HC Deb 19 May 2004 vol 421 c54WS
The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. Andrew Smith)

I have today published a paper "Building on New Deal: Local Solutions Meeting Individuals' Needs" which provides a summary of our strategy for building on the success of our employment programmes. A copy has been placed in the Library.

The UK employment rate is now the highest in the G7, and the unemployment rate the lowest. Employment has risen in every region of the UK5 and risen more in areas that previously had the lowest employment rates. The number of unemployed people has fallen by over 600,000 on both measures since 1997 to its lowest level for over a quarter of a century.

This success reflects the comprehensive economic strategy that the Government have put into place since 1997. At the heart of this success have been our welfare to work policies, such as the new deal programmes, which have helped well over a million people to find work.

We have achieved significant falls in unemployment and rises in the employment levels of lone parents and older workers. But we are determined to do even more for those who face the most difficult barriers to work. We will build upon the success of the new deal, strengthening the new deal's ability to help people who face particular difficulties in moving into employment. This requires a personalised approach where personal advisers, local managers and service providers are given sufficient flexibility to deliver solutions appropriate for individuals and local labour markets. This strategy builds on existing policies to secure social justice for those who too often have been left behind, and to enable them to realise their full potential, to the economic and social benefit of the whole community and to achieve the goal of full employment in every region and nation of the UK.

We are currently consulting on these proposals with a range of stakeholders, including the devolved administrations, Social Security Advisory Committee, the Disability Employment Advisory Committee, and the National Employment Panel. Once the views of stakeholders have been considered, a final paper setting out the full details of the proposals will be published.