HC Deb 19 December 2000 vol 360 cc193-4
3. Mr. Nigel Griffiths (Edinburgh, South)

What estimate he has made of the number of young people who have benefited from the new deal since 1997. [141566]

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Dr. John Reid)

The new deal has been a tremendous success in Scotland—[HON. MEMBERS: "It says here."] It does not say that here—I can say it off the top of my head: 29,200 young people are off the dole and in work. That is 4,200 more than we pledged, three years ago, that we would get off the dole and into work. We have met that pledge—as well as many others.

Mr. Griffiths

Does my right hon. Friend remember that, before 1997, a third of a million young people languished on the dole for more than a year? At present, the figure is 6,000. Does he reject decisively the Opposition programme to abolish the new deal? Will he welcome the fact that 400 people in Falkirk, West have gone off the dole and into the new deal?

Dr. Reid

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. It will be remarked as one of the major achievements of the Labour Government that we have so attacked the waste of unemployment and the waste of young lives that we have cut by no less than 79 per cent. the number of young people who are unemployed in Scotland. That has been noticed; it is something for which our candidate, Eric Joyce, has been given considerable thanks by the people of Falkirk.

My hon. Friend is right to point out that the programme would be abolished by the Tories, but he should not forget that not only did the Tories oppose the new deal, but the SNP refused to back the windfall tax to finance it. They would have left those young people sitting on the dole.

Mrs. Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest)

We appreciate that the Secretary of State has to go on and on about Falkirk today, but the new deal affects the whole of Scotland and the whole country. Is it not true that the new deal has achieved only what would have been achieved anyway because of the strong economy that the Labour Government inherited from the previous Conservative Government? The new deal is nothing more than an expensive soundbite. A huge amount of taxpayers' money has been spent on glossy brochures and a lot of bureaucrats' time has been wasted. That time, money and energy could have been put to far better use for the young people of Scotland than the new deal—which is only about talk and not about action.

Dr. Reid

I have only three things to say to the hon. Lady. First, the Tory party should improve its media monitoring because, unfortunately, about two hours ago the National Institute of Economic and Social Research—an independent body—issued a report on the new deal, which shows that long-term youth unemployment would be twice as high without the Government's new deal. So she is wrong on her first point. Secondly, I do not think that her remarks will be taken as anything other than slightly offensive—perhaps unintentionally—by the employment staff who have done so well in reducing unemployment. Thirdly, I wish her and all her relations in Inverurie a very merry Christmas.