HC Deb 16 March 1993 vol 221 c157
8. Mr. Michael Brown

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what plans she has to encourage work in the community.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard

Opportunities to undertake community work are currently available on employment action and other programmes run by my Department. My hon. Friend will be aware that training for work, which comes into force at the end of the month, will combine employment training and employment action.

Mr. Brown

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the employment action programme currently enables people to work in the community, cleaning up heritage sites and removing graffiti? Can she give some idea of how she might expand this programme? May I suggest that the railway stations between Newark and Cleethorpes, which suffer from graffiti, could come within the ambit of the scheme?

Mrs. Shephard

There is no doubt that the various tasks undertaken by people on the employment action scheme are not only useful but valuable. My hon. Friend clearly has his own enthusiasms—other tasks include helping elderly people, teaching literacy and numeracy skills and, in my constituency, running a museum.

Mr. McAllion

If the Secretary of State is serious about encouraging work in the community, why does she not intervene directly in the community of Dundee, where the management of Timex have sacked the entire work force for the crime of exercising their legal rights under the Government's trade union legislation? Is the Secretary of State content to add to the ranks of mass unemployed and so create the conditions in which those out of work envy those in work, those in work fear those out of work and bad employers such as Timex can drag down wages and conditions by exploiting the existing conditions?

Mrs. Shephard

The issues between Timex and its employees are a matter for the company; I note that the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service has not yet been called in.

Mrs. Peacock

Does my right hon. Friend agree that more people who are presently unemployed would be willing to become involved in voluntary work if they did not lose their entitlement to benefits when they undertook that work?

Mrs. Shephard

Unemployed people can engage in unpaid voluntary work and retain their benefits as long as they continue to look for work and are willing to give up that voluntary work at 24 hours' notice. My hon. Friend makes a valid point and, as she doubtless knows, we intend to build on the successes of employment action with other schemes.

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