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Local Employment Partnerships

Volume 470: debated on Monday 7 January 2008

3. What progress has been made on the implementation of local employment partnerships; and if he will make a statement. (175868)

I thank my right hon. Friend for his response. I visited my local job centre in Renfrew, and I was extremely impressed by the staff’s commitment to make the system work. What safeguards are in place to address the TUC’s concerns that work trials should not be used as a replacement for genuine paid employment?

I share with my hon. Friend and the TUC the objective that this should not be artificial job substitution. It must lead to a full-time job, and I am grateful to the TUC for the representations it made during the consultation on the Green Paper. Employers offer work trials genuinely to try to fill available vacancies, and the trials often open up full-time jobs for disadvantaged peoples, especially those on benefits. They often last only a few weeks, and we have put in place protections, including not allowing employers to use them to fill short-term vacancies, for which the trade union movement quite properly asked.

The test of success or otherwise of local employment partnerships is not the number of employers the Government sign up but the number of people whom those partnerships get back into work. How many people have got back into work so far as a result of local employment partnerships?

We have only just started, but only last Wednesday I met a company with the Prime Minister in Marylebone jobcentre that recruited 147 people when it opened a retail business. Those people came straight off benefit as a result of the local employment partnership. I have talked to Tesco, which is opening new stores around the country, and is doing exactly the same thing. It sees a win-win situation: employers can get people straight off benefit, and British benefit claimants take up British jobs to become British workers. It is win-win for society, and it is win-win for employers as well, as partnerships have proved to be extremely popular in filling job vacancies. There are about 660,000 job vacancies in Britain, and we want people to come off benefit to fill them. Local employment partnerships will help us to achieve that.

The Secretary of State has just talked about filling job vacancies with British workers. At the same time, the Government propose to reduce the coverage of the resident labour market test, which, as the Secretary of State will know, requires employers to look to UK workers before they can recruit from outside the EU. How does abolishing part of the resident labour market test help British workers to find British jobs?

The hon. Gentleman should support what we are seeking to do; just about every employer in the land does—the Confederation of British Industry does, as do most employers’ organisations. We are seeking to make sure that local employers try to get people off benefits and into work. The issue that the hon. Gentleman raised has nothing to do with that objective. It also contrasts strongly with a policy announced by his party in the past few days—one of “three strikes and you’re out”. That would reduce the claimant count by less than 0.5 per cent.; it is a typical bit of newspaper spin by a political party that has no real credible policies to offer.