§ Mr. Coaker
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment when the Employment Service Annual Report and Accounts for 1997–98 will be laid before Parliament. 
§ Mr. Blunkett
I have today laid before the House the Employment Service's Annual Report and Accounts for 1997–98 which give full details of the Agency's performance and expenditure for that year.
The Annual Report notes the very significant achievements of the Employment Service in 1997–98. In particular, the Employment Service prepared for and launched the Government's New Deal for young unemployed people in twelve pathfinder areas within some 160 working days of the Government taking office. Subsequently it has successfully launched nationally the New Deal programmes for both young and long-term unemployed people. This has involved the Employment Service working in partnership with a wide range of public, voluntary and private sector organisations to make the best possible help available to our young people.
The Agency has also played a key role in implementing the Government's wider Welfare to Work agenda involving Employment Zones, the New Deal for lone parents, and the New Deal for disabled people, all of which have started, or are due to start, this year.658W
At the same time, the Report notes that the Employment Service maintained its existing services and helped many people to find work. In 1997–98 the Employment Service handled 2.7 million job vacancies and placed nearly 1.4 million unemployed people into work, including some 300,000 people who had been unemployed for more than six months, and 83,000 people with disabilities.
Although the Employment Service did not succeed in meeting all of its targets for the number of unemployed people placed into jobs, its performance should be seen in the context of rapidly falling unemployment over the year and the action the Employment Service has taken to ensure that job placings are recorded strictly in accordance with its procedures. I have underlined to the Employment Service the importance, in the current year, of improved performance against targets, successful implementation of the New Deal programmes and continued rigour on the accurate recording of job placings, building on the action taken which has reduced the scale of this problem very substantially over the past year.
Overall, 1997–98 was a highly successful year for the Employment Service. I am also particularly pleased that, by the end of 1997–98, overall customer service results were at record levels. As the Chief Executive points out in his Report, none of this would have been possible without the quite remarkable effort and commitment from people throughout the Employment Service. I too am very grateful to them.