HC Deb 16 December 1986 vol 107 cc1040-1
4. Mr. Boyes

asked the Paymaster General how many long-term unemployed people are in receipt of the jobstart allowance.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. John Lee)

By 5 December, 2,074 people were in receipt of the jobstart allowance.

Mr. Boyes

Is the Minister not ashamed to be part of a Department which is creating a scheme to force people to take jobs at less than £80 a week? In other words, he is forcing them to work on poverty level wages. Although the average wage is £65, his Department has produced figures showing that a large number of people are earning less than £39. What does he expect those people to do after six months when their £20 supplement is ended? Does he expect them to carry on working for £39 and less? Is this not another device to reduce unemployment figures and another example of the Government's disgraceful, unacceptable attitude towards unemployed people?

Mr. Lee

Conservative Members and, increasingly, unemployed people are becoming fed up with the sneering, destructive comments of the Opposition about many of our constructive positive schemes, such as this one. It is constructive and positive and we sincerely hope that at the end of six months employees will stay on with their employers. The MSC hopes to conduct a survey in 1987 of those who participated in the national jobstart scheme.

Mr. Phillip Oppenheim

Is my hon. Friend aware that any job-encouraging initiative which the Government take is sneered at by the Opposition as a fiddle? Will he remind Opposition Members that their party introduced the youth opportunity programme in 1977, which gave youths a wage of only £18 a week, including travel allowance? Will he also remind them that the Labour manifesto of 1979 said: We have the Youth Opportunities Programme, which guarantees every school-leaver either a job or a training place or employment experience". In addition—[HON. MEMBERS: "Reading."]—in 1976 the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot), who was then Employment Secretary, took full-time students out of the unemployment register, saying that that would reduce the unemployment figures by a considerable amount.

Mr. Lee

My hon. Friend is right. The Opposition increasingly talk with forked tongues.

Mr. Wainwright

In view of the minimal response to the jobstart allowance during the past five months, why does the Minister not replace it with a cash incentive to employers to expand the number of staff by recruiting from the long-term unemployed?

Mr. Lee

We have a whole range of other schemes. I acknowledge that there has been a slow start to this scheme, but, as a result of the fairly recent television campaign, there has been a significant pick up.