HC Deb 27 October 1999 vol 336 cc1002-3
2. Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

What discussions he has had with his colleagues at the Department for Education and Employment about the impact on Wales of the new deal for young people. [94074]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. David Hanson)

I have held several discussions with a range of organisations involved in the Government's welfare to work agenda in Wales and plan to meet my right hon. Friend, the Minister for Employment, Welfare to Work and Equal Opportunities shortly.

Mr. Bercow

I congratulate the Minister on his appointment, wish him well in fulfilling his responsibilities and thank him for his initial answer. Given that the new deal for young people costs £11,333 per job, making it 25 times as expensive as previous job schemes, that three quarters of those who have joined the scheme in Wales since January 1998 have so far failed to find jobs and that unemployment in Wales has just risen by 10,000, what discussions does the hon. Gentleman intend to have about securing the better value for the money that the Secretary of State has begged his Cabinet colleagues to provide?

Mr. Hanson

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his welcome. This is a great opportunity for me to come back from the silence of the Whips Office to speak in the House. The hon. Gentleman is really saying that he does not approve of the new deal. I hope that he will come with me at the next opportunity to meet the 13,000 people in Wales who have received employment under the new deal to tell them that he intends to scrap that scheme. Some 9,400 people under 24 have secured jobs and there has been a 51 per cent. fall in 18-to-24-year-old unemployment since the new deal began. If he intends to scrap the scheme, he should be honest and say so. We believe in the scheme, and it is valuable for the people of Wales.

Mr. Ted Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney)

I also congratulate my hon. Friend on leaving the Whips Office. One modest pleasure at the moment is that Labour Welsh Members are Whipless. I support my hon. Friend in his remarks about the new deal in our area. It has offered real opportunities in skills training and for jobs. The new deal should be supported by targeting directed money from objective 1 funding. Does my hon. Friend agree that objective 1 needs to be used to create sustainable employment and real training opportunities rather than, as we fear, being scattered to the four winds and chopped into little pieces? If that happens, the funding will not have the impact that we need it to have on the Welsh economy and our gross domestic product per capita.

Mr. Hanson

My hon. Friend made two valuable points. First, the new deal is about training and skill development, as well as job creation. It is valuable for people to have new skills and new development. The people whom I have seen on the new deal have benefited tremendously from those opportunities. The second point about objective 1 is that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I want the maximum use of that funding. We need to produce top-quality schemes that integrate Government programmes to ensure that we have wide-ranging skill development, long-term jobs and sustainable development for the valleys and for west Wales as a whole.