HC Deb 20 January 2000 vol 342 cc965-7
8. Mr. Jim Murphy (Eastwood)

If he will make a statement about the new deal in Scotland. [1036821

The Minister for Employment, Welfare to Work and Equal Opportunities (Ms Tessa Jowell)

The new deal is working in Scotland. The latest figures show that more than 19,000 young people and more than 2,500 long-term unemployed adults have found jobs through the new deal. We are on course to meet our manifesto commitment of getting 250,000 young people off benefit and into work across Britain.

Mr. Murphy

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Is she aware that, despite the opposition of all the parties in Scotland, long-term youth unemployment in Scotland has decreased by three quarters, from just over 16,000 to just over 4,000? Does she agree that the nature of the problem has changed, away from an entire generation that had been ignored and unemployed to a much smaller number of hard-core, long-term unemployed young people, where unemployment may be endemic throughout the family? Can she assure the House that, as the new deal develops and the nature of the problem changes, she will bear those experiences in mind?


I thank my hon. Friend for those perceptive comments, which reflect a clear understanding of the challenges facing the new deal. He is right to say that, building on the success of the new deal to date, we are turning our attention to providing more intensive support for young people coming on to the first stage of the new deal—the gateway—who lack basic skills and for whom that lack, unless it is addressed, will be a long-term obstacle to their employability. That is an important practical step towards tackling the problem of inter-generational unemployment, to which my hon. Friend referred.

Several hon. Members


Madam Speaker

Order. I remind hon. Members who are rising that the question relates entirely to Scotland. I call Mr. Beggs. If he is prepared to put a question relating to Scotland, I will take it.

Mr. Roy Beggs (East Antrim)

Thank you, Madam Speaker. I represent the constituency in Northern Ireland closest to Scotland.

Madam Speaker

That will not do.

Mr. Beggs

I am now proceeding to my question, Madam Speaker.

I welcome the announced success of the new deal in Scotland, but will the Minister confirm that it has dramatically reduced unemployment not only there, but elsewhere in the United Kingdom? Will she assure the House that she will ask those in the Government who can influence investment and a reduction in unemployment to encourage opportunity for those who come on to the employment market through the new deal? That is the only way in which people who have previously been unemployed can share in the nation's increasing wealth.

Madam Speaker

The Minister should be aware that the substantive question relates entirely to Scotland and her answer must relate to Scotland.

Ms Jowell

I accept your guidance, Madam Speaker. I can confirm that the experience of the new deal in Scotland is representative of that across the United Kingdom. The key issue is the promotion of employability as an important part of maintaining economic stability and the benefits of economic growth.

Mr. Richard Allan (Sheffield, Hallam)


Madam Speaker

Now we shall see how close Yorkshire is to Scotland.

Mr. Allan

I understand that the new deal programme in Scotland has underspent considerably in respect of initial projections. Has the Minister had any discussions with her colleagues in Scotland about how to reallocate those resources, and can she explain how future new deal enhancements such as those she described will take place, given the Scottish dimension and the devolution of the programme to the Scottish Parliament?

Ms Jowell

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. The new deal is a United Kingdom programme and I regularly meet the Scottish new deal task force, to which I pay tribute. Certainly the initial costs have been lower than anticipated, but my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer set out clearly in the pre-Budget report the ways in which we shall intensify support for young people and those older people who have been unemployed long term. We shall announce detailed proposals on both sources of additional help in due course.

Mr. Ian Davidson (Glasgow, Pollok)

My constituency is not the nearest to Northern Ireland, nor to England and Wales, but it is one of the nearest to the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Murphy).

Is the Minister aware that, although the new deal has undoubtedly been an enormous success in Scotland, the figures recently produced by the Trades Union Congress show that constituencies where the fall in unemployment has been greatest tend to have the least absolute unemployment? The constituencies that were worst off remain the worst off, even after the introduction of the new deal. Does she accept that many young people who have vanished from the ranks of the unemployed have not gone into jobs, but seem to have disappeared from the registers altogether? There seems to be no record of where they have gone and there should be additional effort and additional expenditure to make sure that the real needs of those youngsters at the very bottom of the pile are followed up.

Ms Jowell

My hon. Friend makes two important points. He referred first to the level of long-term unemployment in respect of which the new deal will build on its success and work harder in areas where unemployment rates have traditionally been highest. We have to redouble our efforts there to ensure that the young and older long-term unemployed people are given the skills to get them off benefit into work.

My hon. Friend's second point is a matter of real concern. Across the United Kingdom, about 160,000 young people appear to have dropped off the edge of our society. The new deal clearly has important help and support to offer them, and I hope that, in due course, we shall be able to introduce proposals to extend help to them.