HC Deb 07 July 1992 vol 211 cc165-6
4. Mr. Clifton-Brown

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what support the trade unions are offering in the employment action programme.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

I regret to say that the Trades Union Congress voted last September to oppose employment action. [Interruption.] That is a programme which helps the unemployed to maintain their skills while undertaking temporary work which is of benefit to the whole community.

Mr. Clifton-Brown

Is my hon. Friend aware that progress by the National Association of Local Government Officers and other unions is destroying employment action projects in Cirencester and Tewkesbury? Does he agree that the Opposition's criticisms would be better directed at their trade union friends and not at the Government, who are fully committed to doing everything that they possibly can to create as many jobs as possible?

Mr. Forsyth

I was aware of the difficulties that have been created with Gloucestershire county council in respect of programmes under employment action. I hope that the whole country will have heard Opposition Members' cheers at the decision by the TUC to boycott a programme which is geared to helping people who are unemployed and helping communities by providing projects of that kind. I hope also that Opposition Members will recognise that the Transport and General Workers Union, which sponsors the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair), also voted at its previous conference to boycott youth training and employment training. So let us have no more humbug from Opposition Members that they are concerned about those programmes.

Mr. Flynn

Does the Minister agree that we had community programmes which provided jobs that were worth while to the community at reasonable wages, then we had employment training, which provided work with no wages but some training, but that employment action is a combination of the worst features of both, combining no training with no wages? Employment action is not a new idea: it is a very old idea—called slavery.

Mr. Forsyth

That is one of the silliest questions that I have heard in the House. The hon. Gentleman should know that people on employment action are paid benefit plus £10. Exactly the same applies to those on employment training. The hon. Gentleman does a great disservice to the many thousands of people who are engaged in running those programmes to help the unemployed with considerable success and distinction.