13. Mr. John Mark Taylor
asked the Paymaster General if he will indicate the rate of take-up of the restart scheme in the west midlands.
§ Mr. Kenneth Clarke
By 13 November 60,520 people in the west midlands region had been interviewed under the restart programme.
I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for that reply. Will he say a word to the House about the Social Affairs Council in Brussels last week, the agreement which he achieved on the United Kingdom employment initiative and how his European colleagues reacted to that?
§ Mr. Clarke
They reacted very well. I am glad to say that 12 member states agreed on a programme which included a commitment to help the long-term unemployed, which is what we are doing through the restart programme. There is great international interest in this original programme. It is one of the best new ideas for helping the long-term unemployed that any country has come up with for a long time. If there had been any Labour participant, in the Social Affairs Council last week, the Council would have been astonished to hear the entire thing described as merely a fiddle.
§ Mr. Sheerman
Does the Minister realise that with the collapse of industrial training in the west midlands, and the collapse of engineering training at every level by 30 per cent. since the Government took office, the people of the west midlands and elsewhere want a fresh start with a Labour Government, and not restart?
§ Mr. Clarke
Now that the economy is reviving so strongly and the amount of employment is increasing, restart is steering people back into opportunities in the west midlands and elsewhere. Instead of trying to find ways of describing the decline in the west midlands and referring to a few years back, the hon. Gentleman should take on board the fact that since August 1983 alone more than 20,000 new small businesses have been launched in the west midlands under the enterprise allowance scheme. That is only one part of the menu that we have on offer under our restart programme.