HC Deb 25 May 1993 vol 225 cc745-6
11. Mr. Colin Shepherd

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what measures she is introducing to encourage voluntary work among the long-term unemployed in the west midlands.

Mr. McLoughlin

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced in his Budget the introduction of 60,000 voluntary work opportunities through community action. Of these, 6,570 will be available in the west midlands.

Mr. Shepherd

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. May I remind him of the significant success of the old community programme, not least in Herefordshire, where a number of people gained employment in secure jobs as a consequence of participating in the scheme and many additional projects were completed? Does he agree that the revised community action, as announced in the Budget, will once again provide the opportunity for long-term unemployed people to become involved in voluntary work and for important projects to be carried out? However, it is important that people are aware that the scheme exists. What measures is my hon. Friend taking to make certain that its existence and benefits are fully understood by the public?

Mr. McLoughlin

I am sure that my hon. Friend is absolutely right. Community action provides a valuable service to the community by those who have been long-term unemployed. It is a scheme which will be administered by the Employment Service and the training enterprise councils, which will do a sufficient amount to ensure that the scheme becomes known.

Mr. Robert Ainsworth

Will the 6,000 people in the west midlands who are allowed to participate in the scheme continue to be registered as unemployed, or will they join the 77,000 people who have appeared on the sickness register in the past three months? Is not it a fact that the 221,000 unemployed people in the west midlands look to the Department to create jobs and training opportunities and not simply opportunities to participate in voluntary work?

Mr. McLoughlin

Again, we see the Opposition decrying any scheme to help unemployed people. Why do the Opposition always complain when unemployment rises and when it falls, too?

Mr. David Evans

Is my hon. Friend aware that not only do we have 500,000 layabouts, but 1 million people who draw benefit are working on the black economy? Has he heard the first cuckoo this year? We cannot ask that lot opposite because they spend every year in cuckoo land.

Mr. McLoughlin

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I may have heard the first cuckoo the first month that unemployment fell and we have seen that happen on two subsequent months. That is widely welcomed by all Conservative Members and, as usual, widely condemned by the Opposition.

Back to