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Job Creation Programme

Volume 929: debated on Tuesday 29 March 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment what further measures are proposed as a part of the Job Creation Programme.

A further allocation of £25 million has been made to the Job Creation Programme to enable applications to be received up to 31st August 1977. A working party, set up by the Manpower Services Commission to study all the current measures to help unemployed young people, will be reporting to it in April, and the long-term future of job creation will be discussed between the Government and the Commission thereafter.

Has my right hon. Friend considered the proposals of the TUC, contained in the 1977 Economic Review, which talks about the Job Creation Pro- gramme being capable of substantial expansion? Will my right hon. Friend consider particularly the proposal that all young people between the ages of 16 and 18 who are not in employment should have the opportunity of receiving training through taking part in a Job Creation Programme or in work experience activities?

I can assure any hon. Friend that I have given careful consideration to that proposal. I have discussed it with representatives of the Manpower Services Commission and I expect consideration of the issue to be reflected in its report, which I shall receive in April.

Is the Secretary of State aware that I hope that the Job Creation Programme will be expanded? When this happens will the right hon. Gentleman consider simplifying it, because I find that there is some reluctance on the part of companies to take on all the documentation and regulations involved for what may be a short period of employment?

We are considering the possibility of simplifying and even operating a narrower range of measures. The advantages gained through simplicity have to be carefully weighed against the wide range of opportunities that exist now when we are able to tailor specific schemes to specific employers or even to the needs of special areas. It would be unwise to jump to the conclusion that we have to simplify this without having regard to the great advantage of flexibility over the wide range of unemployment problems particularly for young people.

When this review takes place will my right hon. Friend give consideration to an assessment of the value of the scheme, particularly its effects upon long-term prospects for employment and upon the development of industry in areas? Will he consider whether too much influence is exerted by the Civil Service and whether more authority should be vested in the local authority for the use of funds, so that they find the right target?

I am not, as of now, convinced that the Civil Service is having any undue influence on the selection of job creation schemes. The area action committees are examining the schemes and recommending them in the light of their local knowledge. I cannot give a general answer to this. I shall be glad to hear from any hon. Member who has a particular problem in his area or who feels that there is a complaint to be laid against an area action committee for refusing a project. At present I feel that we should maintain this control in the hands of the local area action committees.

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that when he last made his statement on the Job Creation Programme he informed the House that he was hopeful that it would have a beneficial effect in the West Country? Is he aware that male unemployment in the Exeter and East Devon areas is now 8·5 per cent. and is continuing to increase? We are dissatisfied with what is happening. What new steps does he propose to take?

The seasonally adjusted figures for unemployment in the South-West area show a fall of 600, to a rate of 6·5 per cent. in the last period. That was not as good a drop as was experienced in many other parts of the country at that time. There is therefore a need to examine how effective these measures are in the South-West. I hope that I reflected that feeling to some extent when we debated employment problems in the South-West.