HC Deb 19 July 1983 vol 46 cc159-60
1. Mr. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether he has any plans to meet the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission to discuss the operation of the community programme.

2. Mr. Silvester

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the present state of development of the community programme.

The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. Peter Morrison)

I meet the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission frequently to discuss many matters, including the community programme. At the end of June almost 106,000 places had been approved on the community programme, includilg the community enterprise programme, more than 64,000 of which had been filled. I am satisfied with the progress made so far.

Mr. Knox

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that local authorities are co-operating fully with the Manpower Services Commission on community programme projects?

Mr. Morrison

By and large I am satisfied, although some local authorities, particularly those in London such as the GLC and Lambeth, are not co-operating. As those are the authorities which complain the most about longterm unemployment, one wonders why they are not cooperating.

Mr. Silvester

As voluntary bodies now have more experience of the programme, have they overcome some of the their earlier resistance so that more of them are taking part?

Mr. Morrison

Co-operation from they voluntary sector has been very good. Approximately 40 per cent. of approved schemes have been sponsored by voluntary organisations, and we are grateful for that support.

Mr. Eastham

The Minister referred to non-cooperation by some local authorities. Is he aware that when the Select Committee on Employment took evidence and local authorities asked about funding and financing they were told that they would be subject to penalty clauses if they spent money?

Mr. Morrison

I am not sure what the hon. Gentleman is getting at. If some local authorities are co-operating and thus helping the long-term unemployed in their areas, I cannot see why others are not. I can only imagine, certainly in the cases that I have mentioned, that the reasons are purely political.

Mr. Hicks

Is my hon. Friend aware that in certain areas of very high unemployment, such as Cornwall, the number of allocations has almost been exceeded? Is there not a good case for extending the scheme in areas where it has been an outstanding success?

Mr. Morrison

I am aware that in certain areas the scheme has been an outstanding success. As my hon. Friend knows, it has been agreed that there will be 130,000 places nationwide, but if certain areas are not going ahead, for whatever reason, the Government can consider reallocation within the total.

Mr. Meadowcroft

Will the Minister consider moving away from the inflexibility of the £60 per week rule to help many voluntary bodies which wish to take part in the programme but have serious management difficulties due to the inflexibility of the system?

Mr. Morrison

The hon. Gentleman does not understand—£60 a week is the rate for the job. It is not inflexible as he suggests.