HC Deb 17 March 2003 vol 401 cc617-8
8. Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd)

What further steps he will take to help people into work in communities with high levels of long-term unemployment. [102952]

The Minister for Work (Mr. Nicholas Brown)

In areas with high levels of long-term unemployment, we have introduced initiatives such as action teams for jobs and employment zones. The north-west Wales action team and employment zone, which works in my hon. Friend's constituency, has helped more than 1,100 people into work. In addition, we are building on the new deal by providing transitional jobs, through the StepUp pilots, to act as a stepping-stone for long-term unemployed people moving from benefits into work. Further action in areas with the highest concentrations of worklessness was announced in the pre-Budget report. The Government's active labour market policies have played an important part in reducing long-term unemployment by more than three quarters and youth unemployment by 88 per cent. since 1997 in my hon. Friend's constituency.

Chris Ruane

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. The unemployment rate in my constituency is 3.1 per cent., so unemployment has virtually disappeared. However, 44 per cent. of the unemployment is concentrated in only two wards. More than 2,500 jobs are being created six miles away on the St. Asaph business park, and excellent initiatives such as the working links car loans scheme are having an impact on transport. What additional transport initiatives can the Government take to connect the jobless with the jobs?

Mr. Brown

There are two great advantages of the action team approach. First, it is proactive and can go out and help unemployed people, rather than requiring those people to seek help. The second great advantage is flexibility, which includes underpinning transport schemes such as the one that my hon. Friend mentioned, with which he is familiar from his constituency, and more generally. I understand that the car leasing scheme is to be expanded and that, in his constituency, it will be extended to a scooter leasing scheme in April.

David Cairns (Greenock and Inverclyde)

When can my right hon. Friend announce the areas chosen to pilot the Government's new pathways into work programmes? If one of those areas turns out to be in Scotland, will he assure me that he will liaise closely with the Minister for Health and Community Care in the Scottish Executive so that if unemployed people required a rehabilitation course, for example, they would be able to access one as easily in my constituency as in his?

Mr. Brown

My hon. Friend makes his representations very well, as ever. We shall make the announcement as soon as we can. I had the opportunity to visit Scotland recently and saw at first hand the good rehabilitation work that is being undertaken locally.