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Employment Measures

Volume 929: debated on Tuesday 29 March 1977

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The Government believe that it is essential to make room within the totals already published for further measures to relieve unemployment. The measures that we have already adopted have received international recognition and have made a major contribution to the recent improvement in unemployment. But although there has been a welcome fall in unemployment in the last two months, far too many people are still out of work and it is too early to conclude that the trend has changed.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment announced a series of measures on 3rd March, mainly to extend training and job creation, at a gross cost of £83 million. On his advice the Government has decided to supplement these measures substantially. The period in which firms can apply for the temporary employment subsidy was due to end next month. It will now be extended through the whole of 1977–78. The period of payment of the subsidy will also be extended from 12 to 18 months, at a reduced rate of £10 instead of £20 a week, for firms whose initial period of payment comes to an end after today but which reapply and continue to satisfy the other conditions for the subsidy; this extension will run until the end of March 1978. The combined gross cost of these extensions is £214 million spread over the next two years.

In addition, the Government propose four minor but important new schemes. First, there will be a selective job introduction scheme to provide an incentive for employers to engage disabled people by providing £30 a week per persons for a trial period of up to six weeks. The scheme will be administered by the Manpower Services Commission. We believe that this might help about 2,000 disabled people in 1977–78.

Secondly, there will be a special programme to train extra teachers many of whom are now unemployed—in mathematics and science. In these subjects, which are particularly important to our industrial strategy, there has been a shortage for some years which is still with us, despite the overall surplus of teachers in other subjects.

Thirdly, there will be an experimental scheme for six months from 1st July applying only to manufacturing firms in special development areas employing fewer than fifty workers. They will be given a weekly subsidy of £20 for six months for each additional worker taken on.

Fourthly, we are discussing with the Manpower Services Commission the possibility of introducing a selective scheme for an experimental period of six months to help the long term unemployed, who face problems of particular difficulty.

Details of all these new measures are being annonunced by my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Employment and the Secretary of State for Education and Science. The cost was in part allowed for in the White Paper programmes; the balance will be met out of the Contingency Reserve. In all these cases the gross cost will be significantly offset by savings on unemployment benefits.