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One Nottingham

Volume 450: debated on Monday 16 October 2006

3. Whether he has received an expression of interest for a city strategy on welfare to work from One Nottingham; and if he will make a statement. (93398)

I am pleased to say that One Nottingham was successful in its recent bid to become one of the early pathfinders for our new cities strategy, which will help to play a significant role in improving local employment rates. I would like to thank my hon. Friend for the valuable work that he is doing to support this initiative in Nottingham.

Does the Secretary of State accept that in a place such as Nottingham there is a massive disparity in unemployment rates and attempts to get people back to work that requires incredible flexibility? He and the Prime Minister are already committed to that flexibility. Will the Secretary of State tell us whether it will extend to things such as the 16-hour rule and the earnings rule? Will he consider whether the pathways to work project might in some instances cut across what city strategies are trying to do? Has he thought about ensuring that there is no confusion, not only among Conservative Front Benchers, which occurs a lot, but in a city strategy about the responsibilities between it and pathways?

My hon. Friend, who knows Nottingham much better than I do, will be aware that although Nottingham is one of the richest cities in the United Kingdom, it has some of the greatest pockets of deprivation. The whole purpose of the cities strategy is to unite the public, private and voluntary sectors in a new war on tackling economic inactivity and to mobilise resources across the public sector and into the private sector. As part of that, we will certainly consider any request for flexibility when we think that that can make a difference. Whether it is on the 16-hour rule or elsewhere, we are prepared to work with local city strategies to develop a good response. There has to be proper ownership of pathways in city strategy areas, and I am sure that the local consortium in Nottingham is well placed to take charge of that.

Order. The hon. Gentleman’s constituency is too far away from Nottingham for me to call him.