HC Deb 26 March 1998 vol 309 cc670-2
7. Mr. Sheerman

What measures he has introduced to ensure that the training element provided by employers in the new deal programme is of high quality. [34900]

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

Quality is crucial to all parts of the new deal—one of the key aspects that sets it apart from previous schemes. I thank my hon. Friend for his close and supportive interest in the new deal and assure him that robust arrangements are in place through personal advisers, the Training Agency, the Further Education Funding Council and the Basic Skills Agency to ensure the high quality that the young and long-term unemployed people deserve.

Mr. Sheerman

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. He will know of the tremendous enthusiasm for the programme, especially among employers. He will also know that there is a history of training and entry-to-work programmes very soon getting bad reputations, especially under the previous Government, who did not resource them well. Will he make every effort, week by week, to keep a check on quality and feedback from young people, because as soon as there is a hint of poor quality or poor opportunity, word spreads quickly in their peer group?

Mr. Smith

I can certainly give that commitment. I shall be checking weekly, if not more frequently, in partnership with the bodies to which I referred—the Training Agency, the Basic Skills Agency and the Further Education Funding Council. I should add that—and this is most important—I shall be listening to young people's views. Young people will have drawn up with their personal adviser a personal training plan. Companies will have committed themselves by their signatures to a training agreement. We shall listen to the advice of personal advisers and the feedback from young people. I want to send a very clear message that any falling short of the high quality standards that we are demanding in the new deal will not be tolerated. Any provider that does not meet those standards will not be a new deal provider for much longer.

Mr. Clifton-Brown

Can the Minister estimate the number of people qualified under the new deal who will enter further and higher education? Will he confirm whether the £5 million that the Secretary of State has announced this afternoon to go into that sector in respect of the new deal will fund the full marginal costs of further and higher education colleges? As the Minister will be aware, there is a considerable financial squeeze on such colleges.

Mr. Smith

As the new deal is a demand-led and client-centred programme, the number of people who go through the full-time education and training option and will be in further education colleges will depend on the assessment of their needs and on the choices that they make. Ample funds have been allocated within the new deal budget across the lifetime of the Parliament to provide for anticipated levels of demand and to meet the quality standards that I have just said are so important. That will mean something like an extra £400 million across the lifetime of the Parliament for the further education sector—direct provision of full-time education and training places—and about another £300 million for those completing the training part of the environmental task force and voluntary sector options. That is a great investment in the quality of training and education that those young people will receive and it will be a great help to the further education sector.

Mr. Blizzard

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, a week tomorrow, the new deal in my constituency will be officially launched, and that locally based firms such as Sanyo, Bird's Eye and Shell are fully involved and welcome the insistence on high-quality training that my right hon. Friend has outlined this afternoon, just as the whole constituency—an area that still suffers more than 9 per cent. Unemployment—will welcome the new deal? We are fortunate to have our own delivery unit of the new deal for my constituency. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the same delivery unit will deliver the new deal for the long-term unemployed in a few months' time?

Mr. Smith

I welcome the work that my hon. Friend and other hon. Members are undertaking to promote the new deal. He is right to bring that new hope and opportunity to young people. It is critical that we obtain the widest possible support from employers, the voluntary sector, environmental groups—indeed, the whole community. I wish him and other hon. Members well with the launch of their new deal locally.

On the second part of my hon. Friend's question, we shall be consulting the national advisory task force and the advisory group and local partnerships on the most appropriate delivery as well as the design of the new deal for the long-term unemployed.

Mr. Willetts

Is not the new deal supposed to help in creating jobs and also to minimise negative effects on other groups? Will he confirm that those two objectives have been proposed to him by the task force as a means of evaluating the new deal? Why have his officials told the Select Committee that they intend to reject those two objectives for the new deal? What do they know about the new deal that he does not?

Mr. Smith

I am pleased to tell the House that the objectives of the new deal are to help into jobs young and long-term unemployed people, and lone parents and disabled people who wish to work, and to improve those people's prospects of staying and progressing in employment. The objective is also to increase the long-term employability of young and long-term unemployed people, and lone parents and disabled people who wish to work, thereby making a positive contribution to achieving sustainable levels of employment and to a reduction in social exclusion. The bottom line is enhancing young people's employability; getting them skills; getting them into jobs; and tackling the dreadful social division that the country inherited from his party.

Mr. Skinner

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind when he gets attacks or so-called assaults from the hon. Member for Havant (Mr. Willetts) that he is the man whose second brain has forgotten what his first brain did?

Mr. Smith

I am pleased to take my hon. Friend's advice.

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