HC Deb 11 January 2001 vol 360 cc1226-8
6. Mr. Ivan Henderson (Harwich)

If he will make a statement on the progress of new deal for people aged over 25 years. [143463]

The Secretary of State for Education and Employment (Mr. David Blunkett)

As part of the new deal for those aged 25 plus, 76,000 men and women over that age have been placed in the past two years, with a further 22,000 in the 50-plus new deal programme in the eight months of its national operation. They are part of the 1.1 million men and women who have got a job during the duration of the Government's policies.

Mr. Henderson

Was the Secretary of State aware that, prior to 1997, the Harwich constituency was classed as the unemployment black spot of Essex? The new deal has been a huge success for my constituency. Will he join me in congratulating Glynn Ridley on being the 1,000th successful candidate under the 25-plus new deal programme to achieve a full-time skilled job; and Reed, the new deal providers, on presenting Glynn Ridley with a £1,000 cheque to help him with his travel-to-work expenses? Is that not the clear difference between this Government, who are offering opportunity to the unemployed in my constituency, and the Conservative party, which offers no opportunity, no new deal, no new hope and no future for those who are unemployed there?

Mr. Blunkett

Congratulations to Glynn Ridley, to Reed and to all those, including his new employer, who have set him on as an engineer. I think that the idea of the 1,000th 25-plus new dealer in the area receiving £1,000 was excellent. I hope that other providers will consider similar proposals. This is, of course, part of a drop of 75 per cent. in the number of people in my hon. Friend's constituency who have experienced unemployment for more than two years. That figure is repeated across the country, and it is something of which we should all be very proud.

Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

Does the Secretary of State agree that one of the new deal's most important innovations has been the introduction of personal advisers? They have been extremely successful in reconnecting people to the labour market. However, the experience of the new deal suggests that people who need a little help have had more success than those who need a lot of help.

Will the Secretary of State confirm that, especially in rural areas such as mine, personal advisers for people over 25 will have real flexibility in practice to use their initiative to serve their clients and get the best out of the new deal for them?

Mr. Blunkett

I agree entirely. It is important to tailor programmes to the needs of the individual and to learn from the experience gained in the new deal programmes for people aged 18 to 24, and in the 25-plus pilots. That is why the 25-plus new deal will be strengthened from 1 April. The adviser service will be made more responsive, and time will be given to those who need it most—especially to those who have experienced very long-term unemployment.

I also hope that we will learn a great deal from the first nine months of the employment zones in England, which have been working extremely well.

Mr. Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South)

My right hon. Friend and I have had several conversations about the pistachio problem associated with the new deal. You will know, Mr. Speaker, that pistachios are terribly moreish, but that the unopened ones always get thrown back into the bowl. In the context of new deal, the people who get thrown back are invariably the ones with drugs and alcohol problems, literacy and numeracy problems, or who have family or behavioural difficulties.

My right hon. Friend has pioneered many initiatives in relation to new deal, but will he look at the work first initiative in the United States? Under that initiative, young adults who are the hardest to place are given the prospect of three years with an employer. They get a wage from day one, and all the support services are built into the programme. Would not such an approach mean that problem pistachios were no longer thrown back into the bowl?

Mr. Blunkett

Yes. About 11 per cent. of 25-plus new dealers return for a second time. One of the interesting outcomes of the training and work experience that they receive—which they would not have received previously—is that they are more readily easily placed in employment the second time around than would otherwise be the case.

However, the major challenge is to link such people with an employer who is prepared to give them time and continuity and to see them through often major personal crises. In developing the programmes, it is very important to learn how they work in employment-zone areas. That will ensure that we can give people the support, rehabilitation and prolonged work experience that they need. That is the best way to keep them in jobs.

Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West)

The Secretary of State knows that the new deal has done nothing to prevent unemployment from rising in the past month in every region of the country outside London, the south-east and the south-west. With 100,000 manufacturing jobs lost in the past 12 months alone, the right hon. Gentleman also knows that the north and the midlands are the arms that are suffering most at the moment under this Labour Government. Will the Secretary of State tell the House what action is proposed by the Cabinet Committee that met for the first time on 18 September to examine the problem of job losses in manufacturing?

Mr. Blunkett

Under the Conservatives, manufacturing lost more than 10 times the number of jobs it did under this Government. However, manufacturing now has many guises. New techniques are being developed through numerical control and information technology, and they make a difference to the ratio between output, and therefore productivity, and the number of people employed.

There are now 1.1 million more people in work than there were four years ago.[Interruption.] I am being heckled again. That rise in employment has something to do with the health of the economy overall, to which the new deal is a contributor. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the National Institute of Economic and Social Research concluded that the new deal for people aged between 18 and 25 had contributed to a rise in gross domestic product of £0 5 billion. An increase in GDP helps us to sustain growth, growth creates jobs, and jobs enable us to place people in employment at every level in manufacturing, the service sector or wherever. That is why the economy and the new deal have been major Government successes in helping to turn unemployment into prospects and hope, enabling people to earn their own living and have job prospects for the future.