HC Deb 31 October 1989 vol 159 cc167-8
10. Mr. French

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the measures he has introduced to encourage mobility of labour.

Mr. Nicholls

My Department is active in encouraging mobility of labour. We are working at improving the supply of information about job vacancies in other areas, for instance with the initiative announced the week before last to publish vacancies on ITV's teletext service. In addition, the travel-to-interview scheme provides assistance to unemployed people who apply for jobs outside their home area.

Mr. French

What initiatives is my hon. Friend's Department taking to seek to synchronise employment opportunity with housing availability? Is he aware that job applicants from other parts of the country for vacancies in Gloucester are unable to fill those vacancies because of the lack of housing at a price that they can afford?

Mr. Nicholls

My hon. Friend draws attention to a very real concern. I certainly would not undervalue the travel-to-interview scheme. However, my hon. Friend is right that housing plays a very important part in the disincentive to mobility. My hon. Friend may be aware of the national mobility scheme and the tenants exchange scheme which are operated by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment. Furthermore, the business expansion scheme introduced in the last Budget was used as a vehicle to encourage people to provide more rented accommodation. There are a number of initiatives and my hon. Friend was entirely right to draw attention to the fact that there is no single solution.

Mr. Beggs

I notice that the Minister accepts no responsibility for encouraging the 45,000 to 50,000 citizens of the Irish Republic who move to Great Britain and elsewhere annually to come over here. Can he tell us what analysis is being carried out of such large numbers of citizens of the Irish Republic moving to the mainland, and their impact, if any, on the unemployment registers?

Mr. Nicholls

The mobility to which the hon. Gentleman draws attention has been going on for many years. The question concerns the initiatives being taken by the Government to encourage mobility, and that is what we have addressed.

Mr. Andrew Mitchell

Has not the Government's extremely successful right-to-buy policy been very helpful in assisting mobility of labour? Was not that policy specifically resisted, root and branch, by the Opposition who were converted only very late in the day?

Mr. Nicholls

Of course my hon. Friend is right, but obviously any sensible initiative on these matters will be opposed by the Opposition. I do not think that my hon. Friend should be too surprised about that.

Mr. Cryer

Is not the Minister presented with a credibility gap when he tries to claim that the Government are increasing mobility of labour when they cancelled the grant aid system some three years ago so that poor families who want to get off the dole and get a job outside their areas have to depend on money from charity, as a constituent of mine did to cover the costs of removal? When will the Government do something about that?

Mr. Nicholls

As I have already said to the House, the travel-to-interview scheme provides assistance for those people who need help with interview expenses, including overnight accommodation if that is what they need to take up a particular job possibility. If the hon. Gentleman has a specific case where he feels that the scheme is not working, obviously he can contact me and I shall be more than happy to look into it.