§ Mr. Andrew Smith
Small and medium businesses are crucial to the success of the new deal. We are working hard to secure their involvement by reflecting their views in the design and delivery of the new deal, by helping them through local partnerships and by targeting national promotion to encourage their further involvement.
§ Ms Drown
I welcome that response. Swindon has fewer young unemployed people than many other parts of Britain; nevertheless, they are a priority for the business community and the Employment Service. Swindon is 1033 aware of the Government's larger welfare-to-work programme and wants it to succeed, but the current welfare-to-work programme requires each area to go forward at the same rate. Will my hon. Friend consider bringing forward some parts of the scheme so that, from April, which is sooner than currently planned, areas such as Swindon can move forward to help the long-term unemployed and lone parents, particularly the long-term unemployed?
§ Mr. Smith
The programme for the long-term unemployed will start in June. I thank my hon. Friend for her constituency work in promoting the new deal. She refers to the particularly acute needs of some of those eligible for the new deal programme in her constituency. In that regard, the gateway provision is crucial, providing personal support, assessment, mentoring and help with basic skills, and it will be brought forward as quickly as possible to help the constituents of my hon. Friend and others.
§ Mr. Smith
The new deal will result in extra employment opportunities in small and medium enterprises precisely because the prospect of that subsidy and support in obtaining a trained and ready-to-work young person can make a critical difference to whether someone is taken on. The Low Pay Commission will recommend the level of the minimum wage, taking full account of employment needs. Rather than carping about the new deal, the hon. Gentleman, like so many other hon. Members, should get behind it in his constituency to end the scandal of long-term youth unemployment and help business.