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Special Temporary Employment Programme

Volume 949: debated on Tuesday 2 May 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he is satisfied that the special temporary employment programme involves less paperwork and administration that the job creation scheme; and if he will make a statement.

I am informed by the Manpower Services Commission that although paperwork and administration involved in the running of the special temporary employment programme will be slightly more than for the job creation programme, they will be kept to the minimum consistent with both making a success of the programme, and accounting properly for the use of public funds.

Is the Minister aware that that is a disappointing answer? Is he further aware that more than three months elapsed between the application of the Christchurch Council for job creation scheme assistance for work on the restoration of Highcliffe Castle, in my constituency, and the actual start of the scheme? As the Council has now applied to the Manpower Services Commission for an extension of that scheme from the original 13 weeks, will the Minister do his best to ensure that this is expedited as quickly as possible?

I shall certainly draw the attention of the Manpower Services Commission to that example.

Will my hon. Friend refute the suggestion that the job creation programme was top-heavy with either administration or paper work? Is it not the case that, on average, no more than 3 per cent. was spent on administration and a most marvellous job was done? Will he encourage those responsible, both for STEP and the youth opportunities programme, to do their best to ensure maximum local involvement in the running of these schemes under the area boards that have been set up?

I confirm that the cost of administration was only 2 per cent. It has been increased to only 2ยท2 per cent. That is a very good record. Certainly, we as a Government want as much local involvement as possible both in the youth opportunities programme and STEP.

Is the Minister aware that certain East Anglian firms have been sent mimeographed letters saying that their applications for temporary employment help cannot be dealt with for at least 10 weeks? Since this means that in many cases the jobs have disappeared before the Department gets round to trying to save them, will he do something about it? Does he realise that if he does not do so it will be a case of trying to deal with the disease after the patient has died?

It appears that there is a plea from the Conservative Benches for additions to the number of public servants dealing with this problem.