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Job Release Scheme

Volume 116: debated on Tuesday 12 May 1987

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asked the Paymaster General if he will make a further statement on the operation of the job release scheme.

The job release scheme enables older workers to retire early with an allowance on the condition that their employers agree and replace them with people who are unemployed.

At the end of March, 24,000 people were supported under job release.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the job release scheme is one of the best schemes for alleviating the present unemployment, in that it does not involve commitments when we return to full employment? Does he further agree that not nearly enough people are involved in it and that it should be expanded?

My hon. Friend is right. It is an excellent scheme, and I am grateful for the constructive interest that he has taken in it. Expansion of the scheme would be expensive, but obviously all our schemes are under constant review.

Will the Minister confirm that the job release scheme enjoys all-party support and is popular with employers and with those who participate in it? Can he explain why the Tory Government cut this scheme, and will he acknowledge, as his hon. Friend said, that the scheme should be increased and improved, not reduced?

Over the years there have been a number of changes in the job release scheme and, if I remember correctly, some of them took place under the Labour Government. It is an excellent scheme, and I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman draws on the whole range of organisations that support it. As regards further expansion, as I have said, it is an expensive scheme; but I repeat that all these schemes are kept under review. I have heard what the hon. Gentleman has said.

While agreeing that this is an excellent scheme, and hoping that Ministers in their review will look at the payments made to people who take advantage of it, may I ask my hon. Friend whether he is aware that there is some bitterness among people who have taken advantage of it, because payments have not increased in line with inflation? Will he please look again at this important point?

We take that into account when we adjust the rates of allowance, and that is normally done annually. We also take into account the tax aspects, because some of the allowances are taxable whereas, others are tax free.