HC Deb 10 July 1997 vol 297 c1066
12. Mrs. Dean

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions he has had with businesses about the implementation of his welfare-to-work proposals. [6190]

Mr. Gordon Brown

The chair of the advisory task force, Sir Peter Davis, has been involved in discussions with me and with other Ministers on aspects of the design and implementation of our new deal for the unemployed. On 25 June, I hosted a breakfast seminar for senior business figures on this very matter. I am pleased to say that our proposals have received support from many of Britain's leading companies.

Mrs. Dean

The welfare-to-work proposals are certainly important to my constituency, which covers six of the poorest wards in the west midlands. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the policy will realise the wasted talents of our young people and of the long-term unemployed? Does he agree that that can only be of benefit to industry and the country in general?

Mr. Brown

I believe that there has been a substantial welcome throughout the country, including the business community, for our proposals to tackle the problems of youth and long-term unemployment. Something should have been done many years ago. People understand that the Government made a promise at the election that they would take action on the issue. We have raised a windfall levy from the utilities to pay for the action that we are taking. We are a Government who keep our promises to the young people of Britain.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

Will the right hon. Gentleman acknowledge that, since his party first announced its proposals in opposition, the number of people who need the benefit of welfare to work has reduced and that his actual target is numerically impossible to meet? At the beginning of Question Time, when the minimum wage was mentioned, it was put to the right hon. Gentleman by the hon. Member for North-West Leicestershire (Mr. Taylor) that a significant number of adults earn less than £3 an hour. Is it possible that, in line with welfare to work, the minimum wage will be introduced at £3 an hour?

Mr. Brown

The hon. Gentleman should know that the Low Pay Commission is examining exactly that matter. The minimum wage will be decided after consultation involving the Low Pay Commission, which includes representatives from business, the trade unions and other sections of the public, including guaranteed representation for small businesses. There are more than 500,000 young people out of work. In Britain today, 20 per cent. of households include no one earning a wage. That is a sad and tragic commentary on 18 years of failed Conservative government.

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