HC Deb 23 January 1987 vol 108 cc769-72W
Mr. Pawsey

asked the Paymaster General if he will list the principal achievements of his Department since 1983.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

[pursuant to his reply, 19 December 1986, c. 813]: The effectiveness of our policies has been shown by the 1 million extra jobs created over the past three years and the many unemployed people helped by our employment and training measures.

Expenditure on employment and training measures has risen over the three years in question by more than 50 per cent. to a total of some £3 billion this year. The Action for Jobs campaign, launched in April 1986, is promoting greater awareness and increasing the effectiveness of the whole range of our employment and training measures.

Major developments in existing measures over the past three years include the expansion of work experience through the Community Programme and a refocusing of the Voluntary Projects Programme to help long-term unemployed people and those who wish to start their own businesses.

New initiatives launched since 1983 include the New Workers Scheme, to increase job opportunities for the 18 to 20-year-old age group, and the Restart programme, introduced nationally in July 1986, designed to help those who have been out of work for 12 months or more. We are inviting every long-term unemployed person to a personal interview which seeks to guide the individual to one of the opportunities available including submission to a job vacancy, entry to a job club, a place in the new Restart courses, entry to the Community Programme or help with self-employment on the Enterprise Allowance Scheme. In mid-December some 700,000 interviews had already been conducted. We are now piloting Restart for those unemployed over six months.

Through the City Action Teams and the eight task forces set up under the Inner City Initiative, my Department is also helping to improve the targeting of all Government programmes and resources in the most deprived inner city areas and assist the local communities to tackle the employment, environmental, and social problems more effectively. In addition, £8 million is being made available to help task forces to pilot experimental employment and enterprise related schemes to deal with inner city problems.

In September 1985, the Department took over responsibility for small firms and tourism. Our major priority has been to make information and advice more accessible to the self-employed and small businessmen by expanding facilities available through the small firms service, local enterprise agencies, the Manpower Services Commission, and jobcentres. In addition, to help establish a network of viable self-supporting enterprise agencies we have introduced a five-year local enterprise agencies grant scheme of financial assistance and £2.5 million in grants is being made available in the first year.

The enterprise allowance scheme which gives financial support and advice to people starting self-employment has been expanded in response to growing demand and now offers some 86,000 places a year. Over the past three years, the scheme has helped nearly 200,000 unemployed people to start up businesses, many of which have also created additional jobs for other workers.

The loan guarantee scheme has been improved and extended for five years. Since the scheme was launched in June 1981, nearly 17,300 companies have raised some £565 million with the help of the guarantee provided by the Government.

Eight regional enterprise units have been established in England to represent and promote the Department's interests in enterprise, small firms, deregulation and tourism at regional and local level.

Our strategy for vocational education and training was set out in the White Papers "Education and Training for Young People" (April 1985) and "Working together—Education and Training" (July 1986).

In 1983, we successfully launched the youth training scheme (YTS). Since then over 1 million young people have benefited, of whom more than two thirds moved into jobs, further education or training. We opened 175 information technology centres to train young people under YTS in computing and electronic assembly skills and 1986 saw a major development in YTS, which now provides two years' training for 16-year-olds and one year for 17-year-olds. YTS now gives young people the opportunity to work towards recognised vocational qualifications. The Government are currently investing about £1 billion annually in YTS and more than 300,000 trainees have already entered the new programme.

Our technical and vocational education initiative (TVEI) aims at financing the development of a more relevant and career-related curriculum in schools and will be developed into a national scheme from Autumn 1987 at a cost of £900 million over the next 10 years. In addition £25 million was made available over the period 1985 to 1987 for in-service training of teachers to promote developments particularly related to TVEI.

We have established the National Council for Vocational Qualifications covering England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It will ensure the implementation of a clear system of vocational qualifications, relevant to the world of industry and commerce, providing opportunities for progress into higher skills.

Important adult training developments which have taken place since 1983 include Open Tech, local collaborative projects, the job training scheme, career development loans and increased emphasis on training for enterprise. Our adult training strategy has been successful in influencing adult training and making it more relevant to labour market needs. Over 250,000 adults will be training during 1986–87, more than double the total in 1983–84.

The Government have taken steps to reduce the legal and administrative burdens on business. The White Paper "Lifting the Burden" (July 1985) set out a range of 80 measures designed to reduce burdens on business and a second White Paper "Building Business…Not Barriers" (May 1986) reported progress on the earlier proposals and put forward a series of new measures. It also gave details of the new administrative arrangements within Government for assessing the impact on business of proposals to introduce and alter regulations.

The Wages Act 1986 allows greater freedom and flexibility to employers in planning pay structures. In particular, by removing those under 21 from regulation it will help increase job opportunities for young people.

The Sex Discrimination Act 1986 removes restrictions on women's hours of work in industrial employment. The Act also extends the coverage of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 to firms with five or fewer employees and to partnerships of five or fewer (in respect of the partners themselves), narrows the exemption for private households and voids sex discrimination terms in collective agreements and employers' rules.

We have continued the step by step approach to industrial relations, designed to get a fair balance in collective bargaining and to make trade unions more accountable to their members. Among other measures the Trade Union Act 1984 requires the holding of secret ballots for election to union governing bodies and makes secret ballots a condition of trade unions' legal immunity for organising industrial action.

The unemployment benefit service has made good progress in improving its cost-effectiveness through better management practices including the development of an overall budgeting and operational planning system. The introduction of a new advanced computerised system which will be fully implemented by the end of 1987 will offer an improved service to claimants and achieve an 8 per cent. productivity improvement.

Major efforts are also being made to advise and guide claimants back into the labour market, to ensure that they remain available for work and to cut down on the level of fraud within the system.

My Department has continued to play a major part in the work of the European Community, particularly during the current United Kingdom presidency. The adoption of an action programme on employment growth based on an earlier proposal from the Governments of the United Kingdom, Italy and the Republic of Ireland, has for the first time established clear priorities for the Community's work in this area centred on support for small business, better training, more efficient labour markets and help for the long-term unemployed. We have also made major advances towards lightening burdens on business at European Community level with the agreement and implementation of the new procedures for assessing the compliance costs to business of new and existing European Community regulations in line with our own policies in the United Kingdom. Finally, we have continued to attract substantial support from the European Social Fund for employment and training programmes in the United Kingdom.