HC Deb 26 February 1970 vol 796 cc1372-3
9. Mr. Edwin Wainwright

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity what further experiments and research her Department is conducting into improvements in facilities and services at employment exchanges.

Mrs. Castle

In addition to the experiments in dealing with employment and insurance benefit work in separate premises and the use of facsimile reproduction equipment for vacancy circulation, of which the House has already been told, we are experimenting with postal payment of benefit, including payment by computer in Reading and some London offices. We are trying out self-service methods of employment work at a few offices and we are experimenting with special offices for clerical and commercial staff. Research is also being undertaken into the possible use of computers for employment work and consideration is being given to the development of an improved local manpower intelligence service.

More generally, I am conducting a fundamental review of policy on the development of the employment services but I am not yet in a position to make a statement.

Mr. Wainwright

I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reply. What consultations has she had with her staff on matters of this kind? Have people attending employment exchanges with disabled persons' cars ready access to talk to whoever they want at the counter?

Mrs. Castle

In reply to the first part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, of course there has been close consultation with the staff on proposals for new developments. I am afraid I did not quite get what he said in the second part. If I heard him aright, he asked what facilities there are for disabled persons to take their vehicles to the counter. I could not answer that without notice as it is a rather specialised point.

Mr. R. Carr

In the fundamental review to which the right hon. Lady referred, is she making sure that the actual numbers and locations of employment offices are considered, bearing in mind that the present offices, both as to number and location, were settled by the terrible facts of scale and siting of unempoyment in the 'twenties and 'thirties?

Mrs. Castle

Certainly, because the whole purpose of the review is to make sure that the pattern of our employment services, both in type and pattern of service, offered match the changed situation of today.