HC Deb 21 January 1986 vol 90 cc174-6
9. Mr. Fallon

asked the Paymaster General whether his Department will establish more job clubs in the northern region.

Mr. Alan Clark

The Manpower Services Commission at present runs 30 job clubs, four of which are located in the MSC's northern region. Initial results are very encouraging, and about two thirds of the people who have joined job clubs have found jobs. Provided that evaluation confirms this, I have asked the commission to make plans for a rapid expansion to establish a national network of 200 job clubs by the end of this year. These plans will certainly include proposals to open a number of additional job clubs in the MSC's northern region.

Mr. Fallon

I am very grateful for that most heartening answer. Is my hon. Friend aware that this experiment is proving to be very successful? Does he agree that personal, in-depth counselling is of far more assistance to the long-term unemployed than any amount of artificial indignation that may be expressed by the Opposition?

Mr. Clark

Yes. It has been one of the most successful of the Government's initiatives. The number of people who find jobs after having been on one of these courses in the northern areas is, on average, about three quarters of those who attend such courses. In March 1985 I visited the first experimental job club in Durham, and I was so impressed by what I saw that the Department put in train this considerable expansion.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Will not the recent rate support grant settlement under which the Government are imposing a 35 per cent. rate increase upon Cumbrians wipe out at a stroke all the benefits of the enterprise incentives that have been introduced by the Government during the last few years? Are they not creating unemployment on the one hand and introducing on the other a number of palliative measures, such as job clubs and enterprise allowances?— [Interruption.] That is absolutely in order, if the Minister would only listen and stop protesting. He will have an opportunity to answer the question. Is it not true that the enterprise allowances and the other so-called incentives will be wiped out by the rate support grant settlement?

Mr. Clark

The hon. Gentleman has probably been having a nap and has confused the subject and the day upon which his question should be put. Whatever extraneous circumstances may prevail, experience shows that those who go through the job clubs are better suited to place themselves in the employment market than those who do not.

Mr. Dickens

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the widespread introduction of job clubs. Is it not a fact that those who join job clubs to learn new skills and interviewing techniques are the kind of people for whom employers are looking?

Mr. Clark

Yes. They are more likely to be the people for whom employers are looking when they emerge from job club courses than they were when they went on to those courses. It is an established, regrettable truth that those who have been out of work for a very long time lose self-confidence. They lose familiarity with the labour market. They also lose the ability to project their personality and their skills. It is to help them to recover their self-confidence that job clubs have been instituted.

Mr. Evans

Is it not time that the Minister admitted that what the long-term unemployed want, many of whom are over 50 and have been unemployed for three, four or five years, are jobs, real live jobs? As long as this Government are in office, it is obvious that they will not get jobs. Will the Minister confirm what my hon. Friend suggested earlier, that the December figures for unemployment are the highest ever recorded?

Mr. Clark

The hon. Gentleman paints in far too pessimistic a colour. The Government are engaged on a much broader initiative of contacting long-term unemployed people. That initiative embraces many different types of action, of which job clubs are only one part. There is the job-start scheme with its £20 grant and the personal contact initiative. Many such initiatives are being favourably received and successfully implemented.