HC Deb 16 May 1989 vol 153 cc155-6
8. Mr. Arbuthnot

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many people have consulted jobcentres in the last 12 months; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Lee

Precise information is not available. However, I would expect the total to be broadly similar to the 29 million inquiries recorded in 1985–86, the last year for which comprehensive information is available.

Mr. Arbuthnot

What proportion of the inquiries received by jobcentres came from the unemployed and from job changers, and how many people were placed in jobs as a result of those inquiries?

Mr. Lee

The last information that we have is from a sample survey in 1987, which indicated that about 83 per cent. of unemployed claimants used the jobcentre network. In 1988–89, 1.9 million job seekers, 1.5 million of whom were unemployed, were placed in jobs.

Mr. Leighton

Are not the numbers of staff in jobcentres now being reduced? The Under-Secretary of State has an opportunity to provide a better service to the unemployed. Why is he throwing that away?

Mr. Lee

I have to make the point—I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is well aware of it—that unemployment is falling substantially. Therefore, we obviously have to look at the jobcentre network. Having said that, we are at the same time trying to improve the quality of service for those individuals who are, sadly, unemployed. Even at present, the jobcentre network employs about 6,800 people.

Mr. Devlin

Why does not my hon. Friend consider merging jobcentres and unemployment offices as quite a few people still seem to get lost somewhere between the two? It seems self-evident that people who are registering as unemployed should be directed at least to somewhere in the same building so that they can be found employment as quickly as possible.

Mr. Lee

My hon. Friend has a good point. Obviously, we have been thinking about this, and there have been 79 pilot schemes in which we have considered the options for integrating unemployment benefit offices and jobcentres. As he will know, the employment service is intended for agency status.

Mr. McAllion

Does the Minister not understand that one of the main barriers against people finding work at present is that more than 150 major United Kingdom employers are buying personnel management systems which claim, on the basis of a 15-minute pencil and paper test, to establish the honesty and emotional stability of job applicants? Does the Minister approve of employers taking such a crude approach or does he intend to do something to stop that abuse?

Mr. Lee

With respect, I am not sure that I fully understood the hon. Gentleman's question. With regard to the employment service for which my Department is responsible, I should have thought that the placement figures that I gave earlier indicated the success of what we are trying to do.

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