HL Deb 17 February 1986 vol 471 cc405-6

2.48 p.m.

Lord Gainford

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what initiatives are being taken to combat long-term unemployment in rural communities.

The Secretary of State for Employment (Lord Young of Graffham)

My Lords, the benefits of our financial and enterprise policies are being reflected in new job opportunities in both urban and rural communities. In addition, many of the 230,000 places on the Community Programme are being used to help long-term unemployed people in rural areas, particularly through the farming and countryside initiative launched earlier this month.

Lord Gainford

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Has he information as to how this incentive scheme will work, particularly in Scotland?

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, yes. I understand that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is considering how the community programme might best be used to provide help for the long-term unemployed in rural areas in Scotland, and hopes to announce his intentions in the near future. The present farming and countryside initiative applies only to England.

Lord Grimond

My Lords, is the fact that the noble Lord the Minister is replying to this Question a sign that he is primarily responsible for diversity of employment in rural areas, which is exceedingly necessary? If so, can he tell us what is the role of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and whether both in England and Scotland the Government intend any redistribution of responsibility in this area?—because it is certainly very necessary indeed that, with the fall in the number employed in agriculture, other employment should be encouraged.

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, no; I am replying to this Question because my primary responsibility concerns measures to help the long-term unemployed, whether they be in urban or in rural areas. The farming and countryside initiative is a joint initiative between the MAFF, the Department of the Environment, my own department and of course the Manpower Services Commission. The initiative is looking at ways in which the long-term unemployed can find work and also help the countryside, either by improving the environment or perhaps by looking towards new projects which will benefit tourism and recreation, nature trails, local amenities or the conversion of buildings for local amenity use.