HC Deb 24 June 1986 vol 100 cc161-3
1. Mr. Bruce

asked the Paymaster General how many jobs he estimates the proposed clean-up campaign will create.

3. Mr. Terry Lewis

asked the Paymaster General if street cleaning is presently included within the framework of the community programme.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Ian Lang)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has recently announced a new environmental improvement initiative which it is estimated will initially provide work for up to 5,000 long-term unemployed people through the community programme together with additional opportunities for volunteers. A very wide range of worthwhile activities can be undertaken through the programme provided they involve work which would not otherwise be done and bring practical benefits to the community.

Mr. Bruce

I am sure that those who are unemployed will be grateful for the opportunity to take up work. However, does this scheme not show how much out of touch the Prime Minister is with the reality of what is happening in Britain and that the opportunity should have been taken to restore some civic pride in Britain and give local authorities the resources to clean up their own streets?

Mr. Lang

I think that the scheme as envisaged, details of which will be announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment in due course, contemplates a much wider sphere of activities than would be confined within local authority activities.

Mr. Lewis

Is the Paymaster General aware that 155,000 jobs have been lost in local government in the manual sector, many of them street cleaners and the like? Rather than give youngsters skivvying jobs, would it not be a good thing to give rate support grant back to local government and let it do the job properly?

Mr. Lang

As I have just explained, the work planned for the initiative does not, to a large extent, fall within the scope of local authorities. The proposals will be wide ranging in their effect and I believe that they will have the wide and strong support of the vast majority of the people of this country.

Mr. Speller

When my hon. Friend helps to promote this excellent campaign, may we also ask that the resources be directed to the areas where unemployment is at its highest, such as the coastal areas of the west country, and that we look to that as well as to the over-employed south-east?

Mr. Lang

I thank my hon. Friend for his support. It will be a matter on which potential sponsors of individual projects within the overall programme can approach the board with their proposals. I am sure that they will receive sympathetic consideration.

Mr. Freud

Is the Minister aware that there are 331,000 people under the age of 25 who have been unemployed for over one year? Will he give precedence to those people when he is looking at applicants for community employment?

Mr. Lang

The community programme is specifically designed to help the long-term unemployed. Therefore, they will receive favourable treatment in that context.

Ms. Clare Short

Is the Minister aware that everyone in the country, except it seems the Prime Minister, is aware that our streets have been becoming dirtier and tattier for many years because of the squeeze on local authority expenditure and privatisation, which has reduced the number of people who are cleaning our streets? The answer is not to take on a trendy business man to take on more and more unemployed people at very low rates of pay and then dump them back into unemployment, but to give more money to local authorities to employ people on a permanent basis to do the job properly and reduce the numbers who are unemployed.

Mr. Lang

The hon. Lady is wrong. Local authority spending needs are fully taken into account in setting the level of expenditure for rate support grant purposes. The intention of the programme is not to replace the activities of local authorities as regards their refuse and litter collection. That remains their duty, and they will continue to have sufficient resources to carry that out. Nor will there be substitution for existing jobs under the community programme, the rules of which are specifically designed to avoid that.

Mr. Hancock

How long will the schemes last, and how will the clean-up campaign work with local government? Will it be an integral part of local government responsibility to find areas for these people to clean, or will the process be completely separate?

Mr. Lang

The hon. Gentleman will need to await the full details of the scheme from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment. However, there is no reason why local authorities should not also become involved in the project.