Brown to restrict benefits for 18-year-olds

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Indy Politics

Young people will no longer automatically receive unemployment benefit for six months when they reach the age of 18.

The Government is to force the teenagers to enter its New Deal scheme as soon as they turn 18. It means they will not receive the full jobseeker's allowance unless they attend interviews or take up job offers. The move forms part of plans to raise the age at which people leave full-time education or training from 16 to 18 by 2015, to be included in the Queen's Speech setting out the Government's legislative programme tomorrow.

Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, wants to use the shake-up to tackle the problem of so-called "Neets" – those who are not in education, employment or training. Only 77 per cent of 17-year-olds are in education or training in Britain, a lower figure than many other European nations. The Government estimates the number at 200,000 but experts warn the size of the "lost generation" could be much bigger.

In a "carrot and stick" approach, Mr Balls will also offer payments of up to £30 a week for 16- to 18-year-olds who take " entry into employment" courses to prepare them for the world of work.

Addressing the Fabian Society today, Mr Balls will say the Government cannot wait until 2013, when the school leaving age will rise to 17, to change the expectations and aspirations of young people. "We need to start now by engendering a culture change in young people, their parents and the education and employment system through creating the balance of rights and responsibilities that underpin a higher compulsory leaving age," he will say. "I look forward to a time when no young person will be long-term Neet."

Gordon Brown hopes that his first Queen's Speech since becoming Prime Minister will restore a sense of momentum to his Government after the criticism of his decision to scrap plans for a 1 November election. He is facing demands from some Labour MPs and sympathetic think-tanks to set out his "vision" and hopes the list of measures will show a clear direction.

The most controversial Bill is expected to be one to tighten the counter-terrorism laws. Ministers are expected to raise from 28 to 56 days the maximum period for which suspected terrorists can be held without charge.

Lord West, the Security minister, said the Blair government was wrong to argue for a 90-day limit, which was rejected by MPs in 2005. He told the BBC: "The 90 days I have no doubt whatsoever, was far too long. I think when it was tried to be done it was done in the most appalling way and we need to make sure we don't make that sort of mistake again."

Mr Brown will offer increased oversight by the judiciary and Parliament in an attempt to win the support of MPs.

Another high-profile measure will be a Bill to extend taxpayers' funding of political parties following the collapse last week of all-party talks on the issue.

The move will be opposed by the Tories, who claim it is designed to neuter the impact of spending in key marginal seats by Lord Ashcroft, the Conservatives' multimillionaire deputy chairman.

Labour, which wants to limit spending between elections in each constituency, claims the Ashcroft fund gives the Tories an unfair advantage. But the Tories point out that sitting MPs benefit from a £10,000-a-year communications allowance.

In the Queen's speech

* Education – to raise the age for leaving education or training from 16 to 18

* Europe – to implement the new European Union Treaty to be signed next month

* Party funding – increased state support for all parties; cap on individual donations; new limits on elections spending at national level and between elections in constituencies

* Counter-terrorism – the time that terror suspects can be held without charge likely to double to 56 days

* Immigration – will force migrants from outside the EU to learn English

* Climate change – will set target of cutting carbon emissions by 2050, possibly by 80 per cent

* Constitutional reform – to increase parliament's power to hold government to account; MPs to approve military action in future

* Health – to set up a new regulator for health and adult social care, Ofcare

* Housing – to create a new agency to boost the supply of housing

* Planning – to streamline the process for major projects

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