers Gallery. I believe that we have had the smokescreen amendment to clause 4 precisely because Opposition Members have talked to their constituents during the recess and found that there is widespread support for the concept that young people under 18 who are prepared to be idle should not be supported through the funds that all of us believe should be devoted to various Government services, not least training, hospitals, education, pensions and the like. That is the key.
Let us understand the funds that we are talking about. By not providing those funds to young people who are prepared to be idle, the Government will save £84 million. However, if those youngsters, who would otherwise be sitting around doing nothing, supported by the taxpayer, would go on to YTS schemes and do themselves some good by getting trained for the future, the Government, admittedly through a different Ministry, would be investing—and I use that word advisedly—£144 million of taxpayers' money in the future of those youngsters.
It does not seem intelligent for the Government to spend £84 million of taxpayers' money to subsidise people sitting in idleness, when that money, plus an additional £60 million—a total of £144 million—would be invested in training for the future of those young people. That is precisely what clause 4 is about.
Let us look at the amendment tabled by the Opposition. I noted with interest that the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) said that he was somewhat confused about the effect and intent of the amendment. The purpose of the amendment is to extend benefit to young people on courses of education or training. We are talking about 16 and 17-year-olds. First and foremost, we must understand what financial support the community is giving to youngsters in education—one of the two points in the Opposition amendment. The parents of those youngsters are already supported through child benefit and income support for families. If a youngster comes from a broken home and has to fend for himself, he is already supported under the new legislation by the income support system. Either way, the community is already giving resources to youngsters of 16 and 17 who are in education.
What does the amendment propose? The other part of the amendment deals with training. If youngsters go into training, they receive YTS training allowances. I suspect that the amendment, which effectively means little or nothing, is a smokescreen. The key point of clause 4 is that the Government wish to invest in the future of those youngsters, but the Opposition wish to spend money on youngsters who are prepared to sit around.
The hon. Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold) really must be corrected. Opposition Members tabled an amendment to delete the whole of clause 4, and we would be delighted to move that amendment and to debate it. Unfortunately, it was not called. The hon. Gentleman's whole house of cards was erected to show that we have cold feet in regard to the principle of clause 4. It is patent nonsense, like the rest of his speech.
I begin by responding to some of the points made by the hon. Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold). It is important for the House to realise that some of the frustration shown by the Opposition in the last two days is because hon. Members such as the hon. Member for Gravesham sat in Committee for 16 sittings, hour after hour, and said nothing.
I wish that Conservative Members had had the common decency and honesty to make those points in Committee, so that we could have had a proper debate on the Bill and the amendments, But they did not give us that chance.
Will my hon. Friend speculate on the wisdom of the old adage that it is better to keep one's mouth shut and be thought an idiot than to open it and prove that without doubt?
It is important to emphasise to the hon. Member for Gravesham—if he is listening — that some of that frustration was shown in the Strangers Gallery. I do not condone it, but it is important for hon. Members to realise from where that frustration comes.
As regional director for Thomas Cook Ltd. the hon. Member for Gravesham can afford holidays. Young people of 16 to 18 will not be able to do so.
I will not give way. The hon. Gentleman did not give way.
Opposition Members realise the frustration that young people feel when Conservative Members say that they lie in bed all day and make no effort to get work or to join a scheme. The 21-hour rule on part-time education means that people can obtain education. That is what Opposition Members are fighting for in the amendment.
I shall not repeat the many arguments that were put so well by my hon. Friends. I shall begin by reinforcing one point that was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) at the beginning of the debate about the dishonesty of the Government at the general election on exactly that issue. During the election the Government said that benefit would be denied to young people between 16 and 18 who refused to join a scheme. The Government are now extending that to all 16 to 18-year-olds. We are just beginning to see what the Government have in store for 16 to 18-year-olds. I am worried that this is an indication of things to come, about which Opposition Members as hon. Members and the electorate have not been warned.
In Committee, I asked the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security, the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Portillo) a number of questions that were not answered satisfactorily. I do not bring them back on Report to score political points, but because 16 to 18-year-olds are concerned about what will happen to them later this year. I should be grateful if the Minister could answer my few questions.
First, I should like to quote his words in response to a question on 1 December 1987 in relation to the number of places that will be needed and the number that will be available. The Minister said:
all 16 and 17-year-olds will have available to them reasonable training leading to recognised vocational qualifications or credits towards qualifications." [Official Report, Standing Committee E, 1 December 1987; c. 329.]
Unfortunately, I shall remind the Minister about that for months to come when, in different areas in the country, those places are not available. When we asked the Minister how those extra YTS places would materialise, his first response was that there were 120,000 places around the country and that people would in some miraculous way arrive at those places. When we pressed him further, he said that it was not his job to provide the places; that was for the Secretary of State for Employment.
I then asked the Secretary of State for Employment the same question, and, in exactly the same way as the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security, he began by saying that those places would miraculously arrive and that they will be there when the Bill is implemented. Opposition Members look forward to both Ministers being true to their words, but in Cleveland, through no fault of careers officers or the local authorities, we are now short of places for the April school leavers of last year. Under the present scheme, after April this year, those young people will be without benefit. They will be left out in the cold. Will the Minister give us an assurance that if, by some unfortunate occurrence, the Government fail to provide sufficient YTS places, a safety net of benefit will be provided without appeal to the Minister on each case about what should be defined as severe hardship?
The second question that I should like the Minister to answer is how managing agents will be persuaded to provide extra places. Managing agents to whom I have spoken—I am sure that the Minister has done the same —are reticent to take on extra people. They are already stretched to capacity. Many of the managing agents will say, "Yes, we will consider extra places, but we will expect additional funding." Therefore, I should like the Minister to say whether there will be additional funding available to managing agents if they are expected to take on additional YTS places.
I should like to reinforce the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Michie) who spoke about young people between 16 and 18 who are not defined, under the conditions given by the Minister, as severely disabled. I am not referring to people who are mentally or physically handicapped or mentally ill and who need to live away from home because their parents cannot cope, but who are not so handicapped as to be incapable of finding work and who are entitled to income support under this Bill.
I am concerned about young people who can probably best be described as vulnerable on academic criteria in that they may have been to special schools or been classified as educationally subnormal. Those people may not be registered as disabled, but they will have difficulty finding a YTS place. We would like the Minister to give us some assurance that, if such people make every effort to find a YTS place but are rejected because the managing agents choose people with some qualifications, they will receive help. The bridging loan is not available to them. We have been assured that that will be available once people have been on a course. We would like the Minister to turn his attention to that group of people.
We would also like the Minister to turn his attention to another vulnerable group that will be in existence if the law is implemented; that is, young people who have been on a YTS course and taken their bridging allowance, but have eight weeks to go before their 18th birthday. What managing agent will look at that group of young people because for those eight weeks they could not obtain proper training, even by the Government's own criteria? Will there be an extension of the bridging allowance without the appeal procedure?
I should like to remind the Minister of his words in relation to the appeal procedure, because he was specific on that point:
I told the hon. Lady that in those circumstances, extremely unlikely though they were, the person could apply for the Secretary of State's discretion, so that contingency, too, has been covered." —[Official Report, Standing Committee E, 1 December 1987; c. 326.]
Therefore, it is up to the Secretary of State; and we want an assurance that the Minister will take into account the position of every young person approaching 18 who cannot get on a scheme.
There is a problem with the list of exemptions from income support. For example, I am concerned with those who have been on probation. Some people will be able to obtain extended benefit if they have been naughty and put on probation while another young person who is not in that category will not. For example, April school leavers will be denied benefit in September—if that is the date given— if they are unable to get on a scheme and no bridging loan will be available to them. If they have been on probation, they will be able to obtain income support. The officials sitting in the Box are nodding at that, so I am sure that the Minister will consider that point.
I should like the Minister to consider when the Bill will reach fruition. Will he paint for me the scenario as it will apply to April school leavers? I understand that child benefit is to be extended to 13 weeks, but when that benefit has finished, and if there is no YTS place, will young l6-year-olds have their benefit stopped on the first Monday in September? That would be a recipe for inequality and disaster. A school leaver may find a place on a scheme for a couple of weeks in the summer and will be able to obtain a bridging loan in September, but other young people will not be so lucky.
I remind the Minister of the many times in Committee when he referred to the importance of an individual's right to choose.
My hon. Friend is right. Under this Government there is choice only if one has money—and I mean a lot of money. There are many people in and out of work who will never experience choice under this Government. People have to buy their education, buy their health and, under this Bill, those under 18 will have no chance to buy their future.
I have listened to the debate carefully and to the points raised by Opposition Members. I should like to say, without any wish to antagonise or make cheap party points, that in the final analysis their fears will prove to be unfounded.
The idea behind clause 4 arises partly out of misgivings among members of the public, certainly among my constituents, that it is too easy in certain circumstances to slide straight from education on to supplementary benefit. Of course, no rational person will claim that there are a large number of young people who are workshy or who cannot be bothered to find a job. That is nonsense and it is not true. I think that everyone in the Chamber today would agree with that. However, having said that, the duty of the Government, I am proud to say, is to train young people so that they have a skill and are able to meet the sharp end of the competitive job market.
Clause 4 does not provide only one option, and that should not be forgotten. The clause provides three options for 16 and 17-year-olds. First, it allows young people to remain at school full time; secondly, they can go into full-time employment; thirdly, they can find a YTS place. What is even better is that under this Bill the Government guarantee a YTS place for all young people who choose that option.
The question at the heart of the amendment is that of finances. I believe that the fears of Opposition Members will be unfounded because I do not believe that the current situation will change and make it harder for young people. If young people stay in full-time education, their parents will continue to receive child benefit. If those parents qualify for income support, they will receive it. In the sad and unfortunate situation of the child not living with his or her parents any more due to a problem at home, 16 or 17-year-olds will qualify for income support in their own right.
One has to bear in mind the philosophy behind what the Government are doing for young people. We have to ensure that educational standards for those at school are improved and that technical and vocational education is given to those who will best benefit from it, because then they will be on their way to acquiring skills. Those who choose the youth training scheme will now receive two years of invaluable work training and experience. In my constituency, there is a good record of YTS training.
Marconi is one of the major employers in Chelmsford. It is an excellent employer and takes on a fair number of YTS trainees. It has a record of over 80 per cent. translation from YTS to full-time employment with the company.
For the small minority of people who do not want to work and who want just to collect state benefit, a deterrent will be created because they will no longer be able to do so. That is a perfectly reasonable response by the Government for people of that age group. I do not believe that it should be encouraged for anyone of any age group to be workshy and to live off the state. I do not want to go down the road of making wild accusations about large numbers of people being workshy, but when it comes to 16 and 17-year-olds, every encouragement should be given to make sure that they do not just languish on the dole queue.
The hon. Gentleman is making one of the more lucid speeches in favour of the clause that I have heard. I am grateful for his insight, that the reason why he believes that the Government should act is to prevent from obtaining benefit those who choose to he unemployed and not to take training. Why is the clause necessary? Why is it not sufficient to rely on the many arrangements that are already available to the DHSS to prevent benefit going precisely to those whom the hon. Gentleman identifies as the problem, those who remain voluntarily unemployed who do not qualify for benefit at present?
I think that the hon. Gentleman is forgetting that the Bill deals riot only with that specific situation. It also gives a guaranteed place for 16 and 17-year-olds on YTS if they choose that option.
If the Labour party decides to divide the House on the amendment, I shall wholeheartedly support the Government because I believe that the clause is relevant to the economic situation. It upgrades, gives statutory confirmation to and improves the work training and experience of those who want to go on YTS. It also makes sure that we minimise the number of people who abuse and will continue to abuse the state benefit system. For those reasons, I shall support my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Lobby.
Watching the progress of the Bill through Committee has been a useful experience for many hon. Members on both sides of the House who were elected to the House last year. Today we shall reach Third Reading, and we shall look back on the Bill as a most fascinating and interesting experience for us all.
As has often been said by Opposition Members, few speeches were made—
There were some. Few speeches were made by Conservative Members, but that does not mean that we do not take our responsibilities seriously and do not investigate the matters that we are addressing.
A clear difference of philosphy and principle has emerged. It came to a head during the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold), when there was an unfortunate interruption. One wonders what sort of indoctrination the young people who made that unruly demonstration have been subjected to so that they should consider the opportunity being offered by the Government of a training place leading to qualification to be slave labour.
The hon. Gentleman clearly learned nothing during the Committee stage. The frustration that was shown in the Chamber today was the frustration of people who have a direct experience of the results of the Government's policies, unlike Conservative Members, who have not. The frustration was the result of the appalling comments by the hon. Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold), who demonstrated a total lack of understanding of the current position. I hope that the hon. Gentleman's speech will not follow that line.
I do not believe that there is any lack of understanding. The understanding is clear. It has been the Government's policy progressively over the past eight years to improve training opportunities for young people on a scale seen in no other country in Europe that has enabled the Government to introduce the clauses.
The hon. Gentleman cannot have listened either in Committee or in the Chamber. Both my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) and myself have said that the Conservative party was not honest during the election. In the manifesto—if the hon. Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold) is doubtful, I shall produce it for him—all that the Conservative party said was that those who said that they did not want to go on a YTS course would be denied benefit. The legislation widens that across the board to all 16 to 18-year-olds. Therefore, the Conservatives did not present—did they dare?—a genuine choice to the electorate.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made the manifesto pledge and the Government's position abundantly clear in his speech on Second Reading on 2 November, when he said:
We included the proposal in our election manifesto that we would guarantee a place on YTS for every school leaver under the age of 18 not going directly into a job. We said in the manifesto that we would take steps to withdraw entitlement benefit from young people under 18 who chose to remain unemployed."—[Official Report, 2 November 1987; Vol. 121, c. 656.]
That is clear, and it is the thrust behind the clause.
The YTS has received Government support of more than £1 billion per year. Rather than Opposition Members criticising the Government and, as my hon. Friend the member for Gravesham said, through the amendment, trying to put up a smokescreen rather than have a full debate on the clause, I feel that we should congratulate the Government on the policy that they have adopted for training young people.
It does not stop with YTS. My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) referred to the fact that the technical and vocational education initiative has proved to be successful. It has been so successful that it has been referred to in at least 50 per cent. of the letters that I have received from secondary school head teachers and governors who are concerned about the future of the TVEI in the light of the Government's proposals for the new national curriculum.
Many arguments about the clause have been put forward during the debate and in Committee, and I do not want to go over old ground, but there are one or two matters that have not been addressed and to which I should like to refer.
The hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) posed the question about how a parent would feel if his child were offered the choice between YTS or unemployment and no benefit. As a father of three teenage children who are all at a local comprehensive school, I have to say that, if that were the choice for any of my children, I should have no hesitation in ensuring that they went on a YTS course. Let me tell the hon. Gentleman why.
On that course, they would be exposed to a different experience — they would be exposed to the world of work. They would be exposed to the work ethic and to training — and what is wrong with that? Surely it is infinitely preferable to embarking upon a benefit culture and a lifetime of drawing such benefit. Surely it must be right that we give every young person between the ages of 16 and 18 every encouragement. I believe that the intervention we witnessed in the Strangers' Gallery during the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham demonstrated that some young people have been so indoctrinated that they would prefer a lifetime of benefit and support.
There are two reasons why it is right, at this time, that the Government should introduce this measure. First, there are now more opportunities for young people to stay on at school. As a parent I would prefer my children to make that choice. Indeed, my eldest son, who is 18, did just that. I feel sure that, increasingly, more parents will believe that the best way forward is for their children to stay on at school. The rolls at our schools are falling, so much so that the Government have been able to introduce the open enrolment provision in the Education Reform Bill. I hope that the opportunity to stay on at school will be grasped by more and more young people—the availability of benefit should not act as an encouragement to leave school.
Secondly, it is right to introduce this measure because, over the past 18 months, we have witnessed an unprecedented reduction in unemployment and the revival of our economy. The revival in the fortunes of Britain lead me to believe that there will never be a better chance for any Government to say to the young people, "Please, please consider your future and make sure that training represents the way forward for you instead of a lifetime of benefit."
During the election campaign I knocked on the door of a house and a young gentleman, rather scruffily clothed, opened it. He said that he could not support my party because he was out of work and on the dole. I replied, "Come on now. There are plenty of jobs in this area. Why do you not go to work at the bacon factory that has vacancy signs outside?" The young man said that he did not want to work at that factory. That is yet more evidence of the type of indoctrination that we have witnessed tonight.
Unemployment should not be an option for any young person under the age of 18. It need not be and it will not be when the Bill is passed.
We have had an interesting debate. It began with the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) saying that his objective was to preserve choice. I find that rather confusing because that is also our objective.
Other things that the hon. Gentleman said confused me further. He said, for example, that the amendment was intended to lever open slightly further the exemptions contained in the clause. However, his amendment, as drafted, extends entitlement to income support to all people engaged in a course of education and training. That would represent a massive increase in the role of income support; and, for what it is worth, it would cost £1 billion. I became more confused when the hon. Gentleman said that that was not what was intended and that his objective was more limited. I do not intend to nitpick about that.
The hon. Gentleman alternated between talking about part-time and full-time education. That led me to believe that we have not made clear to him what will be available to young people and what the changes will mean. I shall try to concentrate on that in my reply.
I shall try to respond to as many of the points that were made during the debate as I can, but I must tell the hon. Lady the Member for Redcar (Miss Mowlam) that I am not confident that I will be able to answer all her questions. She came at me like a good-humoured Gatling gun, with a whole series of questions. If I leave any of them unanswered, I shall certainly pursue them with her on another occasion.
A number of my hon. Friends have already made it clear that three options are available to young people: work, education and YTS. The only option that will be denied as a result of the clause is the dead-end option of unemployment. To be specific, the only option that is denied is unemployment, with the state picking up the tab. We are offering young people YTS. The places on such schemes are available and valuable and the training organisations are of high quality.
From 1 April 1988 anyone who is offering a YTS place must be an approved training organisation. That status will be awarded to organisations only after searching inquiries about the competence of the relevant staff, the quality of the training, their financial standing, their commitment to health and safety and the educational opportunities available. Furthermore, training standards will be enforced by the training standards advisory service, which will periodically inspect all YTS placements.
The hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) repeated a question that had been asked in Committee about the suitability of YTS places. It is not our intention to force a young person on to a scheme that is unsuitable. The guidance given to careers officers by the Department of Employment categorically states that a suitable place is one that accords with the career plans agreed between a young person and the careers office or which enhances the job prospects of the young person. There can be no doubt that YTS enhances job prospects and it appears to be the first choice for many young people. It is apparent that 60 per cent. of those on YTS go into a job straight after it. We expect that percentage to increase in the years ahead.
The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) wanted to know what the increase in the numbers of YTS would be. I must emphasise to the hon. Gentleman that what is on offer is entirely voluntary and that young people can choose between education, a job —if one is available to them— and YTS. It is not easy for us to estimate how many more people will take up YTS.
One probable result of the clause will be that more people will stay on in education. It is also probable that more people will go into jobs — YTS is not the only option. We estimate that, in Great Britain—I apologise to the hon. Gentleman, but I do not have the Welsh figures — up to 30,000 additional young people will join YTS for a full year as a result of the benefit changes. In addition, we expect that most of the 50,000 trainees who currently leave YTS early to become unemployed will stay on to complete their courses. I hope that that information helps the hon. Gentleman.
The hon. Gentleman also asked about costs, but I am cautious about telling him about them because we do not know what the additional demand will be. At the moment we anticipate that we will spend more on YTS than we will save on benefit. Therefore, this is not a cost-saving measure.
I have pressed for a detailed estimate because in communities such as mine and some of those represented by Conservative Members there is an already heavy dependence upon the MSC and YTS. In the communities that I represent there will be no choice between taking a job and YTS. Those communities already depend on YTS, and further dependence may lead to a diminution in the value and character of those schemes. That is why numbers are so important.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman is reassured by our guarantee of the quality of such placements as a result of the new ATO status that will affect all bodies after April. I hope that he will agree that it is better for youngsters to be dependent upon YTS than on benefit. That is the basic proposition that we are offering to the House today.
The hon. Member for Livingston wanted to know why teenagers who are estranged from their family, possibly because they have been battered at home or are at risk of abuse, should not live permanently on income support. I do not see why they should. If they are establishing themselves independently away from home, I do not see why, once they have been given the chance to find a job or once they make a decision to stay in education or to take a place on YTS—in other words, once they have been given the period of months which we call the child benefit extension period — they should not be as self-supporting as any other independent person.
Indeed, it is financially to their advantage to accept a place on YTS because it will offer them £28·50 a week in the first year and £35 in the second year. If that is not enough for them to live on because, for example, they are supporting a whole household or have children and the demands of their family take them above the income support level, they qualify for income support over and above their training allowance. If they have housing needs, they qualify for housing benefit. I hope that I have reassured the hon. Gentleman on that because perhaps we did not explain it previously as fully as we might have done.
Equally, the hon. Gentleman asked about pregnant girls training up to 11 weeks before the anticipated date of confinement. I do not see why there should be any distinction between what we can expect of somebody in training and what we can expect of somebody in work. It is typical for women to work up to 11 weeks before the date of confinement, but if they are suffering exceptional sickness and it is certified by a doctor, that would qualify them.
Perhaps I can now answer a question asked by the hon. Member for Redcar about young people who are on bail or probation or under social work supervision being treated more favourably. That is not right. I ask her to recognise that because somebody is on bail or probation or under social work supervision it does not mean that he is guilty. It does not bear that inference. Such people are required to be away from home and provision must be made for them until the end of the child benefit extension period. In that sense they are in a similar position to others for whom we are providing income support during that extension period—for example, those who need to live apart from their parents.
Obviously education has been a crucial matter in the debate, because the amendment invites us to consider it. Some speeches displayed considerable confusion. Those who are continuing in full-time non-advanced further education—"further" simply meaning beyond the age of 16—will be able to qualify for income support broadly in the following three categories. First, if they are in an income support household, their parents will be compensated at the appropriate rate for a youngster over the age of 16, which is £19·40 under income support and the same as the youngster would receive if living independently.
The second category is those who are estranged from their parents for good reason. If those people choose to stay in education, either at school to do their A-levels or at university, just because they are living apart from their families and have no other means, it does not mean that we shall deny them income support. They qualify for it if they continue in further education. The choice that we are offering is a real one.
The third most general category—I do not want to go into all the details — is the severely disabled. In Committee I was at pains to say that I viewed these people in two categories, although this is a seamless robe. It is not merely those people who are so disabled that they can never get work; it is also those who are disabled and have no prospect of getting work within 12 months. My hon. Friends the Members for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold) and for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) obviously understood that better than some others.
Income support is available for the severely disabled. Others who are not severely disabled but who are receiving benefit under the 21-hour rule are by that fact registered as available for and seeking work. If they are capable of work, they are also capable of receiving training under YTS. There are special facilities under YTS available to provide a more sheltered training environment for those people with special educational needs.
At one point the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Michie) said that the present regulations were not working, but he, together with the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, is talking about a general dissatisfaction with the educational support system. That takes us well beyond this clause. We are making some changes here to income support and those changes will not affect people who continue to be in full-time education. The clause affects the 21-hour rule, which will not be available to people who are 16 and 17.
To put it more accurately, income support will not be generally available to 16 and 17-year-olds because we are providing them with other facilities. If they choose to stay in full-time education, they will be supported if they are in the categories that I listed; if they want to study under the old 21-hour rule, they will be saying that they are available, and if they are available they are also available for YTS. YTS is serious, valuable experience, helping a person to find his or her way in the world and to get a job.
If a person is severely disabled—that is, if he is unable to work or is unlikely to find work within 12 months—he will be eligible for income support. If he is at present declaring himself available for work and studying under the 21-hour rule, because he is available for work he is also available for YTS. If his condition presents particular problems for him under YTS, YTS provides a special sheltered environment for him. I do not think that I can help the hon. Gentleman further on that.
The hon. Member for Livingston made an extraordinary statement when he described this as a friendless measure. He wanted me to cite an organisation in favour of these proposals, and I happily do so — the general public. The matter was put to the electorate. I fear that Opposition Members know that there is widespread support for this. My hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) spoke clearly and forcefully on this. The general public are genuinely worried for unemployed young people, and that is why they demand that the Government offer those young people something better. We are doing that. We are offering young people a job, YTS or full-time education. Only one option is being abolished, and that is unemployment at the taxpayers' expense.
The Minister concluded by saying that he had consulted the British public and that it had voted for this clause. With the greatest respect, the British public did not vote for any such thing. The British public, in so far as it has been construed to have voted for this Government, voted for a manifesto which said that the Government would take steps to ensure that those under 18 who deliberately chose to remain unemployed would not be eligible for benefit. In its wisdom or otherwise, the country voted for that.
But that is not what clause 4 achieves. It removes the right to benefit of all 16 and 17-year-olds, whether or not they choose unemployment and whether or not they have been offered a place on YTS. The clause will remove the right to benefit for many 17-year-olds who may well have chosen the option described by the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns), of obtaining a job on leaving school and holding it for a year or a year and a half, only to find themselves redundant, without choosing to be made redundant or wishing to be unemployed. Under this clause they are not entitled to a penny in income support or unemployment benefit. With respect to the Minister, that is not the proposition that his party offered the British electorate in June.
I found the debate entertaining, if only for the gloss put on this point by the hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway), who explained that there was no deception in the manifesto commitment, because the Secretary of State for Employment had clearly explained what it meant in a debate in the House in November, five months after polling day. That is a new gloss on electoral commitments that I shall treasure for the future.
The debate has also been interesting for one omission that I want to draw to the attention of hon. Members on both sides. We have been debating this important clause—possibly the most important in the Bill—for nearly two hours with no intervention from the Liberal or Social Democratic parties—indeed, without being favoured with the presence of a single representative of either party. That is to be regretted; I was hoping that the hon. Member for Southport (Mr. Fearn) would be present and would take part. I can understand why he may feel a certain diffidence about being here today, because yesterday he made a speech in the House in support of my new clause to index child benefit in which he said:
I maintain that we must retain the true value of child benefit."—[Official Report, 12 January 1988; Vol. 125, c. 195.]
He then woke up this morning and read in the newspaper that, on the same day, his leader had committed himself to a 6,000-word document that included a commitment to means-test child benefit.
I consulted last night's Division list and I regret to say that the leader of the Liberal party was not present to vote; if he had been, he would no doubt have voted with the rest of the members of his party in favour of indexing child benefit before means-testing it. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Southport does not feel able to show his face tonight, but I can understand his diffidence. In his absence, the rest of us must make up our minds as best we can on the principle of the measure.
The Minister's concluding remarks confirm me in my view that we are right to oppose the principle of clause 4. In my opening speech, one of the most important points, on which I elaborated and for which I pressed, was what would happen to the 21-hour rule. I congratulate the Under-Secretary on being honest about this: it goes out of the window with the clause's inclusion. If the clause is passed, it will not longer be possible for 16 or 17-year-olds to study part-time while in receipt of income support. They will not be able to try to take two A-levels—or, if they are fortunate enough to find themselves in the tutorials of my hon. Friend the Member Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing), three A-levels—within the 21 hours, thereby obtaining qualifications for further education. That is an important right and choice that is available to our teenagers. For that reason alone, I would be willing to vote for the amendment.
I do not want to leave the hon. Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold) in any doubt about what I shall be voting for in the Lobby. He said that we did not have the courage to oppose the clause as a whole. We have. We tabled an amendment to delete the clause in its entirety. We wish that we had had the opportunity to debate that, or to debate clause stand part on Report.
As the debate has proved, the reason why the Government and their Back Benchers are proposing the clause is that it forms part of their general strategy of blaming the victim for his unemployment. That is what we have heard in speech after speech tonight. The hon. Member for Ryedale said that the unemployed choose not to be in work; they are unemployed because they turn down jobs at the bacon factory. I must tell the hon. Members for Ryedale and for Gravesham that in Merthyr, Liverpool, Teesside and West Lothian, tens of thousands of people are unemployed, not because they choose not to wander down to the bacon factory and take the vacancies, but because they cannot find jobs. Therefore, to claw away their benefit is to victimise the victims.
That is why we shall vote for the amendment. I assure the hon. Member for Gravesham that, although I do not, because of the procedure of the House, have the opportunity to vote against the clause in its entirety, I shall vote for the amendment with the full venom that I feel for the clause and the full vigour with which I reject its principle; and I invite my hon. Friends to do the same.
|Division No. 132]||[6.35 pm|
|Adams, Allen (Paisley N)||Beggs, Roy|
|Alton, David||Bell, Stuart|
|Anderson, Donald||Benn, Rt Hon Tony|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)|
|Armstrong, Ms Hilary||Bermingham, Gerald|
|Ashdown, Paddy||Bidwell, Sydney|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Blair, Tony|
|Ashton, Joe||Blunkett, David|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Boateng, Paul|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||Boyes, Roland|
|Barron, Kevin||Bradley, Keith|
|Battle, John||Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)|
|Beckett, Margaret||Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)|
|Buchan, Norman||Lambie, David|
|Buckley, George||Lamond, James|
|Caborn, Richard||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Callaghan, Jim||Leighton, Ron|
|Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eccles)|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||Lewis, Terry|
|Canavan, Dennis||Litherland, Robert|
|Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)||Livingstone, Ken|
|Clay, Bob||Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)|
|Clelland, David||Lofthouse, Geoffrey|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||McAllion, John|
|Cohen, Harry||McAvoy, Tom|
|Coleman, Donald||McCartney, Ian|
|Cook, Robin (Livingston)||Macdonald, Calum|
|Corbett, Robin||McFall, John|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||McGrady, E. K.|
|Cousins, Jim||McKay, Allen (Penistone)|
|Crowther, Stan||McKelvey, William|
|Cryer, Bob||McLeish, Henry|
|Cummings, J.||McTaggart, Bob|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||McWilliam, John|
|Cunningham, Dr John||Madden, Max|
|Dalyell, Tam||Mahon, Mrs Alice|
|Darling, Alastair||Mallon, Seamus|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||Marek, Dr John|
|Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'I)||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Dewar, Donald||Martin, Michael (Springburn)|
|Dixon, Don||Martlew, Eric|
|Dobson, Frank||Maxton, John|
|Doran, Frank||Meacher, Michael|
|Douglas, Dick||Meale, Alan|
|Dunnachie, James||Michael, Alun|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth||Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)|
|Eastham, Ken||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Evans, John (St Helens N)||Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)|
|Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)||Molyneaux, Rt Hon James|
|Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)||Moonie, Dr Lewis|
|Fearn, Ronald||Morgan, Rhodri|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||Morley, Elliott|
|Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)||Morris, Rt Hon A (W'shawe)|
|Fisher, Mark||Morris, Rt Hon J (Aberavon)|
|Flannery, Martin||Mowlam, Mrs Marjorie|
|Flynn, Paul||Mullin, Chris|
|Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)||Murphy, Paul|
|Fraser, John||Nellist, Dave|
|Fyfe, Mrs Maria||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Galbraith, Samuel||O'Brien, William|
|Garrett, John (Norwich South)||O'Neill, Martin|
|Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|George, Bruce||Patchett, Terry|
|Godman, Dr Norman A.||Pendry, Tom|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||Pike, Peter|
|Gordon, Ms Mildred||Powell, Ray (Ogmore)|
|Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)||Prescott, John|
|Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)||Primarolo, Ms Dawn|
|Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)||Quin, Ms Joyce|
|Grocott, Bruce||Radice, Giles|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Randall, Stuart|
|Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Reid, John|
|Hinchliffe, David||Richardson, Ms Jo|
|Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)||Robertson, George|
|Holland, Stuart||Robinson, Geoffrey|
|Home Robertson, John||Rogers, Allan|
|Hood, James||Rooker, Jeff|
|Howarth, George (Knowsley N)||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)||Ross, William (Londonderry E)|
|Hoyle, Doug||Rowlands, Ted|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Salmond, Alex|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport E)||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Illsley, Eric||Short, Clare|
|Ingram, Adam||Skinner, Dennis|
|Janner, Greville||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|John, Brynmor||Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)|
|Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)||Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)|
|Jones, leuan (Ynys Môn)||Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)|
|Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)||Snape, Peter|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Soley, Clive|
|Spearing, Nigel||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Steinberg, Gerald||Williams, Rt Hon A. J.|
|Stott, Roger||Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)|
|Strang, Gavin||Wilson, Brian|
|Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)||Winnick, David|
|Taylor, Rt Hon J. D. (S'ford)||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Thomas, Dafydd Elis||Worthington, Anthony|
|Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)||Wray, James|
|Turner, Dennis||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Wall, Pat||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Walley, Ms Joan||Mr. Frank Haynes and|
|Warden, Gareth (Gower)||Mr. Frank Cook.|
|Wareing, Robert N.|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)|
|Allason, Rupert||Evennett, David|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Favell, Tony|
|Amess, David||Fookes, Miss Janet|
|Arbuthnot, James||Forman, Nigel|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)|
|Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)||Forth, Eric|
|Atkins, Robert||Fox, Sir Marcus|
|Atkinson, David||Gale, Roger|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)||Gardiner, George|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Baldry, Tony||Gill, Christopher|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Batiste, Spencer||Glyn, Dr Alan|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Goodhart, Sir Philip|
|Bellingham, Henry||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Bendall, Vivian||Gorman, Mrs Teresa|
|Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Gow, Ian|
|Benyon, W.||Gower, Sir Raymond|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)|
|Blackburn, Dr John G.||Greenway, John (Rydale)|
|Body, Sir Richard||Gregory, Conal|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)|
|Bottomley, Peter||Grist, Ian|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Ground, Patrick|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Grylls, Michael|
|Bowis, John||Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard||Hannam,John|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)|
|Brazier, Julian||Harris, David|
|Brittan, Rt Hon Leon||Hawkins, Christopher|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Browne, John (Winchester)||Heddle, John|
|Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick||Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Burns, Simon||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)|
|Burt, Alistair||Holt, Richard|
|Butcher, John||Hordern, Sir Peter|
|Butterfill, John||Howard, Michael|
|Carlisle, John, (Luton N)||Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)|
|Carrington, Matthew||Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)|
|Carttiss, Michael||Hunt, David (Wirral W)|
|Cash, William||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)|
|Chapman, Sydney||Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Churchill, Mr||Irvine, Michael|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Jack, Michael|
|Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)||Janman, Timothy|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Jessel, Toby|
|Cormack, Patrick||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Couchman, James||Jones, Robert B (Herts W)|
|Cran, James||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Key, Robert|
|Curry, David||King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)|
|Davis, David (Boothferry)||King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Day, Stephen||Kirkhope, Timothy|
|Dicks, Terry||Knapman, Roger|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Knight, Greg (Derby North)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Knowles, Michael|
|Durant, Tony||Knox, David|
|Lamont, Rt Hon Norman||Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|Lang, Ian||Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm|
|Latham, Michael||Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel||Rost, Peter|
|Lee, John (Pendle)||Rowe, Andrew|
|Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)||Rumbold, Mrs Angela|
|Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Ryder, Richard|
|Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)||Sackville, Hon Tom|
|Lilley, Peter||Sainsbury, Hon Tim|
|Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Scott, Nicholas|
|Lord, Michael||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|Luce, Rt Hon Richard||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Lyell, Sir Nicholas||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Macfarlane, Sir Neil||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)||Sims, Roger|
|Maclean, David||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|McLoughlin, Patrick||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)||Soames, Hon Nicholas|
|McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)||Speed, Keith|
|Madel, David||Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)|
|Major, Rt Hon John||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Malins, Humfrey||Squire, Robin|
|Maples, John||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Marland, Paul||Steen, Anthony|
|Marshall, John (Hendon S)||Stern, Michael|
|Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Stevens, Lewis|
|Martin, David (Portsmouth S)||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Mates, Michael||Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)|
|Maude, Hon Francis||Sumberg, David|
|Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Summerson, Hugo|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Mellor, David||Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Miller, Hal||Thurnham, Peter|
|Mills, Iain||Tracey, Richard|
|Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)||Tredinnick, David|
|Mitchell, David (Hants NW)||Trippier, David|
|Moate, Roger||Trotter, Neville|
|Monro, Sir Hector||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Montgomery, Sir Fergus||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Moore, Rt Hon John||Viggers, Peter|
|Morrison, Sir Charles (Devizes)||Waddington, Rt Hon David|
|Moss, Malcolm||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Moynihan, Hon C.||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Mudd, David||Walker, Bill (T'side North)|
|Neale, Gerrard||Waller, Gary|
|Nelson, Anthony||Ward, John|
|Neubert, Michael||Wardle, C. (Bexhill)|
|Newton, Rt Hon Tony||Warren, Kenneth|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Watts, John|
|Nicholson, David (Taunton)||Wells, Bowen|
|Nicholson, Miss E. (Devon W)||Wheeler, John|
|Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley||Whitney, Ray|
|Oppenheim, Phillip||Widdecombe, Miss Ann|
|Page, Richard||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Paice, James||Wilkinson, John|
|Patnick, Irvine||Wilshire, David|
|Patten, Chris (Bath)||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth||Wolfson, Mark|
|Porter, David (Waveney)||Wood, Timothy|
|Portillo, Michael||Woodcock, Mike|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Yeo, Tim|
|Raffan, Keith||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Raison, Rt Hon Timothy|
|Redwood, John||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Mr. David Lightbown and|
|Riddick, Graham||Mr. Kenneth Carlisle.|
Amendments Nos. 11, 12 and 13 have been framed by the Government mainly in order to clarify intentions relating to the power, in certain circumstances, to recover income support paid to a 16 or 17-year-old as a result of the Secretary of State's direction regarding severe hardship, and to clarify also the respective functions of the Secretary of State and the adjudication officer regarding such matters. Amendment No. 11 corrects a drafting error.
Amendment No. 12, which amplifies the existing subsection (4E), is designed to make it clear that recovery under section 20 of the Social Security Act 1986 should be broadly in line with recovery under section 53 of that Act.
Amendment No. 13 is designed to clarify the different functions of the Secretary of State who revokes his direction in relation to entitlement to income support on account of severe hardship, and the adjudication officer's role in deciding that an overpayment is recoverable.
Amendment No. 38 amends section 53 of the Act to make it clear that in such cases recovery of income support under that section applies only to parts of section 53 that are relevant.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments made: No. 12, in page 5, line 18, at end insert
'(4EA) Section 53(2) and (5) to (9) below apply to income support recoverable under subsection (4E) above as they apply to income support recoverable under section 53(1) below.
(4EB) The other provisions of section 53 below do not apply to income support recoverable under subsection (4E) above.'.
No. 13, in page 5, leave out lines 28 to 37 and insert—
'(4G) Where a direction under this section is revoked, the Secretary of State may certify whether there has been misrepresentation of a material fact or failure to disclose a material fact.
(4GA) If he certifies that there has been such misrepresentation or failure to disclose, he may also certify—
(4GB) If he certifies that a payment has been made, he may certify the period during which income support would riot have been paid but for the misrepresentation or failure to disclose.
(4GC) A certificate under this section shall be conclusive for the purposes of this section as to any matter certified.'