§ The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. Michael Forsyth)
May I begin by apologising to the hon. Gentleman and the House for the absence of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment, who is attending the job summit in Detroit.
Next year, job clubs will be able to help 260,000 people, an increase of 20,000 on this year's record 240,000.
§ Mr. Forsyth
Job clubs are among the most effective measures provided by the Employment Service. They have helped over 580,000 people into work. The hon. Gentleman must be aware, for example, of people like the 50-year-old lady in his constituency who had been unemployed for 18 months and who found work as a result of being helped by a job club. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would be more keen on the work carried out in his constituency than he is on that question.
§ Mr. Ashby
The trouble with job clubs is that they are geared to the lowest common denominator. Will my hon. Friend try to change the way in which job clubs work so that they can help those in the higher echelons who are seeking to get back to work and who are currently hindered by the benefit rules as well? Could not the benefit rules also be altered so that they could assist people to get back to work?
§ Mr. Forsyth
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Job clubs are not homogeneous—they cater for different groups. 728 Some job clubs provide help for people who have literacy and numeracy difficulties; some help executives who have been displaced; and others specialise in ex-offenders. My hon. Friend asked about the benefit system. He needs to address that question to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security. I believe that job clubs are very effective. They are extremely popular with those who participate in them. The Employment Service is to be congratulated on its success, which has been emulated around the world.