HC Deb 01 July 2002 vol 388 cc8-10
3. Mr. Anthony D. Wright (Great Yarmouth)

What help he will give to the long-term unemployed in deprived areas. [63386]

The Minister for Work (Mr. Nicholas Brown)

Our policies, built on a foundation of a strong and stable economy, are helping people into work in all parts of the country.

The new deals have already helped nearly 700,000 people into jobs nationwide—1,700 in my hon. Friend's constituency. Action teams for jobs and employment zones continue to assist disadvantaged people in the most deprived areas of the country, so far helping more than 56,000 people into work. In addition, we are introducing 20 StepUp pilots to provide transitional jobs for long-term unemployed people. I am pleased to inform my hon. Friend that one of the pilots will start in his constituency this autumn.

Mr. Wright

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer and say clearly that the difference is that under the Conservative Administration there was 20 per cent. unemployment in my constituency as opposed to 6.5 per cent. now. I concur that that is due to the new deal and the other schemes, so I welcome the new initiative, but we are faced with the dilemma that those who are left unemployed are largely those who are unskilled. What other initiatives can he introduce and what can we do to try to involve other employers in my constituency and encourage them to make a greater input to the new deal and other schemes?

Mr. Brown

I am pleased that our schemes are having the impact on unemployment in my hon. Friend's constituency that he describes, although I believe that more needs to be done, particularly in terms of the Department's relations with employers. Specialist advisers are being appointed to a number of jobcentres to liaise directly with employers on the services that the Department provides—enhanced services through the new Jobcentre Plus arrangements, which are coming soon to my hon. Friend's constituency.

Mr. Paul Goodman (Wycombe)

Was the Prime Minister right when he said in the House on 12 June that the number of unemployed young people is 4,500, or is the Minister's Department right when it says that the number of unemployed young people is 244,000?

Mr. Brown

I understand that the statistics have been correctly stated to the House.

Paul Goggins (Wythenshawe and Sale, East)

May I confirm that the Government are making a real difference to unemployed people in my constituency, not least the 219 long-term sick and unemployed who have been found work in the past few months by the Wythenshawe action team? When the new Jobcentre Plus offices are opened in my constituency next year, will the Minister ensure that they are located close to Wythenshawe town centre, not in the peripheral, out-of-the-way place where the Tories put the jobcentre in the 1980s?

Mr. Brown

The success of action teams is primarily due to the flexibility in the schemes and the outreach work that they can undertake. If my hon. Friend cares to write to me, I shall consider the location of the new Jobcentre Plus office and see what can be done to ensure that it is appropriately sited.

Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

The hon. Member for Great Yarmouth (Mr. Wright) is right to concentrate on working with employers to ensure that there are opportunities for people to take up at the end of these valuable schemes. The Minister rightly said that personal advisers are assisting in that direction, but is he satisfied that enough is being done with account holders—the liaison people between Jobcentre Plus and the employers—to ensure that there is a transition process and that there are real jobs for the hardest to help to go to at the end of the scheme?

Mr. Brown

The hon. Gentleman is on to an important point. We need to do more to build links between the service and the employers. After all, a substantial sum of public money has been invested in improving the service, and we need to explain ourselves not just to large companies, but to small and medium employers. We are appointing these new officials at a local level so that they can have that interface with the local labour market.