HC Deb 12 February 1998 vol 306 cc536-7
3. Mr. Pond

If he will make a statement on his expenditure plans for the windfall levy. [27203]

19. Ms Julie Morgan

What proposals he has to use the revenues accruing from the windfall tax. [27220]

Mr. Gordon Brown

The receipts of the windfall tax are being used to provide new work and training opportunities for young people, the long-term unemployed, lone parents and people who are sick and disabled and who want the right to work. We are also providing £1.2 billion of capital projects for schools and contributing to the development of a national child care strategy. I can tell the House that £2.6 billion has already been paid by the utilities.

Mr. Pond

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply and I can assure him that, in Gravesham, the Employment Service is working very effectively with local businesses and organisations to make sure that the new deal is a success and that the money is well spent. Will he consider measures that may assist in giving hope and opportunity to another group—the older unemployed, who were written off by the previous Government but want to use their skills and ability?

Mr. Brown

Yes, indeed; my hon. Friend is right. We inherited a situation in which nearly 400,000 adult men and women had been unemployed for more than a year and nearly 250,000 had been unemployed for more than two years. Whereas the long-term unemployed make up only 10 per cent. of the unemployed in the United States, they make up nearly 40 per cent. in Britain. That is why, in addition to giving every young person the chance of a job or training from April in our nationwide strategy for the new deal, from July we shall be offering the £75-a-week subsidy to employers to take on men and women who have been unemployed for more than two years. We shall also announce soon other measures to help the long-term unemployed. I believe that that is right, for both adults and the young.

Ms Morgan

I welcome the £300 million that is to be spent on child care, which represents the first peacetime Government commitment to a comprehensive child care policy. Will my right hon. Friend consider using receipts from the windfall levy to fund pre-school provision as well, as lack of access to that is emerging as one of the barriers for mothers who want to work?

Mr. Brown

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. One of the scandals that we inherited was the absence of a national child care strategy. There are three elements to our strategy. First, we must make child care accessible, which is why the windfall tax, along with funds from the new opportunities lottery fund, is contributing to an increase in the number of child care places. We believe that there can be 30,000 after-school clubs and a million places after five years, and we are considering other ways in which to increase the number of places.

Secondly, the windfall tax is also contributing to the training of child carers. We believe that, over time, 50,000 new child carers can be trained partly using moneys from the windfall levy—about £100 million. Thirdly, in making child care more accessible, we are examining the child care disregard. We have already dedicated £50 million from the windfall tax towards improving child care disregard, so that people can afford child care. We know that we shall have to do more, and we shall do more.

Mr. Forth

Can the Chancellor confirm that, along with the windfall tax, one of the main sources of revenue for the Government's programmes is the closing of tax loopholes? What moral and policy lead are he and other Treasury Ministers giving in that matter?

Mr. Brown

In my first Budget, I closed loopholes worth £1.5 billion—loopholes that the Tories had failed to close in 18 years. I have also said that we are examining all loopholes with a view to closing them. The difference between us and the Conservatives is that they talk about the matter, whereas we take action.

Mr. Ruffley

Given that the Government allege that the welfare-to-work scheme will, in the medium term, save the British taxpayer money, can the Chancellor tell us in what year he expects the savings from the scheme to exceed its costs?

Mr. Brown

The money that we have allocated through the windfall fund is £4 billion—£3 billion for the youth employment programme and another £1 billion to help lone parents, the disabled and the long-term unemployed. As people get back to work, there will be a reduction in the cost of social security benefits; as the programme works, that will happen. We believe that we shall then be able to redirect resources to education—another priority.

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