HC Deb 13 June 1995 vol 261 cc586-8
6. Mr. Clifton-Brown

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many long-term unemployed people he expects to be helped back into employment by the recent extension of the jobfinder's grant. [26474]

The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Miss Ann Widdecombe)

We have made 25,000 jobfinder's grants available to help long-term unemployed people into work. But that is just one of a wide range of measures, and altogether the Department of Employment offers unemployed people 1.5 million opportunities for help every year.

Mr. Clifton-Brown

Does my hon. Friend agree that the jobfinder's grant is merely part of a comprehensive package, which has enabled our country to create more than 600,000 jobs—more than any other country in the European Union—since December 1992? Is not that in total contrast to the Labour party's policies of a minimum wage and adoption of the social chapter, which would destroy jobs?

Miss Widdecombe

Indeed, and it is due to the Government's policies that we also have lower long-term unemployment than the average for the European Union. My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The jobfinder's grant is just one of a wide range of measures that include jobstart, work trials and national insurance contributions holidays for employers, which are all designed to assist long-term unemployed people into work. The Opposition's policies would, on the contrary, prolong and create unemployment. Their deputy leader refers to it as a "shake-out" and their leader refers to it as the result of an "econometric model". Whatever it amounts to and however they describe it, it means increasing misery for British workers. That is what the Opposition are promising.

Mr. Clapham

The Minister will be aware that a large proportion of the unemployment in Barnsley is of a long-term nature. My hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) referred to the document published by Sheffield university. One of its proposals is that accredited education courses should be included in the training for jobs scheme, effectively making it education and training for jobs. Is the Minister prepared to give serious consideration to that proposal?

Miss Widdecombe

We give serious consideration to all sensible proposals that are put to us and we will always examine any possibilities that give a greater link between education, vocational training and employment. But I must point out to the hon. Gentleman that long-term unemployment is falling, that it is falling in his region as much as elsewhere and that what he should be giving his constituents is a message of hope. He should be welcoming the tried and tested policies that we have implemented. Instead of which, the message that he gives his constituents is, "Labour Government—loss of jobs."

Mr. John Marshall

Does my hon. Friend agree that long-term unemployed people want an availability of jobs? At a time when the European Community share of world trade is declining, does he agree that the European Union should reduce burdens on industry, as recommended by the Government, rather than increase them, as recommended by the Labour party?

Miss Widdecombe

Indeed. The European Union increasingly recognises that, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development recognises that, the International Monetary Fund recognises that and we recognised it long before anyone else, but the Opposition cannot catch up. All they have to offer is old policies; they cannot dress them up as anything new. The hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright) may well put his hands up in surrender—that is what British workers can do if they get a Labour Government.

Mr. McCartney

The hon. Lady wants to stop manufacturing soundbites for Brussels and manufacture some jobs for Britain. Have not the Government introduced a jobfinder's grant because, since their friends in the privatised utilities have taken control, they have lost 250,000 jobs, at a cost of £1 billion to the taxpayer? When will the Minister of State have discussions with her friends at the top of the privatised utilities to persuade them to stop putting their snouts in the trough while sacking their workers? When are the Government going to do something about the massive job losses in the utilities, while those at the top take pay rises and share options for themselves?

Miss Widdecombe

Why does the hon. Gentleman not consult that document that is so beloved of himself and the trade unions—the labour force survey? If he does so, he will see that employment is rising. Will he welcome that? No. Bad news is the only thing that he ever welcomes, but there is now consistent good news: falling unemployment, falling long-term unemployment, rising employment, the highest participation rates in Europe, long-term unemployment below the European average higher than average youth employment. All those are the results of our flexible labour market policies. When will the hon. Gentleman welcome those? I look forward to the day when the Opposition stand up for British workers, instead of standing up for their own interests.

Mr. Harry Greenway

Does my hon. Friend agree that jobfinder's grant is designed to stimulate people to go on looking for work even when the going may be hard? That contrasts with the absurd view of the Labour party, which seeks to put it about that getting a job is easy and that, if jobs cannot be come by, the state would be ready to give other people's money to anyone who asks for it without anybody suffering. It is not like that.

Miss Widdecombe

The Opposition's policies are essentially cruel because they set out to deceive the most vulnerable by making them believe that there is some simple solution. There is no simple solution. The wide range of measures that we have put in place, however, keeps our youth and long-term unemployment below the European average and our participation rate higher. Those policies result in a better life for British workers, and they are our policies.

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