HC Deb 19 June 1979 vol 968 cc1107-9
14. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what has been the aggregate cost to public funds to date of jobcentres opened by the Manpower Services Agency since its inception; what is his latest estimate of the cost of additions to the existing list of establishments in the current financial year; and what plans he has for economies.

Mr. Mayhew

I am informed by the Manpower Services Commission that information in the form requested is obtainable only at disproportionate cost. Capital expenditure on jobcentres in the financial years 1975–76 to 1978–79 inclusive was about £19.5 million. There are additional non-capital costs but these are small in relation to capital expenditure.

As part of the reductions in spending by the MSC in 1979–80 announced on 12 June, there will be a reduction in expenditure on the jobcentre programme of £1 million in the current financial year. Following this reduction estimated capital expenditure in the current financial year is £5.4 million. Expenditure in subsequent years is under review.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

I am grateful for that reply which I shall read with care. Can my hon. and learned Friend confirm that these so-called jobcentres require on average five times the number of peopel to work in them than a comparable establishment in the private sector? In view of that, I am grateful for the modest retrenchment announced in the Budget. However, is there not a case now for releasing far more of this programme for the expansion of private sector employment agencies, which have proved infinitely more efficient over the years?

Mr. Mayhew

The private sector is vigorous but it does not offer a uniform service, either geographically or in terms of the vacancies advertised. Clerical and white collar vacancies dominate the private sector. Jobcentres have an additional function in acting as brokers for the training and other schemes that are operated by the Manpower Services Commission.

Mr. Hooley

Does the Minister agree that the task of the Manpower Services Commission must be seen as a whole—as a duty for the training and deployment of labour over the whole country? One cannot simply chop off bits here and there and expect a reasonable employment strategy to develop.

Mr. Mayhew

Any policy relating to the Manpower Services Commission must be reasonable and carefully balanced.

Mr. Costain

The Public Accounts Committee report has criticised these jobcentres for taking premises at very high rents. Will my hon. and learned Friend look into that?

Mr. Mayhew

Following a rent review, the jobcentre in Piccadilly has been found to be operating at an excessive cost. Accordingly the Commission is seeking to assign its lease of the premises and close that jobcentre in the near future.

Mr. Cryer

Will the Minister take the opportunity to pay tribute to the Civil Service employees in jobcentres, as they do a very good job? Does he agree that his remarks in answer to this question amount to a repudiation of the Rightwing extremists who want to raid every Government service, including the jobcentres, and create nothing but resentment among civil servants working there?

Mr. Mayhew

I know of no Right-wing extremists in my party, although I cannot say the same for the Labour Party. I gratefully accept the opportunity to pay tribute to those who work in the jobcentres.

Mr. Cormack

Why is my hon. and learned Friend prepared to accept the guff with which he began his answer and claim that this simple information could not be provided without disproportionate cost? I think that it could easily be provided by looking down the annual lists.

Mr. Mayhew

That is not my advice.

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