Skip to main content

New Deal

Volume 464: debated on Monday 8 October 2007

More than 1.8 million people have been helped into work through the new deal programme, including 11,790 people in Leicester, of whom 3,330 people are in my right hon. Friend’s constituency, which I have of course visited at his invitation before.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer and ask him to visit again—so successful was his last visit. When he comes to Leicester, will he come with me to visit a community-based scheme called Business-to-Business, which over the past few years has helped hundreds, if not thousands, of people into work as part of the new deal arrangement? Does he agree that that is the basis of the new deal—enabling people from diverse backgrounds to get into full-time work so that they can help to sustain the wonderful British economy that we have at the moment?

I acknowledge the important role that Business-to-Business has played, especially in tackling a problem that is close to my right hon. Friend’s heart: the difficulties faced by ethnic minority communities, particularly in city and town centres. That remains a big challenge for us and it is one of the outstanding issues that we need to address. I also welcome the fact that Leicester is one of our city strategy pathfinders, tasked with improving local employment rates. I know that my right hon. Friend has been invited to the launch on 19 October.

Once the Minister has visited Leicester, will he continue travelling north and visit my constituency, where in the last year to date unemployment has fallen by 16.2 per cent.? That is welcome, but does he agree that it is not good enough and that areas such as mine ought to be made targets for zero unemployment? That is entirely possible in an area such as mine, where the number of jobs coming in is greater than the number of unemployed. However, priority needs to be given to people locally who are unemployed. Will he agree to direct the Department accordingly?

I will certainly see what I can do about my travels. I did not respond directly to the request made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) about visiting Leicester. We will look into the matter. I know that my hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Pensions Reform is due to visit Leicester soon. Perhaps he can accompany my right hon. Friend to a project such as the one he mentioned.

I was in Scotland a few weeks ago and what struck me was the way in which, over the past 10 years under a Labour Government, the economy has been transformed. There are more jobs than ever before and, in areas including the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, South-West (Mr. Davidson), we are beginning to tackle successfully some of the deep-rooted and deep-seated problems of people who have been on benefits year after year as a result of the Tories’ miserable failure throughout the United Kingdom, and especially in Scotland, when they were in government.