HC Deb 01 December 1992 vol 215 cc125-6
1. Mr. Wareing

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what changes she is planning in the funding of Merseyside training and enterprise council.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Patrick McLoughlin)

Merseyside training and enterprise council's budget this year is more than £50 million, allowing it to help more than 20,000 people. The regional director will discuss funding for next year with that TEC in the next few weeks.

Mr. Wareing

Is the Minister aware that this year the funding of Merseyside TEC was 7.5 per cent. down in real terms, and that the 231,000 training weeks for which it contracted this year represented a 20 per cent. reduction compared with last year? What sort of Government talk about recovery but are prepared to pay more than treble the amount that they pay out to Merseyside TEC to keep unemployed people idle on Merseyside? Does the Minister appreciate the fact that I represent one of the worst unemployment zones in the country and that when people there hear the Prime Minister talk about recovery they laugh, and laugh and laugh. I cannot wish my constituents a prosperous new year, because the Government will have to go before they can have one.

Mr. McLoughlin

If anybody laughs, it must be at the hon. Gentleman's whingeing. One must look at what has happened in his constituency. In July 1986, unemployment was 9,472; in October 1992, it was 6,394—down by 33 per cent. I hope that even the hon. Gentleman could welcome that.

Mr. Simon Coombs

What has been the take-up of resources for employment action within the Mersey side training and enterprise council area? Do the Government intend to make funds for employment action more widely available in the future?

Mr. McLoughlin

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. None of the training schemes that we have introduced has ever received the Opposition's support. They whinge about wanting training to be provided, yet criticise every scheme that we put forward positively. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced some new training initiatives that will come into force as a result of the excellent settlement that she managed to achieve during the public expenditure round.

Mr. Alton

Is the Minister aware that, from this very day, the disabled people previously being trained at the Greenbank project in Liverpool will cease to be trained there because of the reductions in funding by the Merseyside TEC? Does he accept that the disabled are a vulnerable group of people, about whom he has received personal representations? Will he look again at the funding for that specific group and see whether additional resources can be made available to the Merseyside TEC for their benefit?

Mr. McLoughlin

That point has been brought to our attention. My noble Friend Viscount Ullswater has been dealing with the matter and I assure the hon. Gentleman that we shall look at it again.

Mr. Evennett

Does my hon. Friend agree that business and community leaders have welcomed TECs as the best way to deliver training, taking into account local needs?

Mr. McLoughlin

That is the case. The simple fact is that TECs are making a substantial contribution throughout the country both locally and nationally.