HC Deb 09 July 1997 vol 297 cc920-1
2. Dr. Stoate

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps are being taken to combat long-term and youth unemployment in Northern Ireland. [5891]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Tony Worthington)

The Government are pursuing policies to promote economic growth and job creation and we shall also offer people constructive alternatives to benefit. In particular, welfare to work will be used to combat long-term and youth unemployment. Under the new deal, 18 to 24-year-olds will be offered training and employment opportunities with employers, the voluntary sector and an environmental task force. People who have been unemployed for more than two years will be offered employment opportunities.

Dr. Stoate

Can the Minister tell the House how he will ensure a fair balance of resources between the two communities?

Mr. Worthington

A total of 13,500 young people will be eligible for the welfare-to-work programme, and we shall be able to offer 3,900 places for the long-term unemployed. Obviously, we shall ensure that those opportunities are offered on a fair and equal basis to all sections of the community.

Mr. Peter Robinson

Does the Minister accept that an important role in combating youth unemployment lies with Northern Ireland's training centres? I welcome the Government's decision temporarily to reverse the previous Government's decision on Dundonald training centre, but will the Minister ensure that the time allowed to assess that training centre is used to attempt to build it up rather than to run it down?

Mr. Worthington

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's contribution to this matter and for his welcome for our decision to unite education and training, which we believe to be common sense. We shall pursue that. We need to bring together, in terms of their contribution to youth unemployment, the Training and Employment Agency and the Department of Education. As we try to build up the services for combating youth unemployment, there will be an important role for Northern Ireland politicians. We should welcome them putting their weight behind the welfare-to-work programme and the new deal.

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