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Work for Your Benefit Measures

Volume 507: debated on Monday 15 March 2010

1. What recent assessment she has made of the effects on low-paid workers of her Department’s “work for your benefit measures”; and if she will make a statement.

I am sure that all Back-Benchers and other Members of the House would want to share in your comments, Mr. Speaker, and, especially, to pass on our condolences to the family of the Member. (321772)

I would like to reiterate your points about Ashok Kumar, Mr. Speaker. He will be sadly missed, I am sure, by all colleagues right across the House. He was a good colleague and fine parliamentarian.

The “work for your benefit” programme will provide work experience placements, not jobs. These placements will be over and above the staffing requirements of the host employer and in addition to the existing or expected vacancies. As such, we do not expect the programme to have an effect on the employment of existing workers, whether low paid or otherwise.

I thank the Minister for his answer. Does he accept, however, that there is a danger that certain less scrupulous employers will take the opportunity to pay less to have one of these placements instead of paying the minimum wage, which has been so hard fought for?

The hon. Gentleman is right to remind the House of the minimum wage, which was introduced by the Labour Government and resisted in many quarters; I am pleased to say that there is now some consensus. We will ensure with contractors—our providers who ensure that we get places for people who have been out of work for two years, beginning with the pilot areas of Greater Manchester, Cambridge, Norfolk and Suffolk—that there is no displacement. This is about work experience. For people who have been out of work, that is an important part of their being able to get back to work. We think that if people are given that opportunity, they should take it.