HC Deb 11 July 1995 vol 263 cc730-1
2. Mr. Bellingham

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment when she next expects to meet representatives of East Anglian training and enterprise councils to discuss training schemes for the long-term unemployed. [31782]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment (Mr. James Paice)

Both my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I enjoy regular contact with the TEC movement in East Anglia.

Mr. Bellingham

Will the Minister find time today to pay tribute to the excellent work that the Norfolk and Waveney TEC has been doing for the long-term unemployed? Is it not worth reflecting on the fact that the TECs have been resisted at every turn and undermined by the Opposition, in spite of the excellent work that they have been doing? Does he also agree that, for the long-term unemployed, it is important to ensure plenty of business start-ups? What is he doing to help that?

Mr. Paice

I am happy to extend my good wishes to Norfolk and Waveney TEC, which has done a good job. Last year, when we published the TEC league tables, there was a substantial improvement in its performance, and I look forward to a continuing improvement next month, when we publish the tables for the past year. My hon. Friend is right to point out the problems of people wanting to start work and to become self-employed. That is why we have amended the rules of the training for work scheme to enable people, through training for work, to receive all the necessary advice, counselling, help and financial support, while they develop their business plans, so that any TEC is able to provide considerable support to such people.

Mr. Chidgey

Will the Minister confirm the success—I believe that it is right to call it that—of workstart pilot projects, especially in East Anglia, and will he confirm that he is planning to create another 5,000 places at a cost of £7.5 million? How can he reconcile that rather minimal investment with the forecast that there will still be over 1 million long-term unemployed by the year 2000, and the fact that unemployment is costing the country £20 billion a year? Does he think that some of the cuts in training expenditure should be transferred to workstart projects, which will improve training and the chances for the long-term unemployed of getting back into work in worthwhile jobs?

Mr. Paice

The hon. Gentleman is quite right. There will be 5,000 places in workstart schemes this year, which is a considerable increase on last year. He is not right to talk about substantial cuts in the training budget. The fact is that TEC budgets this year are almost identical to what they were last year. Yes, training for work has had a reduction; but there has been a substantial increase in other budgets so that the total has hardly changed.

The most important thing is that the overall number of opportunities for the unemployed has been maintained at last year's figure of 1.5 million, despite the fact that, during that time, unemployment has fallen substantially. There are more opportunities for those who are unemployed today in proportion to what was available a year ago.