HC Deb 17 November 1987 vol 122 cc903-4
6. Miss Mowlam

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what plans he has to pay a higher wage to participants in the job training scheme.

Mr. Cope

Participants in the new job training scheme are trainees and receive a training allowance equivalent to their benefit entitlement, which increases when benefit rates increase.

Miss Mowlam

Will the Minister explain why allowances are related to benefits and needs, as he stated in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman)? Why do people's needs differ when they are training from their needs when they are in work?

Mr. Cope

Their needs are the same whether they are on the unemployed register or whether they are training. That is the basis of their allowances while training, and that is the right basis for them.

Mr. Baldry

Is it not right that more than 50 per cent. of the unemployed have no skills or qualifications whatsoever and that we must all be in favour of a skills crusade? Therefore, every penny available should he spent on training, and that is what the job training scheme involves. It ensures that people get skills to get employment. Unless they have skills, they will continue to be unskilled, unqualified and unemployed.

Mr. Cope

Exactly so.

Mr. Meacher

Is it not obvious that if the JTS and community programme are merged, the community programme will turn out to be as much a monumental flop as the JTS, and for exactly the same reason, namely, that payment at or near benefit levels smells of industrial conscription? Will the Minister confirm that benefit-plus will be much nearer £5 a week than the £15 a week mentioned by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry during the election campaign? Will he also confirm that of the 80 per cent. of present members of the community programme who are single, that represents a cut in pay of almost 50 per cent. from £67 a week to about £35 a week? That is scandalous, and it is the biggest cut in low pay yet engineered even by this Government.

Mr. Cope

The hon. Gentleman is aware that we are considering the future of adult training, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment will make a statement as soon as possible. However, it must be night to pay allowances based on needs, purely because no one should be denied training by the drop in benefit that that would otherwise entail. One of the disadvantages of the community programme is that it appeals only to those at the lower end of the scale, for example, unmarried people, and not to those who are married with families, for whom it represents a big loss in benefit. That is one of the difficulties with the community programme.