HC Deb 17 November 1987 vol 122 cc899-900
1. Mr. Patnick

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the aims and objects of the employment service.

The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Norman Fowler)

The employment service will bring together the work of jobcentres and benefit offices to provide a more effective service for unemployed people, particularly the long-term unemployed, by offering them a range of opportunities to help them back into work as soon as possible.

Mr. Patnick

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Will the new employment service ensure that Sheffield employers and the unemployed in my constituency receive the same quality of service from the jobcentres?

Mr. Fowler

Yes, Sir. The aim is to ensure that all our services are properly co-ordinated—particularly to help unemployed people—and I believe that the new service will result in an improvement in service to the public.

Mr. Allan Roberts

Will the Secretary of State ask the jobcentres in the Bootle area to encourage management at the Girobank to recruit labour locally rather than to send middle and top management to South Africa to recruit labour, as it has done recently? Is that not a scandal in an area with 30 to 40 per cent. unemployment?

Mr. Fowler

That has next to nothing to do with the employment service or jobcentres. However, I shall certainly consider the hon. Gentleman's point, if he has a point.

Mr. Barry Field

Will my right hon. Friend consider lifting the restriction on the Manpower Services Commission requiring it to seek a union waiver to allow community programmes to be used to clear up the storm damage? Does he agree that the obduracy of the unions is unforgivable, especially in my constituency where, unfortunately, unemployment increased last month? Will my right hon. Friend consider making a statement about the matter?

Mr. Fowler

I shall certainly look at the matter further. I know of the problems that there have been in the Isle of Wight. In fact, the community programme is being used to seek to deal with some of the damage caused. I shall certainly talk to the director of the Manpower Services Commission to discover whether further action can be taken.

Ms. Short

Will the Secretary of State admit that the reorganisaton of the employment service is intended to be used, in combination with the new power to stop benefits for six months if a person leaves a job or refuses a reasonable offer, to force people into schemes that are so low paid and poor that unemployed people will not accept them voluntarily?

Mr. Fowler

That is not remotely the purpose. The purpose is to provide a better service for the public. It is not a question of hounding people off the register. If they are genuinely unemployed and seeking work they are entitled to prompt and courteous service. However, if they are not genuinely available for or actively seeking work it is the duty of the service to identify them.