HC Deb 25 November 2002 vol 395 cc11-2
9. Clive Efford (Eltham)

If he will help unemployed people with their travel-to-work costs when they first obtain a job. [81277]

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. Andrew Smith)

Yes. We recognise that the lack of affordable transport can be a significant barrier to work for jobless people, and have a number of measures in place to help them overcome these difficulties, including the extension of half-price rail fares to 125,000 more people on the new deal programmes and the £10 million transport project fund to be used with action teams.

Clive Efford

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Such measures will help many people who seek employment. What steps is he taking to engage other transport service providers, such as London Transport, in discussions to encourage them to provide cheaper fares to people who seek employment?

Mr. Smith

We are working not only with the rail companies through the Association of Train Operating Companies, but with a number of bus operators including, I understand, some that cover my hon. Friend's constituency. The action team funding works out on average at more than £150,000 for each action team area over two years. We will be pleased to consider further proposals from jobseekers, those who help them into work or employers in his constituency.

Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster)


Mr. Speaker

I call the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Field

Hi. [Interruption.] A little bit of informality does us no harm.

Although I accept that the right hon. Gentleman wants to keep matters relatively simple—

Mr. Brian Jenkins (Tamworth)

That is why the hon. Gentleman has been called.

Mr. Field

Absolutely right. I will have words with the hon. Gentleman later on.

I accept that we need to keep things simple and that the main focus will be on public transport, but the Secretary of State will be aware that the congestion charge comes into play on 17 February next. Will he give some thought to extending travel-to-work allowances to those people who have antisocial jobs within central London?

Mr. Smith

I admire the hon. Gentleman's ingenuity of working congestion charges into the question. Frontline advisers on the use of the discretionary funds at disposal, which are up to £300, are encouraged to include any action that can remove barriers standing in the way of jobseekers accessing work. I am sure they will do just that.