HC Deb 26 February 1998 vol 307 cc478-80
2. Miss McIntosh

What representations he has received from long—term unemployed people concerning their eligibility under the new deal. [29879]

The Minister for Employment, Welfare to Work and Disability Rights (Mr. Andrew Smith)

I have received a number of such representations. The new deal for adults who have been unemployed two years or more will start this June, and we are currently considering piloting the extension of the new deal approach to cover those who have been unemployed for a shorter period.

Miss McIntosh

Does the Minister find that the Secretary of State supports his view that the success of the Government's new deal policy will be proved by making the downward trend move even more rapidly, and that the long-term unemployed under-25-year-olds—those who have been unemployed for more than two years—are the hardest target to help now? Their chances of leaving the count are only 57 per cent. What measures do the Government intend to announce for the summer, and what take-up has there been from the private sector for the new deal to help the long-term unemployed under 25?

Mr. Smith

The new deal for the longer-term unemployed has not started yet, but, when it does, we shall all see the take-up from employers. The initial signs are encouraging in terms of the overall support and participation in the new deal by both small and large businesses. On the current trends in unemployment, of course the new deal first offers help to the younger unemployed, but we shall be introducing help for the longer-term unemployed. It is interesting to note that while unemployment has fallen sharply for the young unemployed, it has also fallen equally sharply for the older and longer-term unemployed.

Mr. Reed

Although I welcome the emphasis we have placed on young people and getting the young generation back to work, will my hon. Friend accept that in many constituencies such as mine in Loughborough, where many people lost their jobs in the manufacturing sector, those in their 40s have much to offer this country, particularly engineers who have been made redundant over the past few years? The right hon. Member for Charnwood (Mr. Dorrell) will know about this, as Loughborough used to be his constituency. We know full well that those people have much to offer. Can we ensure that we move as quickly as possible to bring into the scheme those in their 40s who have another 20 years to offer?

Mr. Smith

I agree strongly with my hon. Friend about the contribution that older unemployed people and older workers have to make. That is why we are extending the new deal to the older age group in June, and it is why we maintain a wide range of programmes aimed at helping older workers back into jobs. It is also why I am consulting on how we can most effectively tackle discrimination in the workplace, which so badly afflicts the prospects of so many of those trying to get back into work.

Mr. Willetts

Does the Minister accept that there are more people who have been unemployed for more than two years than there are young people who have been unemployed for more than six months? Can he defend the fact that 90 per cent. of the budget will go on young people and only 10 per cent. on the long-term unemployed? Does not he remember that, in the Chamber the other week, he said that the reason why the Government could not support legislation to ban age discrimination in recruitment advertisements was that their new deal would be caught by it?

Mr. Smith

The hon. Gentleman would do well to remember that, thanks to the legacy we inherited from his Government, youth unemployment is still twice the level of unemployment among the rest of the work force. The damage done to those young individuals, starting on what should be a life in work, but being consigned by the policies of the previous Government to a life on benefit, is incalculable, not only to them but to the communities in which they live and to the level of crime in this country. We make no apology for keeping our promise to get 250,000 young people off benefit and into jobs. We will help older people as well through the measures I have announced today.

Mr. Sheerman

Will my right hon. Friend remember that there is a lost generation in this country—lost due to the incompetence and unfeeling nature of the former Government? Many people became unemployed in the early 1980s during that bitter recession, and many of those in our towns and cities have not worked to this day. The sooner the new deal gives them a chance to get back into work the better.

Mr. Smith

I agree with my hon. Friend. Providing such a chance is why, from June, those workers will be eligible for a £75 a week subsidy for six months as they move into employment, and why they will be eligible to take up the training and study opportunities that they were denied by the Conservative party.

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