HC Deb 01 December 1992 vol 215 cc130-1
6. Mr. David Nicholson

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if she will make a statement on developments in the retraining of unemployed adults aged over 21 years.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard

On 12 November I announced training for work, a new programme for those aged 18 and over who have been unemployed for six months or more. It will start from April 1993 as part of a new range of measures that together will provide 500,000 more opportunities to help unemployed people back to work—resulting in 1.5 million available places.

Mr. Nicholson

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. The whole House will recognise the priority that the Government place on training for people of 16 and 17, and we welcome the remarks that my right hon. Friend made earlier today. However, is she aware that in our constituencies people are concerned about the plight of people over 18, and over 21, who face unemployment in this dreadful and prolonged recession? That concern is especially marked among those who have retired from work. Will my right hon. Friend redouble her efforts to provide retraining and suitable employment advice for the people whom I have mentioned, and make efforts to bring the below-average TECs up to the standard of the best? Will she also tell me what role she envisages for job clubs?

Mrs. Shephard

My hon. Friend may be reassured about the performance of TECs by the knowledge that a larger proportion of their funding will be output related. In other words, the money that they receive for training will be related to the output of jobs and qualifications. We now have a big package of measures which should meet the needs of all those who need to be retrained, reskilled and helped back into work, and we have a vastly increased number of places in job clubs, which have an excellent record in helping people back to work.

Mr. Diner

Can the Minister tell my constituents who have recently been made redundant from Rolls-Royce, Alvis and Clarkson Machine Tools—men who are at the pinnacle of their skills and experience in modern technology—what on earth she will offer them in the way of training?

Mrs. Shephard

The hon. Gentleman will know that the Government cannot create jobs. It is business, industry and commerce which create jobs. The role of the Government is to prepare the right framework for the recovery, to help people to get jobs, to prepare people for the jobs available and to help them keep in touch with the jobs market. Our new 1.5 million place programme is designed to do exactly that.

Sir Peter Emery

Although we see the importance of training, will my right hon. Friend make it absolutely clear that the proportion of the population in employment in the United Kingdom is far greater than the proportion in almost any other country in the European Community? That point should be underlined.

Mrs. Shephard

I thank my hon. Friend. We have a higher participation rate of people in work than any other EC country except Denmark. That also applies to women in employment.

Mr. Dobson

The Opposition welcome the announcement by the Secretary of State today in so far as it acknowledges the abject failure of the existing schemes for people who are out of work. Will the right hon. Lady confirm that only one in five people who have been on employment training schemes have gone on to get a job, and that people who have not been on schemes have, therefore, stood a better chance of getting a job than those who have been on employment schemes? Surely the answer is not a host of schemes, but a Government who will come forward with a package that will provide jobs that people can get. People do not want training: they want work.

Mrs. Shephard

The hon. Gentleman should have listened to what I said. The funding for training and enterprise councils is to be output related—related to the outcome of training in terms of obtaining jobs and obtaining qualifications.

The hon. Gentleman's enthusiasm for employers is a little ill placed, given his remarks about them as recently as September. He said of employers: These people are stinking, lousy, thieving, incompetent scum. How much credibility does the hon. Gentleman have?

Mr. Bellingham

When my right hon. Friend is next in Norfolk, will she find time to visit the King's Lynn job club, which I recently opened? If she does, she will hear support for the way in which she has protected her Department's budget in real terms. She will also hear some people say that many firms tell them that if they are over 50, they are too old to apply for jobs. What advice would she give such people?

Mrs. Shephard

I know my hon. Friend's job club. He may know that last year, before I had any connection with my present responsibilities, I visited that job club.

I should perhaps declare an interest in the question of people over 50. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will announce later this week the membership of a working group that is designed to bring to employers' attention the qualities of people over 50 in the work force.