HC Deb 22 January 1980 vol 977 cc184-6
6. Mr. Tilley

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the future of the special temporary employment programme.

Mr. Jim Lester

The special temporary employment programme is subject to annual review. The Government's proposals for 1980–81 will be announced before the end of the present financial year.

Mr. Tilley

Is the Minister aware that in the special temporary employment programme the enterprise workshop scheme is the only part of that programme that can involve the creation of permanent jobs in viable enterprises or workers' co-operatives? Is he further aware that the Manpower Services Commission has decided that it wishes to scrap that part of the programme, for what I can only describe as bureaucratic reasons? In view of the support not only in the country but on both sides of the House for the enterprise workshop programme, will the hon. Gentleman use his power or influence with the MSC to ensure that that programme is not only saved, but expanded?

Mr. Lester

We have considered the matter carefully. The sad fact is that the enterprise workships—in spite of the good will held for them—have not performed well. Most of them have not proved their viability within two years. It is for that reason that the MSC has considered the whole programme. It feels that it is not the right agency to handle the scheme when we have already the Co-operative Development Agency, the Small Firms Advisory Service, the Industrial and Commercial Finance Corporation and COSIRA, which are much closer to the form of enterprise workshop that we should all like to see succeed.

Mr. Needham

Will my hon. Friend assure the House that because the STEP programme works in the special assisted areas and helps the long-term unemployed, the Government will continue to support it as actively as possible?

Mr. Lester

I ask my hon. Friend to await the outcome of the review. I am pleased to be able to tell him that, following the changes that have been made, we are reaching 70 per cent. of the target group, which is the long-term unemployed, and that is more than the 40 per cent. achieved by the previous Labour Administration.

Mr. Woolmer

Does the Minister recognise that it is important to make an announcement on the future of such programmes well before the beginning of the financial year? Is he aware that the temporary employment subsidy scheme, which is extremely important and affects textile areas, is due to end in March of this year? The textile and clothing workers are anxious that an announcement should be made within the next few days to continue the scheme.

Mr. Lester

I recognise that any period of waiting is always difficult. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the timetable is no different from that of the previous Administration. As soon as we can make an announcement, we shall.