13. What representations he has received on his plans for the future jobs fund; and if he will make a statement. (1863)
I have so far received virtually no direct representations on our plans for the future jobs fund.
I thank the Minister for his response. The future jobs fund affirms the right to work, and it has done that for young people in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland. Does he share the view of previous Tory Governments that there is a natural level of unemployment?
Our job is to get as many young people, indeed people of all ages, as possible back into government—[Interruption.] I mean back into employment. Well, our manifesto did say that we wanted everyone to be part of the task of trying to make things work. We need to get every young person we possibly can back into the workplace, and we need to get as many people as possible off benefits and into the workplace. That will be the purpose of the single Work programme, our apprenticeships plans and of the reductions that we are going to make in taxation on small business employers; and it is the reason we are not going ahead with the Labour party’s job tax, which would have damaged employment in the hon. Gentleman’s area and other parts of the country. Those differences of approach are what the country really needs.
Is the Minister aware that many employees in future jobs fund placements, especially part-time workers on the minimum wage, took home less each month than their placement cost the fund? In future, will he ask for fairer partnerships with employers that provide better value for money for the taxpayer?
I can confirm that we will look for better value for money for the taxpayer and the maximum possible effectiveness in getting people into work; not work that lasts just six months, but work that gets them into sustainable, long-term careers that can make a difference to them—not the sort of short-term scheme that characterised the previous Government’s last few months.
The Office for Budget Responsibility has found that unemployment would have fallen under Labour’s plans. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development survey in April also said that unemployment was close to its peak. However, the Minister will know that it has recently revised its forecast and, as a result of the change in policies by the new Conservative-Liberal Government, it predicts that public sector jobs will be cut by 750,000 and unemployment will increase to nearly 3 million. Does the Minister think that it is talking nonsense or does he agree that his proposals for cuts will hit jobs hard?
I am afraid that Labour Front Benchers remain in fantasy land about the current financial position. They left a huge debt overhang for the country that will do long-term, lasting damage to every single person in the country if it is not addressed. They themselves had prepared plans for big public spending cuts, but they are now pretending that they never planned those cuts. They should look at the books and in the mirror and ask themselves why the country is in the current financial mess. It is their fault.