HC Deb 24 July 1997 vol 298 cc1040-1
16. Mr. David Taylor

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what representations he has had from small business representatives about the new deal proposals for providing employment for young people. [8611]

Mr. Andrew Smith

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have received a wide range of representations. Representatives of small business were also among those who attended the Chancellor's new deal breakfast seminar at the end of last month and the national and regional consultation meetings which are now under way.

Mr. Taylor

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Is he aware that, in former mining areas such as mine of north-west Leicestershire, the expansion plans of small and medium enterprises are often slowed or stalled by skill shortages? Does he agree that, if those SMEs were to follow the advice of the Federation of Small Businesses and get involved with our new deal plans, they would often find just the right people to allow their development to continue?

Mr. Smith

My hon. Friend is right. Small and medium businesses, in constituencies such as his and elsewhere, have a great opportunity to match their unmet labour needs with the enormous potential of our young people, which the previous Administration so tragically allowed to go to waste.

Mr. Spring

In contrast to the experience of the rest of Europe, why have small businesses in Britain been so successful in helping to reduce the level of youth unemployment?

Mr. Smith

The representations that we receive daily from small businesses and small business representatives in support of the new deal show that much more can be achieved. The extra support and training available through the new deal will, for many small businesses, make the difference between being able to take on extra employees and not being able to take them on. We want them to take on new employees, because the new deal is about jobs.