HC Deb 27 July 1999 vol 336 cc190-1W
Mr. Derek Twigg

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment when the Employment Service's Annual Report and Accounts for 1998–99 will be laid before Parliament. [93823]

Mr. Blunkett

I have today laid before the House the Employment Service's Annual Report and Accounts for 1998–99 which gives 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 1998–99. In particular, the Employment Service successfully launched the New Deals for 18-24-year-olds, for those aged 25 and over and for Lone Parents through ground-breaking local partnerships of private, voluntary and public sector organisations.

At the same time, the Report notes that during 1998–99 the Employment Service: handled 2.5 million job vacancies; placed directly into work over 1.2 million unemployed people including some 180,000 people who had been unemployed for more than six months and almost 100,000 people with disabilities; helped nearly a quarter of a million young people through the New Deal for 18-24-year-olds and directly placed 70,000 of them into jobs.

Although the Employment Service did not succeed in meeting its main targets for the number of unemployed people placed into jobs, its performance needs to be seen against the background of further falls in unemployment over the year with numbers of long-term unemployed people at their lowest level for 20 years, a continuing emphasis on ensuring that all job placings were properly and accurately recorded and validated and the successful delivery of a very substantial agenda of other major developments, including New Deal implementation, by and within the Agency.

I am particularly pleased that the Employment Service is changing rapidly. People are noticing the difference. I am particularly pleased that standards of customer service in Jobcentres exceeded the target set and reached their highest recorded level ever.

The Agency has also continued to play a key role in implementing our Modernising Government agenda including the introduction, on a pilot basis, of its new telephone job finding service, Employment Service Direct; the opening of its Peterlee Call Centre to improve services to employers throughout the Northern Region; and the introduction of Webvacs, its first internet jobs database.

As the Chief Executive points out in his Report, none of this would have been possible without the quite remarkable effort and commitment of people throughout the Employment Service. I, too, am very grateful to them and wish them every success in 1999–2000.