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"we are not cutting any jobs at all. We are saying that we will stop the part of the programme relating to jobs that were not contracted for."-[ Official Report, 14 June 2010; Vol. 511, c. 584.]
According to the Secretary of State, if the contract has not been signed, it has not really been cut. He says that these were only notional jobs. The trouble is that he has not cut notional money. He has cut real money-£290 million this year, and hundreds of millions of pounds in future years. That money would have funded 90,000 future jobs fund jobs for 90,000 people-real people who will struggle longer on the dole as a result.
Chris Grayling: Before the election, the previous Administration were planning public spending cuts of £50 billion. Where did the right hon. Lady expect to make those cuts in the Department that she was then heading?
Yvette Cooper: We were clear that the best way to cut welfare spending was to get more people into work. The very fact of getting people into jobs was cutting £15 billion from welfare bills over the next few years. That is substantially more of an impact than the right hon. Gentleman could possibly have by cheese-paring bits from employment programmes that end up putting more people on the dole and pushing up the bills for unemployment. That, in the end, is the right hon. Gentleman's problem.
Gordon Banks (Ochil and South Perthshire) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the pressures placed on the private and public sectors in recent weeks will deliver a potential skills shortage in the UK? Without investment in our young people today, we will have a skills shortage tomorrow, which will be detrimental to our growth in future years.
Yvette Cooper: My hon. Friend is right. This is about investing in our future, because this is about the young people who will support us all for very many years to come. If we do not give them the start in life that they need, if we do not give them the work experience that they need to get into jobs, if we leave too many of them stuck on the dole for years, we will pay the bills that result from their being unemployed for years and we will lose their potential skills and talents that could contribute to our economy for many years to come.
Richard Fuller (Bedford) (Con): Is not the biggest burden on the young people about whom the right hon. Lady talks so eloquently the massive debts that her Government left behind? They are already shackled by the previous Government's policies, and that will be a burden on them and their employment opportunities for the future.
If those young people cannot get jobs, if they end up stuck on the dole for years-that is what happened to young people whom I left school with in the 1980s-that will devastate their entire future. They will struggle to get work for many years to come and that will push up the deficit. The hon. Gentleman seems to fail to understand that if unemployment is high, that pushes up the bills for unemployment benefits and cuts
the number of people who are working in good jobs and paying their taxes, not just this year and next, but for many years to come.
Richard Fuller: In my constituency, the unemployment rate doubled under the last Administration. In the last 10 years, unemployment has gone up. We recognise in Bedford and Kempston that we need small businesses to create the jobs that will employ people, not just in five years' time, but in five months' time. The one thing that small businesses in my constituency want is to know that the Government have control over the deficit, that their taxes will be down, and that regulation will be reduced. Surely that is the way in which we can create jobs.
Yvette Cooper: Unfortunately for the hon. Gentleman, if we cut the deficit at the pace and scale that his party wants, that will make it harder for businesses. It will make it harder for small businesses and companies across the economy. His party's own appointed Office for Budget Responsibility confirms that. It says that there will be fewer jobs in the economy, not just next year, but each year for the rest of this Parliament as a result of the Budget. It is hitting businesses and employers throughout the country, making it harder for them to take people on. That is the complete fallacy in the arguments of Conservative Members. They are stuck in the mentality of not just the 1980s, but the 1930s, which says that so long as the deficit is cut, things will suddenly be hunky-dory. It will not. It cuts jobs and makes it harder for people to get back into work, and it pushes up the costs of failure too. That is what is so irresponsible.
Dr Eilidh Whiteford (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I have a lot of sympathy with the right hon. Lady's argument and she is right to stress the fragility of the economic recovery at the present time and the fact that the Budget proposals will cut jobs, but I am sure that she is aware that the previous Government imposed cuts of £400 million on the devolved Scottish Government in the very teeth of the recession, knowing that it would cost jobs and jeopardise recovery. If her argument holds water now, why did it not hold water then?
Yvette Cooper: In fact, the additional support we put in through things such as the future jobs funds and support for the economy helped Scotland. Indeed, Scotland benefited from thousands of future jobs fund jobs, which were funded by the Government, in addition to the money that went directly to the devolved Administrations. Every part of the Government had to make efficiency savings, and unfortunately the Scottish Administration consistently set themselves efficiency targets considerably lower than those set and met in Whitehall Departments across government. It was fair to expect the Scottish Administration to pay their fair share and to contribute to those efficiency savings.
We believed, however, that it was right to keep supporting jobs in Scotland through things such as the future jobs fund, which is why the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations said, in response to the cuts in the future jobs fund:
"We know of many third sector organisations in Yorkshire who were ready to place people into jobs and were mid-way through bidding for FJF money to make that possible when the funding was cut. Among the placements that were to be created
were jobs to support women in the community through a Women's Refuge. Now those women won't get the extra support and Yorkshire won't get the extra jobs."
Miss Begg: It is third sector providers who often help to get people facing particular barriers into work. It is hard enough for young people to get into work anyway, but if they have barriers such as drug dependency or homelessness, it is particularly difficult. The future jobs fund was being used by organisations such as Aberdeen Foyer in my constituency to get those marginalised youngsters into work and to break that cycle of poverty, which the hon. Member for North East Hertfordshire (Mr Heald), who sits with me on the Work and Pensions Committee, talked about earlier.
Yvette Cooper: My hon. Friend is right, which is why all young people, no matter what the difficulties they face, should have a guarantee of a job, training or support to get into work. She might also be interested to know that significant numbers of the people going into the future jobs fund were disabled, so it was providing additional support for people who might have found it more difficult to get their first job elsewhere in the economy and to get that start and get into work.
The former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr Laws), told the House that DWP officials had advised that the future jobs fund was not effective and not working. That is not what young people and voluntary sector providers are telling us. For example, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations said:
"It is obviously very disappointing that the Future Jobs Fund is not continuing as it was a highly successful initiative which was popular with employers and employees".
"in one area alone, manor residents have recruited 118 young people, of which the first 17 finished their six months last month, all 17 secured sustained employment...This is a vital programme that must stay".
So what advice did DWP officials really give to the Treasury? The Employment Minister, the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling), has so far refused to publish any advice or evidence that it is not effective. That is because, in the end, he does not have any. He has commissioned a detailed evaluation of the future jobs fund for 2011, so there is no evidence to show that the fund is not working and plenty of testimony from young people and employers across the country that it is transforming people's lives. The Government did not talk to a single voluntary sector provider before they axed the fund, and they did not talk to a single young person on the fund before they made their decisions-actually, the Prime Minister did. He talked to young people at a social enterprise in Liverpool, and told them he would keep the fund. He said that
"it is a good scheme, and good schemes we will keep."
The Employment Minister has, I understand, been back to that same corner of Liverpool to see the same social enterprise. He has told us in previous responses
that he has not received any representations about the decision to cut the future jobs fund. Yet someone who was at the meeting said that
"when Chris Grayling visited Everton on the 26 May we raised with him the very negative impact cutting the Future Jobs Fund will have and 2 local people said the difference having a future jobs fund position was already having on their lives, their self esteem and their long term job prospects...We asked him specifically about whether his replacement scheme was going to give at least the minimum wage. He couldn't guarantee that at all...The FJF has already made a big difference to us in Everton... Young people on the FJF have got their heads back up and are going for it."
So what other excuses have the Government given us for cutting the future jobs fund and the support for the unemployed? The Secretary of State claimed on 8 June that the cost of the programme was "running out of control". That is rubbish-it is a fixed-cost programme. It costs just over £6,000 per job and is paid when the job is delivered. Furthermore, the taxpayer saves six months of benefits too. It is a fixed cost, so it cannot escalate out of control.
The difference between us is that we want 90,000 people in jobs. The Government would rather have them on the dole than pay for the extra support that those young people and long-term unemployed need. So, from next year, they are cutting the rest of the guarantee. In total, they are cutting £1.2 billion from support for the unemployed-and they tell us it is all right because there is going to be a Work programme. But where is it? The soonest the Secretary of State will be able to deliver it is next summer, but what about the people in the meantime who need support and help? What about the young people leaving school, college or university this summer who need help? What about the people who have been unemployed for six months and who need support now? Yet now is the time when he is cutting future jobs fund opportunities in favour of a Work programme that cannot be in place for at least another 12 months.
Nadhim Zahawi: The right hon. Lady talks about the young people coming out of schools and colleges. Did she think about them when she was in government and borrowing £500 million a day? Did she think about their future while the Government were borrowing £100 for every £300 they were spending?
Yvette Cooper: Had we not increased borrowing during the recession, we would have seen recession turn into slump, millions of people on the dole being scarred for life, and huge increases in repossessions. Unless the hon. Gentleman is prepared to support the economy and growth, he will never see the deficit come down. The best way to get the deficit down is to keep the economy growing, and the only way to get us through the recession was to support the economy at a very difficult time. He seems to want to return to the madness of the 1930s when economies across the world were pushed into depression and slump as a result of the kind of narrow-minded, short-term policies that he is now advocating.
Nadhim Zahawi: I have to come back on that point. Your policies have mortgaged and remortgaged the future of those young children, so for you to stand up and say that without borrowing you cannot sustain the recovery is inaccurate. You have to admit that borrowing £500 million a day-not a week or a month-is unsustainable.
Yvette Cooper: The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi) should learn a few lessons from economic history. He should look at what happened not just in the 1980s, when there was not the same scale of world recession, but in the 1930s and at the orthodox views being put forward then by Bank of England Governors and senior politicians and the devastating consequences that they had. Keynes was led to write his general theory because of the deeply destructive approach that so many people in senior positions took and the consequences that devastated the lives of millions of people who were pushed into unemployment and poverty. Businesses were destroyed for many years as a result of that approach-the approach that the Conservatives seem to want to go back to.
I agree that borrowing needs to come down, and of course we need to ensure that the deficit comes down in a steady and sensible way as the economy recovers. However, by cutting an extra £40 billion for ideological reasons in a way that will hit jobs and the economy, the Conservatives are turning their back on the unemployed. Ministers need to tell us what they will do to help young people this summer. What are they going to do to reassure parents that their sons and daughters will not be stuck on the dole for more than a year? All that they promise is a Work programme sometime in the future, with incentives for private sector companies to help people find work but no guarantees to young people or anyone else that they will actually get work. There are no jobs for them to go to.
Ministers also want people to move house to help the labour market, but it is not clear where they want them to move to. The Secretary of State has said that he wants the unemployed to move to more affluent areas where there are more jobs. In fact, if they do not and they are out of work for a year, their housing benefit will be cut. At the same time, the Government are telling working people on housing benefit in affluent areas that they have to move to cheaper areas because their rents are too high. If they do not, their housing benefit will be cut, too. The Secretary of State is telling my constituents that if they do not move south to get a job he will cut their benefit, and his own constituents that if they do not move north to get a cheaper home he will cut their benefit too. Presumably they can wave at each other as they pass somewhere along the A1.
The Secretary of State wants people to give up cheaper housing to find work, but he also wants people to give up work to find cheaper housing. He is telling people to get on their bikes, but with no clue about where they are supposed to go. That is the same Secretary of State who said last year that he wanted to maintain community ties. He said:
"It is getting more and more difficult for parents in some poorer backgrounds...that extended family link is often severed by the fact that they can't get living near their parents."
Yet those are the very same community ties that the Government's policies on employment and housing would rip up right now. They are cutting help for people to get jobs and cutting their benefits too.
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Government's contention appears to be that the future jobs fund is simply training without a job guarantee? Is that not just snobbery, as they do not put forward the same argument-nor should they-that people accessing degrees should have a guaranteed job outcome? Quite simply, is it not true that the Tories have never believed in parity of esteem between vocational and academic training routes and still believe that unemployment is a price worth paying?
Yvette Cooper: My hon. Friend is right. I know that his constituency was hit very badly in the 1980s as a result of the decisions that previous Conservative Governments took, and that that is why he feels so strongly that we should not take those decisions again. We have to do everything possible to help people back into work.
The Guardian has even reported that Ministers want jobcentres to give out charities' food vouchers, so now they are turning the clock back not just to the 1980s but to the 1930s. It is looking less like welfare to work and more like welfare to the workhouse.
Miss Begg: Before my right hon. Friend moves off the subject of housing benefit, I wish to mention that Aberdeen is one of the areas where there are jobs-unemployment in my constituency is 2.6%, which is higher than we would like but relatively low. The problem is that rents are high. A constituent who came to see me on Friday is finding things very difficult, because in the private rented sector she is already subsidising her rent despite being on full housing benefit. It is therefore impossible for people to move into Aberdeen to get a house and a job without falling foul of the Catch-22 situation that my right hon. Friend describes.
Yvette Cooper: My hon. Friend is right, and that is why it is difficult to reform housing benefit without considering the consequences for the labour market. The two things should be examined together, not in isolation in a way that can have destructive consequences.
Esther McVey (Wirral West) (Con): May I confirm that the matter has nothing to do with snobbery but is about the best way to handle the situation? Can the right hon. Lady confirm that at present, the number of 18 to 24-year-olds not in education, employment or training is at its highest, at 837,000?
Yvette Cooper: If the hon. Lady is concerned about young people who are not in education, training or employment, why on earth is she supporting her party's decision to cut the future jobs fund and help for young people to get into jobs? The number of 18 to 24-year-olds who are on the dole is about half the level that it was in previous recessions.
Esther McVey: I think there needs to be clarity of purpose on a way forward; you have left us with a record deficit-[Hon. Members: "She."] Sorry; the right hon. Lady's Government have left us with a record deficit, and new times require new measures. Working together, we will provide clarity and look for greater apprenticeship schemes.
I ask the hon. Member for Wirral West (Esther McVey) where is this Work programme and this extra support? All that we see so far is £1.2 billion-worth of cuts. There are cuts to the future jobs fund, a programme that is already in place and delivering real opportunities. She should go and talk to the voluntary sector providers in her constituency and constituencies across the country about the great work that they are doing. Social enterprises, charities and organisations in the public and social sectors are doing some great things to give young people a chance, and her party wants to pull the plug on that. That would be madness at a time when young people need our help.
Sarah Newton: I wish to return to the right hon. Lady's point about giving out food vouchers. What is compassionate about a benefits system that is leaving people hungry in their hour of need? Voluntary organisations in my constituency, such as Church organisations providing food banks, are barred from offering vital necessities to people in jobcentres who are literally starving. That is ridiculous when people are going hungry.
Yvette Cooper: I am interested that the hon. Lady is concerned that people are not getting enough support and believes that they should have more help. I wonder why on earth, then, she has voted for a Budget that cuts £11 billion from benefit support for those on the lowest incomes in the country. What she is arguing for are cuts in Government and taxpayer support, and for people simply to depend on charities instead. That would be a return to the Victorian approach of the workhouse and the pre-Beveridge, pre-welfare state approach of not supporting families across the country, which would be deeply unfair. There may not be the type of charity that she happens to have in her constituency in every constituency and working with every jobcentre in the country. We in the Labour party believe that we should support people, which is why we have not proposed cutting benefits by uprating them only by the level of the consumer prices index, which will take £5.8 billion out of the value of benefits for some of the lowest-income people in this country.
Chris Grayling: Can the right hon. Lady confirm to the House that before the election, she did not at any stage give serious consideration to increasing benefits in line with CPI? Can she make it clear once and for all-did she consider that or did she not?
Yvette Cooper: I can say very clearly to the right hon. Gentleman that my view was always that it would be unacceptable to increase benefits in line with CPI. I wish to make that very clear, and I am sure that papers will testify to that effect. It will be unfair on people such as those who are severely disabled or on the lowest incomes, who will see the real value of their support cut by hundreds of pounds over the next few years. For the Minister to try to defend the Budget as "progressive" when it will hit people who are severely disabled and cannot work, people who are on carer's allowance and some of the most vulnerable people in the country who may be struggling to support their families, is a distortion of the meaning of the word.
Welfare to work does not work anywhere in the country if there is no work for people to go to. That is the real tragedy of this new Government. At a time when growth is fragile and too many people are out of work, they have introduced a Budget that cuts growth and jobs. It is shocking.
Even on the assumptions of the Government's own appointees in the Office for Budget Responsibility, this emergency Budget means that there will be more than 100,000 fewer jobs in the economy, and not just this year. There will be fewer jobs every year for the lifetime of the Parliament as a result of the Budget. The Budget cuts consumption, through the VAT hike and benefit cuts; it cuts Government spending; and it hits private and public sector jobs. The Budget will also push up the bills of unemployment. Even on the optimistic assumptions of the Office for Budget Responsibility, the taxpayer will fork out around £2 billion on unemployment over the course of this Parliament as a result of the Budget. That is £2 billion that we could have spent on the future jobs funds, school buildings or other support to help people into work.
Naomi Long (Belfast East) (Alliance): Does the right hon. Lady agree that that is merely the thin end of the wedge? Many of the young people who find themselves unemployed and many of the communities where unemployment is ingrained are also more reliant on other benefits and public services such as health. The mental health and well-being implications for those communities are enormous, but they have not been factored into those calculations.
Yvette Cooper: The hon. Lady is right. We are having this discussion in the light of the Budget measures and the initial cuts in support for jobs, but we know that there are spending cuts to come as part of the spending review, to which the Government have added £17 billion to the amount to be cut from Departments. The consequence is that the Government's policies will keep more people on the dole, not fewer, and more people out of work, not fewer. That is what the Budget does, and that is on an optimistic reading, because we know that the Treasury's real assessment is worse.
The only reason why the Government think that employment will be growing at all is that they are counting on around 2.5 million net jobs being created in the private sector over the next five years. However, that is something that John Philpott of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and other respected economists have said is simply unrealistic. The Government are living in cloud cuckoo land. In fact, the Financial Times
survey of major private sector employers found that none was planning to increase recruitment on a large scale just because the public sector was cutting back. Arriva said:
"We are not planning a recruitment drive any time soon. Everybody is watching their costs at the moment."
Today's KPMG survey found that the number of new recruits is at a seven-month low, just at a time when it should be increasing. Business confidence has been hit by the Budget and the austerity approach that the Government have been pursuing.
The Government have abolished the regional development agencies, which were supporting jobs in the regions, and cut Building Schools for the Future and other capital projects that were supporting construction jobs. The Government are hitting jobs in the public sector and the private sector, all at a time when the economy is still weak. They say that this is unavoidable, but that is simply untrue. They do not need to cut £40 billion extra from the economy; they have chosen to do so, even though that will cut jobs and hurt the unemployed. The Government do not need to cut the help for the unemployed that is getting them into jobs; they have chosen to do so, even though it will increase long-term unemployment. They do not need to push up the costs of unemployment; they have chosen to do so, even though that will cost us more. They do not need to scar young people for years to come; they have chosen to do so, just as they did in the '80s and '90s.
Why are the Government doing that? It is because they say that they have to get the deficit down. Why are they introducing a savage Budget to cut the number of jobs in the economy? They say that that has to be done because of the scale on which they want to get the deficit down and the pace at which they want to do it. In the 1990s, the Conservatives said that unemployment was a price worth paying to get inflation down. Now they are saying that unemployment is a price worth paying to get the deficit down. However, unemployment is not a price worth paying; unemployment will stop the deficit coming down. This year's school leavers will pay the price, our young people will pay the price, and we will all pay the price for many years to come. Unemployment is not a price worth paying. It is time that the Government ditched the failed ideology of the 1980s and the 1930s, and supported jobs for the future. That is what our party will do, and I commend the motion to the House.
"welcomes the emergency budget which will tackle the unprecedented legacy of debt over the next five years by reducing borrowing from a projected £149 billion this year to just £20 billion in 2015- 16; notes the Office for Budget Responsibility's projection that unemployment will fall in every year of this Parliament as a result of the Government's policies to stimulate private sector employment by reversing the damaging increase planned for employer national insurance contributions, introducing a £1 billion Regional Growth Fund, reducing the corporation and small profits tax rates and increasing the Enterprise Finance Guarantee, resulting in the creation of a projected two million new private sector jobs by 2015-16; further welcomes moves to implement a single work programme that will provide personalised support to help people move into sustained employment, to introduce a
£1,000 increase in income tax personal allowances which will incentivise work, to reform the benefits system to ensure that work pays and to provide 50,000 new apprenticeships and 10,000 new university places for young people, thus stimulating growth, delivering jobs and creating a fairer society for all."
May I start by passing on the apologies of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to the House? Despite what the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) said, he has an important job to do in helping to lead our public sector out of the mess in which the previous Government left it, and he has an important leadership role with the people who will help him to do that. I am sorry that the right hon. Lady is disappointed to be debating against me this afternoon. I am rather pleased, frankly, to be debating against her and I was impressed by her lively form. I somehow think that the wrong member of her household is running a Labour leadership campaign.
Listening to the right hon. Lady, one would think that the past decade had been one of economic triumph and effective employment policies, and that the previous Government had left behind a golden legacy of wise and effective policies. Well, they did not. What they left behind was an economic hangover that we will all be dealing with for years to come, and I am not referring just to the huge deficits or the huge planned spending cuts that Labour had lined up. Indeed, one would think from listening to her this afternoon that the previous Government had no plans to cut spending. Actually, the opposite was the case. What they did not do was give us any detail whatever on where that money was going to be saved.
If we look back over the previous 13 years, the story is a pretty sorry one, with 400,000 more unemployed people today than when Labour came to power in 1997, a higher level of young people not in education or employment, and a lower proportion of people in work. Over that period, Labour spent billions of pounds on projects to try to get people back into work. They spent billions through the recession on supported programmes, but things have actually got worse. What we on the Government Benches know is that long-term sustainable jobs are created by the private sector, not by Government schemes.
Even when jobs were being created over that decade, Labour completely failed in its mission of trying to get people into work. Large numbers of people managed to come into the UK from overseas and find jobs, yet through the years of Labour Government, we consistently had some 5 million people stranded on out-of-work benefits. Many of them could have worked and many of them should have worked, but under Labour it just never happened. So much for "Things can only get better".
Mr Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con):
A particularly poisonous legacy of the previous Government and their economic failure was the plight of young people. We now have 1 million young people who are NEET-not in employment, education or training-but even before the credit crunch came, there were as many people NEET at the end of that period of economic growth-albeit unsustainable growth, as we now find-as there were when Labour came to power. The previous Government let down young people, scarring them for life. We now have 1 million young people unemployed because of Labour, yet we have had no
apology. What we need is this Government to sort out the mess that the previous Government left behind.
Chris Grayling: My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I would ask the House this question. Why would we take Labour Members seriously on youth unemployment when they had such a terrible record on youth unemployment over 13 years in government? What we saw from Labour in office was at best incompetence, at worst a wilful disregard for taxpayers' money, and a failure to understand how to create long-term sustainable jobs in the economy.
Chris Grayling: We have taken a decision-and rightly so-to push out of Government the job of economic forecasting. That is the purpose of the Office for Budget Responsibility. Its analysis, independent of Government, is that unemployment will fall and employment will rise as a result of the decisions that we have taken in the Budget. That is the direction in which we should be heading.
Those in the previous Government cannot simply blame the recession for this mess. Despite 10 years in power, even before the global banking crisis started, more than 15% of our children-1.75 million children-lived in households where no one worked. We have one of the worst rates of workless households in the EU. I am therefore delighted to take on the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford on employment today, and to remind the House and this country what a terrible record the previous Government had in their 13 years in office.
There were fewer jobs in manufacturing. We have heard a lot of talk today about the 1980s, but let us be clear: the big drop in manufacturing employment in this country and the big slump in the proportion of the economy taken up by manufacturing took place under the Labour Government, between 1997 and 2010. Labour should be ashamed of the previous Government's calamitous record on supporting manufacturing business in this country and creating a regulatory environment that drove so many firms out of business and overseas. The previous Government constantly missed their targets on apprenticeships. We heard again and again of how they were going to deliver hundreds of thousands of apprenticeships, but they never hit their targets. They spent massive amounts on employment programmes-designed in Whitehall but ineffective in practice-and they left the biggest deficit in our peacetime history. After all those promises about ending boom and bust, Labour finished with the longest recession in the western world.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned that some programmes were ineffective. One of the programmes that he has cut is the future jobs fund. I tabled a written question about that for his Department, but it was completely unable to tell me how many jobs had been created in my constituency. As the Department obviously does not know whether the future jobs fund was successful or not-it is too early-and as it is
unable to provide any evidence that it was not, why does the right hon. Gentleman not just admit that cutting the scheme was a decision made for ideological reasons rather than because it was not working?
Chris Grayling: What we sent to the hon. Gentleman in the written answer was the details of the future jobs fund placements in his area. We have to be careful with taxpayers' money, and it would therefore not have been prudent to collect data down to constituency level. However, the information is there for him to see, and when he looks at those data, he will see that the success of the future jobs fund in creating jobs has been consistently below target all the way through.
Let me lay to rest one myth today. We have not stopped the future jobs fund. Tens of thousands of additional places will be created over the next few months under the future jobs fund. We have said, however, that we need to take tough decisions in the light of the mess left behind by the previous Government. Also, by next spring, we will be bringing on stream the Work programme, which we believe will provide long-term support for those who are looking to get back into work. I shall say a bit more about that in a moment.
Mr Heald: Does my right hon. Friend agree that the overall picture of Labour's employment schemes shows that they helped into work the people with the highest levels of skill, and people aged between 25 and 49, and that a vast population was simply left behind that could not compete with the people who were coming into this country and taking the jobs that were on offer?
Chris Grayling: My hon. Friend makes an important point. What we learned from the new deals was that people were simply cycled round and round. They went through the system again and again because they were not placed in sustainable employment. That is one of the problems with Labour's approach.
Let me tackle the issue of the future jobs fund head on, because we have heard a lot today about Labour's flagship scheme. Around 100,000 future jobs fund jobs are still being created under the current scheme, costing up to £6,500 each. As the right hon. Lady said, most of them are in the public and voluntary sector. I could be wrong, but my idea of sustainable employment is not a six-month work placement in the public and voluntary sector. It is about getting people into long-term roles in the private sector, which can provide a long-term career for them. That is why our emphasis has been on creating apprenticeships, and 50,000 new apprenticeships have been created in a very early move by this Government.
Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab): Is it not insulting to people who work in the voluntary and public sector to imply in this House that those are not real jobs? Would the right hon. Gentleman like to withdraw that last statement?
That is not what I said. The right hon. Gentleman clearly was not listening. A six-month work placement in the public and voluntary sector with no guarantee of a job offer at the end of it, and no certainty that the role will involve the kind of skills
development that an apprenticeship would offer, is a poor relation compared with the programme of apprenticeships launched under this Government.
Mr Lammy: I know that the right hon. Gentleman is an educated man. He has said that the country is in a recession. Is it not axiomatic that, in recession, private companies tend not to invest in employment? The purpose of the future jobs fund was precisely to create employment in the public sector, because the Government had leverage over the public sector.
Chris Grayling: But the way that we will create long-term jobs for the future will be to revitalise and energise our private sector. The reality is that the Labour party went into the general election campaign promising to increase the tax on employment and to make it more expensive for the private sector to employ people. How can the right hon. Gentleman think that that is a route to long-term sustainable growth and opportunity for employment in this country?
Rushanara Ali (Bethnal Green and Bow) (Lab): May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether there will be a job guarantee with the 50,000 placements that will be arranged under the apprenticeship programme? Also, where is the logic in making people wait so long? There are still many unemployed people in my constituency. After someone has been unemployed for six months, the private sector will treat them as long-term unemployed. How can it be right to leave people waiting until next spring before giving them something to work on?
Chris Grayling: I know that the hon. Lady is a new Member, and she might not be aware of the changes made by the previous Government. One of the things they did was to extend the period that people had to wait before they could receive support on employment programmes. In the case of young people between the ages of 16 and 25, the period was extended from six months to 12 months. I agree with her that things need to happen sooner, and one of the things we will do in the Work programme is to give that support sooner.
The coalition Government are committed to supporting people in sustainable employment, providing opportunities that will provide skills, open doors and help people to stay in work. Our goal is not to get people off the unemployment register temporarily, but to work with them to achieve a goal of lasting employment. That means plotting a different course. The same tired old policies will not work. For too long, economic growth in Britain has been unbalanced, driven by the accumulation of unsustainable debt and a bulging public sector. We have been forced to deal with the largest public spending deficit in peacetime history, and the crisis in the eurozone has shown that the consequences of not acting are severe.
Yvette Cooper: I have heard what the Minister is saying, but how does he account for the fact that, in 2012-13 and 2013-14, employment will be 110,000 lower as a result of his Budget than it would otherwise have been, according to the assessment of the Office for Budget Responsibility? If there are fewer jobs in the economy, how on earth does he think young people are going to get more of them?
Chris Grayling: If the right hon. Lady looks at the figures, she will see that the OBR is forecasting an increase in employment of 1.5 million jobs in the wake of the Budget over the next few years. My goal, and the goal of this Administration, should be to ensure that as many of those jobs as possible go to people who are on benefits, many of whom have been on benefits long term. The big mistake of the past decade when jobs were being created was that that simply did not happen.
Yvette Cooper: Again, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to confirm the OBR's forecast that, as a result of this Budget, employment will be lower. Before the Budget, it forecast 29.47 million jobs in the economy for 2012-13; after the Budget, it forecast 29.36 million jobs for the same year. Will he confirm that the consequence of his Budget will be to cut the number of jobs in the economy?
Chris Grayling: The right hon. Lady has continued to operate on the basis that the public sector could somehow remain as it was, and that we could carry on spending the same amounts of money. She does not seem to understand the consequences of carrying on with the same level of deficit. They would include higher costs for business and higher interest rates. We can see the consequences in the eurozone of not getting to grips with the deficit. We are interested in creating long-term, sustainable employment, which is why we want to deliver schemes and support that will encourage the private sector to grow and develop. That will not happen if we maintain a deficit, however.
Chris Grayling: Last week, the right hon. Lady was criticising us for theoretically planning job reductions in the public sector. She cannot have it both ways. We cannot have an increase in employment, a fall in unemployment and a fall in public sector employment without the private sector beginning to take people on again. This might be a point of difference between us, and I can accept that, but I believe that, over the next 10 years, we shall need a successful, flourishing private sector that can create sustainable jobs. I am sorry that the Labour party appears to be reverting to type in believing that the public sector can somehow carry it all. This is a point of difference between us, but I believe that we will not create opportunities for those young people unless we have proper, sustainable private sector employment.
We will introduce radical reform and follow policies that will encourage growth and development in the private sector. We will also radically reform welfare, with a real focus on helping people to find sustainable work. We will reform the benefits system so that work pays. We will tackle endemic worklessness and the intergenerational cycles of disadvantage that it creates. We will halt the tragic waste of human potential that
exists when people are out of work. When I listen to Labour Members talking about unemployment, I simply remember their record over the past 10 years, and those 5 million people who have consistently been on benefits.
Next year, we will launch the Work programme to provide a coherent package of support for people who are out of work, regardless of the barriers that they face or the benefits that they claim. We will end the programme complexity that we have seen over the past decade, and replace all the paraphernalia of programmes with a single, integrated package of support. It will not be a one-size-fits-all scheme, however, because we have had too many such schemes from Whitehall. We will trust the professionals on the ground who deliver back-to-work support to find the right way of delivering that support to individuals. We will look to investors in the private, public and voluntary sectors to provide the support, and we will judge the organisations that participate on their success rate.
John Woodcock (Barrow and Furness) (Lab/Co-op): Of course I want whatever new scheme the Minister comes up with to succeed, but does he share my concern about the possibility that the private contractors whom he wants to employ will charge more for their services because the changes the Government have made in the Budget will result in fewer jobs in the economy than there would otherwise have been?
Chris Grayling: That is not my concern. My concern is to ensure that, if the OBR forecasts are correct and we see employment growth amounting to 1.5 million more jobs in the next few years, we do not make the same mistake in government as the hon. Gentleman's party did and fail to get people off benefits and into work to take those jobs. I do not want to see a steady and unchanging level of millions and millions of people on out-of-work benefits over the course of a decade while jobs are created around them, effectively operating outside our mainstream society. That must change. I want opportunity for those people. I want to see them back in employment. I am sure the hon. Gentleman shares that goal, but what we aim to do is make it happen this time around.
Miss Begg: I am sure the Minister is well aware that the increase in the number of people claiming incapacity benefit is a result of mental health problems. He may also know that, in response to most surveys, 60% of employers say that they would not employ someone who has had a mental health problem. How will the Government solve that conundrum?
The hon. Lady has made an important point, which I am sure her Committee will want to address. In fact, I was going to refer to the work capability assessment. These are important issues, and we clearly face a big challenge. There are 2.2 million people on old-style incapacity benefit, and we must do all we can to help as many of them as possible to return to work. Of course, not all of those people will be able to work and many will need to continue to receive unconditional support throughout their lives; but every organisation I have ever worked with, come across or talked to that works with people with disabilities and long-term sickness problems would like to see more of
them back at work. We all believe that work will help those people, and I am determined that this part of the Work programme will make a huge difference to them.
Toby Perkins: I am grateful to the Minister, who has raised the important issue of people on incapacity benefit and the large number of people with mental health problems. Given his belief that the solution to those problems lies in the private sector, is he aware of many private sector employers who are rushing to employ people with a history of mental health problems or with a serious history of incapacity problems?
Chris Grayling: The key to supporting people with mental health problems and other disability issues is winning the confidence of employers, and the role that can be played by providers-whether in the private or the voluntary sector-in forging relationships with employers. I believe that as that relationship strengthens, as people start to obtain work placements and as employers start to work with some of those who have been on incapacity benefit, employers will become more ready and willing to provide extra opportunities.
I have no doubt that many businesses in this country want to do the right thing. I believe that, in general, members of our society recognise that we cannot go on with the same number of people stranded on incapacity benefit. I am confident that if we get the programme right and deliver effective back-to-work support for those people, the opportunities will be there and will grow as time goes by. I know there is consensus across the House on this proposal. We came up with it originally, and the previous Government adopted it. Now we are taking it forward, and we will work hard to refine the work capability assessment to ensure that we get it right. I look forward to working with the Select Committee and the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Miss Begg) to achieve that. It is fundamentally important that we actually make a difference to those people, about a quarter of whom have claimed incapacity benefit for more than 12 years. That has had a devastating impact on the people themselves, and it is a burden we have had to carry as a society. We must do all we can to help as many as possible of those people to make something better of their lives.
All that, of course, is in addition to the support that will continue to be provided by Jobcentre Plus. I agree with the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford that its staff do a first-rate job, which in recent years they have done under great pressure. I am glad that that work is recognised on both sides of the House.
Our package of reforms is not just about getting people into a job, and it is not just about saving money; it is all about helping people to make more of their lives. We have heard so much from the Labour party in recent weeks about its policies and how they would have made all the difference, but I do not buy that; I do not think they are right. What we inherited from Labour was a
series of commitments it could not afford and a series of plans that involved short-term solutions to its political problems, rather than long-term solutions for the individuals concerned and for our country. We need a fresh approach, which is why we believe so strongly in focusing on apprenticeships rather than the future jobs fund.
Apprenticeships provide an opportunity to learn new skills that are actually valued by employers. They give people a chance to learn a trade and to embark on a career, while also improving productivity and developing a talent pool. A Labour Member mentioned skills. I happen to believe that a well-run apprenticeship is a much better way of giving someone a platform for life. That is why we are spending £150 million on a programme involving 50,000 apprenticeships that can make a difference.
Rushanara Ali: May I ask once again whether there will be a job guarantee for those 50,000 apprentices? My question was not answered when I asked it earlier, and it is the kind of question to which my constituents want an answer. There is no point in people joining those programmes if there is no opportunity for them to get jobs when the programmes end.
Chris Grayling: We intend to continue the young person's guarantee until the launch of the Work programme. However, there is no guarantee of a job at the end of any programme. The programmes are intended to create opportunities for employment. None of the last Government's programmes involved a guarantee of a job at the end. The best we can do is to ensure that people are as work-ready as possible, and then try to provide an environment in which jobs are being created for which people can apply.
Alison McGovern: I am grateful to the Minister. It is fantastic that in my part of Wirral we saw a tenfold increase in the number of apprenticeships between 1997 and 2008. Does the Minister agree that the best thing we can do with apprenticeships-we all agree they are vitally important-is not to try to rewrite history or cut our way out of the recession, but to try to build business confidence so that investment in apprenticeships continues in my constituency and others?
One of the disappointing things about the last Administration was that we kept hearing the then Prime Minister make promises about numbers of apprenticeships. Year after year, we looked at how many had actually been delivered, and saw that they never hit the target. I hope we will not make the same mistake, and I believe that the 50,000 apprenticeships we have
announced will make a difference to a large number people who will take them up as part of the Skills for the Future programme.
I want to end by making a point about the overall context of our proposals. We are trying to create an environment in which business can grow, develop and flourish. The Budget was about that as well. The Chancellor announced measures to stimulate growth, including a reduction in the main rate of corporation tax and the rate of corporation tax for smaller companies, a reduction in the main and special rates of capital allowances, an increase in the enterprise finance guarantee, the creation of a growth capital fund, and the regional support with which we intend to help private sector employers to grow and develop in our regional areas. We also stopped the Labour jobs tax. All those measures are designed to create an environment in which small, medium-sized and larger businesses can grow, develop and create jobs in the next few years, and they have all been welcomed by business groups.
Yvette Cooper: I thank the Minister for his generosity in allowing me to intervene again. He referred to support for the private sector and for private sector growth. Will he confirm that according to the OBR's own assessment, in 2012-13 private sector employment will be 260,000 lower than it would have been under Labour's Budget?
Chris Grayling: When will the right hon. Lady recognise that the Labour Budget was not affordable? It was taking the country down a path we could not afford. We have seen in the eurozone what happens if nations try to do things they cannot afford. Labour Members keep going on as if nothing had happened-as if all would somehow have been swimmingly good if they had returned to office, and all the problems would have been sorted out-but it is not like that. Labour Members are living in a fantasy land, but the reality is that business groups welcome what we have done.
"There was clear recognition of the role that business needs to play in getting the economy back into shape, and generating the jobs and wealth needed to sustain economic recovery."
"The government's decisive moves to cut the deficit will have positive effects on business and investor confidence. Even more importantly, the Chancellor's message that Britain is open for business will be welcomed by companies the length and breadth of the country, and across the globe."
It has been interesting to listen to Labour today. To be honest, it has been like a Westminster version of "Life on Mars". Suddenly we are back to the old
Labour rhetoric of the past. They seem to believe that what we need is big Government to create jobs, and if we spend just a bit more all will be well. That is nonsense. We know that we need flourishing businesses if we are to create jobs for the future. We know that we need the right skills and technologies for the future. We also know that we need to ensure that everyone in our society has the chance to find the right opportunity for themselves. We heard some of those messages from new Labour in its heyday, but they were never followed through. We are all paying the price now. This Administration will not make the same mistakes that Labour made.
Mary Creagh (Wakefield) (Lab): I was unable to intervene on the Minister of State on the role that big firms will play in creating the jobs of the future. I wondered whether he had seen the survey by the consultancy and accountancy firm Deloitte which concluded that big firms fear that a new recession will hit the UK. It said that business confidence has been knocked, in large part by the shroud-waving and fiscal hysteria from the Conservatives in creating the mood music for this draconian Budget. The survey of finance directors from 32 FTSE-100 companies and 93 UK companies accounting for 28% of the equity market showed that the net percentage of those who were more optimistic had dropped from 40% to 24%.
The hon. Member for Bedford (Richard Fuller) made a point about small business investment, but businesses need confidence if they are going to invest in the future. They will not invest in creating the jobs of the future if they are worried that this deflationary Budget, which will knock 1.3 million jobs out of the economy, will leave them high and dry. The money that they would otherwise invest could be kept for a rainy day or a potential future run on the bank.
John Howell (Henley) (Con): The hon. Lady says that what business needs is confidence. I do not disagree, but most of all business needs money. It was her Government that deprived people of the money to make their businesses work.
Mary Creagh: That is an extraordinary allegation-that somehow the Labour Government took money away from businesses. I thought that it was the banks- [ Interruption. ] There was a failure of regulatory oversight, but it was not just in this country. It happened across the world. In future, economic historians will look at the psychological group-think that prevailed across the world in all Treasury departments. There was an economic orthodoxy that the level of growth was sustainable. In the end, the bubble burst and it was not sustainable, but we made the decision not to allow the collapse of a bank to mean that people lost their savings.
We also decided to follow the Keynesian route back to employment. For those Members on the other side of the House who are unaware of Keynesianism, I recommend an excellent article in The Independent by Robert Skidelsky, who was Keynes's biographer. He is no left-wing madman: he is a sensible and respected economist. He has an interesting analysis of the Budget that makes sobering reading, and I recommend it to all hon. Members of whatever party.
Mr Graham Stuart: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way. As ever, she speaks with passion if not on this occasion with quite so much knowledge. Business is struggling because when the economy was booming and it was necessary to curb the lending of the banks, the Labour Government did the opposite and loosened the conditions for lending. After the collapse, the Labour Government did the opposite and tightened the requirements on the banks so that they were unable to lend. That is how the Labour Government both fuelled the boom and boosted the bust and that is why business is struggling so much to recover from Labour's disaster.
Mary Creagh: I am so grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that basic lesson in economics. He may not be aware of my past working as an adviser to small businesses and to MBAs at Cranfield university on how to set up small businesses. Our economic record between 1997 and 2005 was extremely good when it came to ensuring that new businesses were created- [ Interruption. ] Would he care to listen to my answer or does he just want to keep commenting from a sedentary position? He claims that we turned the tap on too fast and then turned it off. It is understandable that when Governments end up owning majority shares in banks, they want to ensure that credit flows to businesses-and we ensured that that was happening through the small firm loan guarantee scheme. Now, the banks are almost in a monopoly position, and we need more competition for high street banks and to change their risk aversion when it comes to lending to small businesses.
We are straying from the point, which is the effect of the Budget on unemployment. The OBR has had an extraordinary few weeks. It was set up and has published its little forecasts, but now suddenly Sir Alan Budd-who set it all up-is to leave. I have been in politics a few years now and when someone leaves unexpectedly, I try to work out why. Why is it that someone in a brand-new, start-up situation who wants to perform a public service is leaving? I wonder whether there has been a row. Perhaps in the future we will find out the real reason-perhaps that he was leant on for the employment figures, which are heroically optimistic. The OBR claims that more than 2 million jobs will be created in the private sector over the next five years, but John Philpott, the chief economist at the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development, has said:
"There is not a hope in hell's chance of this happening. There would have to be extraordinarily strong private sector employment growth in a...much less conducive economic environment than it was during the boom."
The hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart) says that we funded small businesses through the boom, but the OBR and the Treasury now claim that we will have a similar level of employment growth-another boom-but there is no credit to finance it and, by the way, they are cutting huge amounts out of the public sector. I will give way if any Member opposite can tell me how that will happen. I thought not.
Mr David: Does my hon. Friend agree that in many areas, including south Wales, there is a close relationship between the public sector and the private sector? Draconian cuts to the public sector will have knock-on effects on the private sector.
Mary Creagh: My hon. Friend makes a good point, and many skilled IT workers and other professionals will lose valuable public sector contracts as the so-called bureaucratic back-office functions are scaled back.
One of the ways in which the Minister proposes to help the unemployed is by laying off 2,000 jobcentre staff in the next few months. It takes a particular sort of genius to do that in a recession, and I bow to the greater knowledge of the Conservative Members. How will they help people back into work with fewer people on the front line?
George Freeman: I thank the hon. Lady for giving way to the greater prowess on this side of the House. I appreciated her comments earlier about the importance of the private sector. The fundamental truth in this debate is that the private sector does something that the public sector does not-it pays for the public sector. It pays for itself and its profits pay for the public sector. The hon. Lady nods, which is nice to see. As she worked in the private sector helping small businesses, does she agree that the biggest fear of people in the private sector is not cuts to the public sector, but the threat of a rising debt crisis with interest payments alone-now she shakes her head-forecast to rise to £67 billion a year? The effect that that would have on the sovereign debt crisis and the threat of rising interest rates could plunge this country into a serious economic crisis.
Mary Creagh: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point. We are in danger of rehearsing the arguments that we had at great length on the Finance Bill last night. I chose not to speak in that debate, because otherwise it might have dragged on even later than it did. However, I do not think that someone running a corner shop in south Wales is worried about the interest payments on Government debt. Interest rates on Government debt are historically low, and the repayment period here for such debts is, at 14 years, longer than in the US and Greece.
Government Members need to be very careful about the shroud-waving that they have done in connection with the Greek fiscal deficit. The UK is in no way comparable to Greece, which is an island economy based on tourism- [ Interruption. ] If the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart) listens, he might learn something. Greece has 178 different public sector pensions, and none of them is funded. In addition, matrilinear succession means that the wife inherits when a man dies, and that the daughter inherits when the widow dies. Trying to compare Greece to the UK is absolute madness.
George Freeman: Will the hon. Lady confirm first of all that I did not mention Greece? She has mentioned pensions, but the second thing that concerns the private sector is unfunded public sector pension liabilities, which also saddle the private sector economy. She seems to talk as though the public sector can somehow carry on spending money, but it is the private sector that has to pay for it.
Mary Creagh: In the end, we all end up paying for it. We made pension reforms to try and get people in the private sector to enrol in pension funds, because companies in that sector tend not to pay pensions or enrol their staff in stakeholder pensions. As a result, the taxpayer-the state-picks up the bill and we all end up paying for it. The important point is that the state is, in the end, the lender and the funder of last resort.
In my constituency of Wakefield-which is well known to my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper)-700 places were allocated under the future jobs fund. We are not clear how many have survived the Government's hatchet job, but I was privileged to welcome 50 young recruits to Wakefield council.
In addition, with my right hon. Friend I met three future jobs fund recruits at the Able project, an environmental scheme that uses a piece of disused land owned by Yorkshire Water that lies next to a sewage treatment works. One could not hope to find a less glamorous environment, but the project has created something very beautiful. Its organisers have worked with Nacro and the mental health trust to get people digging, growing, learning and being out in nature. The land is between a sewage works and a railway line, but it is an area of environmental beauty. The project has become a green business, coppicing the hazel and willow that grows there.
I met two young workers there, and we were able to buy some of the honey that they had made. They told me that they had had an apprenticeship but that the collapse of the business meant that they could not carry on. After six months on the dole, they were desperate to get something.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford and I made the visit in March, and the young workers told us that they did not know what was going to happen at the end of the six months. They asked us to try and make the period a year, as that would mean that they had a year's experience under their belts. One young man was working visiting schools and showing children how to build nesting boxes.
The Able project is run by a third sector organisation, but I was aware that, at the end of his time there, the young man I had spoken to would have carpentry skills and experience of working with children. He was going to have all sorts of facts about nature and growing things at his disposal, with the result that a range of different organisations in the area could employ him.
I feel really heartbroken that that young man, the person whom I also met who is a support worker at Reconnect, a project that befriends older people across Wakefield who are at risk of isolation, mental health problems and loneliness, and the three people for whom I was trying to find work as wardens in Thornes park, are all now facing an extremely uncertain future.
Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con):
Does the hon. Lady agree that one of the challenges for the future jobs fund is that, because the placements last only six months
and have been taken up almost entirely by the public and charitable sectors, they do not provide future jobs? I have spoken to several charitable organisations in Gloucester, just as she has in her constituency. They have got people doing things very similar to what she has just described. They make the same points that she does, but they recognise that these are not apprenticeships. They are different: they do not provide jobs, but really just take people off the unemployment register for six months.
Mary Creagh: The point is that they are entry-level jobs. The future jobs fund takes people off the unemployment register for six months, but the important thing is that those people then have a CV that does not say, "I've been on the dole and I don't know how to get up in the morning. I don't know how to set an alarm because no one's ever taught me. I've got used to staying in bed till half past 10 and then watching daytime TV." Instead, their CVs say, "I've been doing something productive and am able to get myself to work. I'm committed and I've developed my communication skills."
The young people involved may have failed at school and may not be academically successful. They need every chance that they can get: they may need a series of six-month placements to build up two years' worth of experience, because it may take them much longer to enter the employment market than someone with an Oxbridge degree.
Richard Graham: Does the hon. Lady agree that a real apprenticeship that lasts three years, like the 50,000 new apprenticeships that this coalition Government are committed to providing, is a much more genuine gateway to a real job than a series of six-month benefits and training programmes that has no real guarantee of leading anywhere?
Steve Rotheram: I am a product of something similar to the future jobs fund. In the late 1970s, there was something called a pre-apprenticeship scheme. I did six months on that and was very fortunate to complete it. The scheme was not just academic, as it gave me some transferable skills. It taught me to get out of bed and it led me, in later life, to do a master's degree in contemporary urban renaissance. That is the sort of opportunity that the future jobs fund is providing.
Mary Creagh: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. He truly is a renaissance man, and I hope that many of the young people whom we met who got their entry-level work through the future jobs fund end up sitting on these green Benches. I hope that they can make the same incredible progress and journey that he has made in his life.
I turn now to the Work programme set out by the Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions, the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling). I have a great deal of concern about it. In a speech on 27 May, the Secretary of State spoke about
"a single scheme that will offer targeted, personalised help for those who need it most, sooner rather than later".
If it is a matter of sooner rather than later, why are we waiting until next year for it to come in? I suppose that that has to do with the fact that the Government want to set up what I presume is a national contract with large-scale training providers. I tried to intervene about this earlier, because the Government are asking those providers to bear the risk of training people even though their contract payments will depend on outcomes.
That raises a series of questions. First, at a time when deflation, very low growth or even a double-dip recession are all possible, why does the Minister think that the private sector will turn to the banks for loans to cover this training given that, as we heard earlier, the banks are averse to risk and not very good at lending? Output-related funding is currently calculated on the basis that it takes six or nine months to get a person into work and then 13 weeks to ensure that he or she has lasted in that job. Why does he think that organisations in the private sector such as Capita or BT will line up to take on the massive risk involved in training people and employing them, when there is such a huge amount of uncertainty?
I have another question for the Minister, and I will give way to him if he can answer. How does he think voluntary sector organisations such as Nacro-the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders-will be able to do this? Such organisations have specialist programmes working with the most difficult, hard to reach and disadvantaged people-prisoners, young offenders and ex-offenders. They have the benefit of being present in and running training courses in prison and are then able to offer some sort of continuity when the offender leaves. I am also thinking of providers such as Rathbone training, an organisation that I had the privilege of serving as a trustee for seven years. These are small-scale organisations-Rathbone's turnover when I left it in 2005 was £40 million. Why does he think that they will go to the bank-or their trustees would say that they should go to the bank-and borrow up to £20 million at a time, with a personal guarantee of the trustees, who are jointly and severally liable, who are for a programme when it is not clear that they will get the rewards from it?
Chris Grayling: I am happy to intervene briefly to confirm two quick points for the hon. Lady. The first is that, as she will recognise, this is an established marketplace that has grown. What we are talking about, in particular, is scale as a result of the incapacity benefit migration. We are pushing the envelope further than it has been pushed before, but established principles are involved. She is right about protecting voluntary sector organisations. I would be making another speech if I explained the full detail of how to do that, but I can assure her that I regard those organisations as important as she does.
I am relieved to hear that, but I am afraid that that was not an answer and I am unable to wait for another speech from the right hon. Gentleman
to hear these plans emerge. Let us consider the position of an organisation 90% of whose budget depends on public sector contracts. Organisations are planning next year's budget now. They will be signing off budgets that need to be ready in February and the finance directors will be making those budgets ready in October, November and December. How will such an organisation make plans for 90% of its funding-that could be £35 million, or £37 million at 2005 prices-without knowing what the system and financing mechanism will be for voluntary sector bodies? If the right hon. Gentleman is to grant the voluntary sector privilege, will he not be in danger of doing something about which we have heard a lot-will he not be risking crowding out the private sector? I shall leave those thoughts hanging in the air.
Rathbone training works with teenagers who have had chaotic homes lives and who have encountered poverty and unemployment. Many of them have failed at school and many have had babies early in their lives. Rathbone carried out a survey of those young people, asking them which profession they would like to pursue. Everyone in the Chamber will probably be relieved to hear that only a handful wanted to be footballers, pop stars or WAGs. Instead, the majority of Rathbone trainees preferred more everyday jobs such as car mechanic or office worker. That was summed up by a 17-year-old lad from Newcastle, who said:
"I'm happy at the moment training to be a bricklayer."
I am concerned about the incapacity benefit reforms and the assertion that such a one-size-fits-all approach will be better. Why will it be better than programmes run by people in the public sector? I am not so sure that it will be. I am concerned that we are going around in a circle-we are going back to the 1980s, as my right hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State said, and back to the 1930s. We are going into the failed Thatcherite schemes of the 1980s-a youth training scheme mark 2. In the current plans, however, there is no enterprise investment scheme-and that did exist in the 1980s. We have heard a lot about the need for a vibrant and flourishing small business sector, but these reforms contain nothing, as yet, that allows would-be entrepreneurs in constituencies such as Wakefield and Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, as well as those in Liverpool, to set up their own businesses. I hope that the Minister, who is no longer in his place, will examine that.
Mr Graham Stuart: Does the hon. Lady regret the devastating effects on manufacturing of the past 13 years under the Labour Government? Does she have any thoughts on what can be done to encourage manufacturing? This is not just about construction and other private sector jobs, because we need to restore and rebuild manufacturing, which was growing in the last few years of the previous Conservative Government but has been devastated during the past 13 years under Labour.
I can perhaps turn the question around on the hon. Gentleman by asking him whether he regrets what happened to cities such as my birthplace of Coventry, where I grew up in the 1980s. All the car factories that I grew up around-the Massey Ferguson tractor plant, the Carbodies taxi plant and the Alvis
plant, which used to make tanks, and the Coventry Chain Company-were all replaced, either by housing or by retail parks. The factories were all shut down during the short few years between 1984 and 1989, when thousands of incredibly skilled workers in those factories were lost. In addition, does he regret the fact that the previous Conservative Government shut down the coalfields of Wakefield, which could now be doing something to reduce our dependence on foreign energy supplies? I shall leave that matter for another debate.
I am concerned about the effect of benefit cuts on women. I am keen to hear from Conservative Members about the move to employment and support allowance and to jobseeker's allowance. A little piece in the Red Book says, "After you have been on JSA for more than a year, your housing benefit is cut by 10%." I am keen to hear from the Conservative Front-Bench team whether women with children-these children may be only a year old-will be affected by that proposal. If they are affected, that is an incredibly draconian policy.
I have no problem with women who have children going out to work. I am a mother of two children and I came back to work here when my child was six months old. I have no problem with encouraging mothers to get out of the home and into the workplace, and expecting them to begin the search for work when their child is three and has access to the free nursery place is very important. The idea that one can say to a mother with a babe in arms, "You have to put the baby into child care and go out to look for a job otherwise your housing benefit will be cut by 10%" is, as my right hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State said, a return to the Victorian values of the workhouse and the notion of dividing the poor into two segments: the undeserving poor and the deserving poor. I leave that thought with hon. Members.
I shall now discuss the issues associated with people moving house to find work. I have no problem with mobility, because people should look around, think and open their horizons in the search for work; my parents are Irish and they came to this country on the boat-not on a bicycle-in the 1960s, finding gainful employment in Birmingham and then Coventry, where they settled and got married. However, we need to examine carefully the psychological impacts of asking people to leave their homes to look for work. One of the great untold stories of the Irish diaspora is the psychological impact that emigration has on the mental health, the alcohol dependency and the level of premature death of a particular community. The Irish are the only community whose life expectancy decreases upon emigration to this country. That is perhaps a little-known fact, and I can see the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart) is thinking it through.
That is what happens when people move away from their communities, so it is very important that we ensure that we have the structures in place so that people can be supported if they want to move. I would turn the question around by asking another one. Let us consider what would happen if someone from Wakefield or a high unemployment area wanted to move in order to work, found themselves a job in London and went to one of the city centre local authorities, such as Hackney, Camden or Islington, asking to be put at the top of the housing waiting list. What would that do to the Islington, Camden and Hackney residents waiting to get out of
overcrowded accommodation? How would seeing people coming in from outside and getting houses affect them? Would any such provision have to involve a minimum time that someone keeps a job? Would people have to stay in their job for three months, six months or a year? If they lost the job after 12 months through no fault of their own, could they keep the house or would they be expected to make the long train journey, or the long car journey back up the M1, to the city that they left?
I conclude by discussing unemployment and what it means to Opposition Members. For us, unemployment is not a theory, an abstract thing or a thing that has to be tackled. For us, unemployment is what happened to our families, friends, communities and, in the recessions of the '80s and '90s, ourselves. As for the idea of the big society, I say to Government Members that our society is not broken. Over 13 years, our Labour Government spent a lot of time, energy, money and thought trying to mend the broken society that Thatcher and Major bequeathed us in 1997.
In 1979 there were 1 million people on the dole, and the Conservative party won that year's election with the posters of unemployment queues and the slogan, "Labour isn't working". Three years later, 3 million people were on the dole, a level of unemployment that had not been seen since the depression of the 1930s-a particular type of genius that the Conservative party has in pursuing flawed and deflationary economic policies.
I remember, during my childhood, coming down to breakfast and hearing the figure for the number of cities where riots had taken place in 1981, and I could not believe the number of places where people had spontaneously gone out and created mayhem and anarchy because they were tired of being left behind. I remember the songs, such as "One in 10", about the one in 10 unemployed, and the song about my city of Coventry, "Ghost Town". It was a ghost town. That is how I grew up, and I do not want any child or constituent of mine to grow up in a ghost town. Opposition Members will continue to focus on unemployment, because, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford said, for us it will never be a price worth paying.
Mr Deputy Speaker: Order. This is an important Opposition debate, and I want to give some gentle guidance. Hon. Members will be horrified to learn that we cannot go on until half-past 2 in the morning today, and that we intend to call the winding-up speeches at about half-past 6. If everyone wants to get in, and if people speak for wildly longer than 12 minutes, not everybody will be satisfied.
Mr Oliver Heald (North East Hertfordshire) (Con):
The House appreciated the passion with which the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh) put her case, but if she were being frank she would accept that, in the 1960s, 1970s and, again, in the 1980s, this country faced
some difficult economic problems. If she looks back at the history of interventions in the job market, she will see that since 1979 we have tried various options. Indeed, there has been some success in putting people back into work by using employment-market interventions, but I am sure that in her heart of hearts she will accept that we have let many people, particularly during the past 13 years, fall by the wayside.
The people who were getting jobs through Labour's employment schemes had skills or were in the age bracket of 25 to 49 years old. Many other people became part of that workless group whereby 3 million homes had no adult of working age in work at all. Those people were not seen on programmes, and very few of them were seen at all, so we need to consider a programme that really challenges that situation and looks to provide the help that people need in all aspects of work. Too many schemes have been based on just one benefit: if people were on one particular benefit, there was a scheme for them; and if people were from one age group, there was a scheme for them. However, we need something that captures all the issues and removes all the barriers to employment, so that everybody gets a fair deal from the Government.
There are some encouraging signs in the labour market. The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development's latest quarterly survey shows for the first time in six quarters a plus 5 figure for the employment intentions of employers: they do intend to employ people. The figures for the south-east are particularly good, showing a strong intention to employ. Equally, Reed in Partnership, an excellent contracting company, has shown that the number of advertised vacancies is up by 5%, so there are some encouraging signs. However, the real question is whether the increase in private sector employment will be enough to deal with the undoubted fall in public sector employment and the likely redundancies there. That is the challenge for the next few years-to ensure that private sector employment increases sufficiently.
At The Times CEO summit last week, Sir John Rose, chief executive of Rolls-Royce, one of our best companies, was reported to have said that we as a country were very self-satisfied about the services boom in the Labour years, but that during that time manufacturing capability and competitiveness were on the slide. He noted that in higher education we are educating 7,000 people a year in media studies, at a time when China is educating technicians and people who will have skills in the nuclear industry. He rightly said that during that period we did not concentrate enough on investment in technical education at the secondary and tertiary levels, and that we need to address that issue if we are to have a future of success in the private sector.
Tom Blenkinsop (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland) (Lab):
On Reed in Partnership's job index, the hon. Gentleman mentioned the figure for growth, on which the organisation comments in its press release, but that growth is predominantly in financial services, accountancy and insurance. The index also states that, compared with February, the figure for this month in charity and voluntary work is minus 30 index points; in construction and property, it is minus 7; in engineering, it is minus 8; in health and medicine, it is minus 19; in
scientific, it is minus 6; in social care, it is minus 8; and in training, it is minus 15. In the north-east-my area-the salary index has also fallen, so fewer jobs are being advertised for less money.
Mr Heald: I think the hon. Gentleman is wrong, because the headline figure shows an increase of 5% over the past six months, but he is right about the differences between sectors and regions. He makes an important point, which we should not ignore, and I shall return to it later in my remarks. However, Sir John Rose's point was also well made. On the question of what needs to happen in this country, the role of apprenticeships should not be ignored, and 50,000 more apprenticeships are welcome, particularly given the good quality of education that they provide in technical areas.
In the latest CIPD survey, there is a lot of criticism of the abilities and work-readiness of our graduates, and there is a lot to be said for schemes such as internships, which get people ready for work so that they can do a good job as soon as they enter employment. I represent North East Hertfordshire, and a good thing about Hertfordshire is that we, as a county, have a series of institutions that are business-facing but educational. Our colleges are business-facing, and our university is well known as business-facing, which means that the county asks businesses what skills they need and our university provides the skilled workers. In terms of the employment service in Hertfordshire, if a graduate who is placed with a Hertfordshire company needs an extra skill, our university will teach them it, and our colleges all feed into that. It is no coincidence that we have the lowest number of NEETs in the country.
Mrs Jenny Chapman (Darlington) (Lab): Teesside university, the university of the year, is basing itself in my constituency, and I am quite interested in the hon. Gentleman's idea about graduates not being prepared for the workplace. Will he please identify exactly when in the history of university education employers said, "All our graduates are prepared for the workplace"? When was that golden age of preparedness?
Mr Heald: The hon. Lady makes an extremely good point, which is that we are not good enough as a country at preparing people for work. If we look at why we have so many workless families, and why employers are dissatisfied, it goes right back to the beginning-to school. The fact is that 40,000 young people leave school every year in this country who cannot read, write and add up properly. It is not good enough that we do not have the technical people we need in business coming through. This is a failure of the whole system that needs to be addressed. [ Interruption. ] The hon. Lady chunters, but Sir John Rose is probably one of the most eminent chief executive officers in the country, he is running a company that is a great success story, and he is right to highlight the need to do better on technical education and skills.
Over the years, we have had a range of employment programmes that have not succeeded as well as we would have hoped. A few years ago, the Work and Pensions Committee looked into what contractors can achieve. We did a major report on how the Department for Work and Pensions commissions employment
programmes and the role of prime contractors. We were encouraged by the international examples. We looked at what had happened in Australia and visited the Netherlands to look at what was being done there. That seemed to show that contractors were able to provide programmes more cheaply, but also to get better results. Professor Finn, who was advising the Committee, found that Australia was achieving, through "contractorisation", an improvement of about 10% in job readiness and people's ability to find placements. In the Netherlands, we were told very strongly that the people who ran these contractor companies were able to specialise provided that they were given enough flexibility in respect of the barriers to employment that there have been and still are.
Looking at the picture overall, I have reached the view that as soon as a person is not working, and we are aware of that, they must be interviewed to find out what the barriers to employment are that they face and start to tackle them. If somebody has basic skills problems, we need to get on to that at an early stage and tackle it-and equally, if somebody needs child care or has a problem with addiction. These are all areas where action is required. In relation to the work capability assessment for incapacity benefit, a lot of people have not been seen for many years, and the on-flow that has been examined so far seems to suggest that many of them are capable of doing some kinds of work, but not necessarily all kinds. Those people need considerable help.
If we are to help people who have the classic problems suffered by those on incapacity benefit-musculoskeletal problems such as back injuries, and mental health problems such as stress, and worse-it is very important to get in with an early intervention. More can be done by employers, the NHS and the system as a whole-including, perhaps, the companies that provide insurance for people who are unable to work-in getting together to see whether they can do more to get this help in quickly. It is not acceptable that somebody of working age who has a back injury and needs physiotherapy has to wait 10 weeks for an appointment whereas if they were seen quickly they could get back to work. I ask the Minister whether it is possible to have liaison and discussion with the NHS, employers and insurance companies to try to do better in getting involved more quickly and stopping some of these conditions becoming chronic in the first place. With back problems, that means physiotherapy; with mental health problems, it may mean talking therapies as well as the drug treatments for depression of the sort that are available these days.
Yesterday, I talked to people at the National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society, who said that all too often they have to wait a long time for the treatment they need to deal with their condition. For people of working age, we need to prioritise their health and have something amounting to a national occupational health approach so that we do not end up with a lot of people who become chronically ill. It is well known that someone who has been out of work with a disability for two years is very unlikely to work again.
I welcome the Work programme. The criticisms that have been made of it are a little unfair, if I may say so. The fact is that the economy has been put into a terrible situation by the previous Government. The future jobs fund is a scheme that has only just started, and it is not as though it is not being replaced by something that is
probably better-namely, more apprenticeships. It is a bit disingenuous to describe it as a jobs fund, as though these are permanent jobs, when they are really job placements for six months.
"policies to stimulate private sector employment by reversing the damaging increase planned for employer national insurance contributions",
which implies that that was a jobs tax. Is it not really the case, particularly for the north-east, as I have been advised by the North East chamber of commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses in the north-east, that the real jobs tax is the VAT increase that the Government have proposed?
Mr Heald: If the hon. Gentleman thinks about when we got 2.5 million extra jobs in our economy in a three-year period, he will recall that it was under the Conservatives in the 1980s. That was done by allowing businesses to have lower taxes and to be less regulated-by really giving them a boost. We need to do something similar to help business and to get off its back. We also need to provide the technical training that Sir John Rose talks about, together with a scheme that helps the workless-the people who have been left behind in the plethora of employment schemes that we have had for the past 30 years.
Mr Heald: If the hon. Gentleman looks back at the mess that this country was in when the Conservatives came into office in 1979 after the Labour years, he will see that it was not an easy period to be in government. He must accept, surely, that if we can improve on what has gone before, that is the best thing to do. We need to listen to somebody who is a thoughtful CEO saying that we need better technical training; to look at the idea of apprenticeships as good-quality training, which we all agree about really; to try to have internships so that our graduates are job-ready; and, on top of that, to have a Work programme that does not leave anyone behind, that is streamlined, and that involves contractors sooner rather than later. Surely that is the wisdom of our time.
Tom Blenkinsop: Interestingly, the majority of men and women on site in the steel and chemical industries in my area are in either their late teens or early 20s, or in their late 40s or early 50s, which suggests an 18-year period when apprentices were not taken on.
Mr Heald: The hon. Gentleman is right that in periods of our history, both sides of industry have not distinguished themselves in supporting apprenticeships adequately. I do not know whether he agrees with that, but now is the time to do the right thing, and to support apprenticeships and technical education. We need a scheme that works on the Work programme side, and hopefully this country can come roaring back from the mess it was left in by the Labour Government.
Gordon Banks (Ochil and South Perthshire) (Lab):
It is a pleasure to follow the contribution of the hon. Member for North East Hertfordshire (Mr Heald), but
I want to talk about the construction industry and my constituency, and I am sure we will come across other related matters. I refer the House to my declaration in the Register of Members' Financial Interests.
I was involved in the construction industry for more than 30 years before I was elected to the House in 2005. Frankly, I am shocked at what has happened in the industry in the past few years, and I greatly fear what will hit us in the near future. I started my own business in 1986, so I have weathered a few storms, but I fear that the future has something terrible in store for the industry. If it is bad for the industry, it is bad for jobs.
In the past few years, the construction and housing sectors have contracted massively. With that contraction in activity has come a contraction in the number of jobs. When the banks went into meltdown, the previous Government reacted appropriately. There was action to protect investments and to support failing banks, and genuine attempts to get money back into the marketplace. Although that proved a little more difficult than I would have hoped, that positive action saved jobs. However, now we risk all that effort.
It was necessary for the public sector to step in when the private sector failed-let us not forget that that is what happened. My background is in the private sector, and I am proud of the UK's private sector-or at least part of it. It should be a driver of growth and the major contributor to addressing our budget deficit, but how will that happen when the private sector remains very fragile and the public sector is faced with ill-thought-out, ideological cuts?
The construction sector is a good example of that. The industry has some 250,000 businesses and employs more than 2 million people in the UK, with turnover of about £6 billion. We had the second largest output in the European Union-I do not know whether we still do-and we all know the role that the industry has played in the UK's progress in recent years. It is a private sector enterprise, but its clients are both public and private sector. Businesses generally need the construction sector to expand, as does the state, when they are intent on improving the quality of life of citizens.
There are vital sub-sets in the construction sector. Construction product companies have annual turnover of more than £40 billion and employ more than 650,000 people in 30,000 companies. In Scotland, almost 12% of the work force are employed in construction or in some form of building-related activity, whether as a joiner on site, a planner in a local authority office or a lorry driver delivering materials to a building site. Sadly, that is changing for the worse. All those jobs are under threat.
Mr Graham Stuart: One great mystery of the past 13 years is that there were record levels of immigration under the Labour Government and record lows in the number of houses built, particularly affordable housing units. I do not know the explanation for that, but I would be interested hear whether the hon. Gentleman, with his background in construction, has any thoughts on how we can increase the number of housing units in this country, so that we can tackle homelessness and boost the construction industry, jobs and employment.
Gordon Banks: I will address that in greater depth and detail in a few minutes, but the right solution is a joint public and private sector solution. The solution cannot be driven by one of those alone-it is not an either/or question.
The housing sector enjoyed some useful periods in recent years, prior to the recession. When it delivered large profits for many developers, it also delivered jobs in our economy. The sector was a driver for the economy, but the current situation in the private house building sector is absolutely desperate. There were 40,000 home loans in April 2010, which, if projected over a year, would be fewer than half a million. If that is the annual figure, it will be the lowest since 1974, yet the need for housing is ever growing, as the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart) pointed out. Our desire to own our properties continues to grow, and we should encourage such aspirations.
To generate jobs in the housing construction sector, we need to increase the number of higher loan-to-value products, and reduce the 25%, 30% and 35% deposit demands from the mortgage industry. The mortgage products that were on offer before the recession were unsustainable, and we had the ridiculous situation of lenders lending 125% of the value of properties. Everybody has responsibility for that-the Government, lenders and borrowers-but I am concerned that the cuts in interest rates in the past few years have not been passed on to mortgage deals. That is stifling the market, and therefore costing jobs. Although interest rates are an issue, the loan-to-value ratio is the main problem.
Catherine McKinnell: Does my hon. Friend share the concern that a constituent of mine raised with me this weekend? He and other young people he knows who work in the public sector in Newcastle are all in fear of losing their jobs. They had planned to move house, but they have put that on hold because of that fear, and they know that many of their contemporaries are in the same situation. There is a real worry about great damage being caused to the housing market, particularly in my region.
Gordon Banks: That is very well put. It is a real problem and so, too, more broadly, is the effect of public sector cuts on the private sector. That will stop the private sector growing and providing the jobs and profits that the Conservatives expect it to create to get us out of the mess we are in.
We need to get to a sustainable level of 90% loan-to-value mortgages to generate jobs in the sector, but it does not stop there. If someone buys a new car they put fuel in it, and because of efficiencies it is probably a lot less than they had to put in their old car. However, people who buy a home spend additional money. Ask any retailer and they will say that they need a buoyant housing market, both new and second-hand, for the high street to be a busy place. Home buyers purchase carpets, furniture, white goods, televisions, curtains and more. This is therefore the one industry that directly feeds the spending of considerable sums of money into other sectors.
In 2007 there were 357,800 first-time buyer mortgages, and the Halifax produced data that suggested that the cost of furnishing and equipping a new property is about £6,000, so that equates to about £2.14 billion of
high street spend from first-time buyers alone. If we multiply the original figure by the number of people in each property purchase chain, we see that the true amount of high street spend might be double or three times more. In short, support for jobs in the housing sector is delivered by the availability of appropriately priced mortgages, but that is lacking today.
Turning from housing to construction, I supported the last Government's commitment to bring forward capital spending projects, and I should pay tribute to the councils in my constituency and the last Labour Scottish Executive, who delivered six new secondary schools in recent years, and the health board, which has delivered a new community hospital. I am also grateful for the introduction of rail services to Alloa and the new Clackmannanshire bridge.
All those projects were started under Labour. They are now finished, and because of the failure of the Scottish National party's Scottish Futures Trust there is nothing coming along behind them to match the brick-for-brick commitment we have been given. We heard in the House just this week about the Government's plans for the Building Schools for the Future programme, damaging our infrastructure, not giving children the best possible start and throwing people on to the scrap heap in what might be called the triple whammy. We need to invest in our infrastructure. Doing so improves the infrastructure, improves lives and creates jobs.
We also need an active home improvement market, but I fear that the recent announcement of the 20% VAT rate will decapitate what was beginning to look like a possible lifeline to the industry. The loss of 1.3 million jobs will not help either, but let me first deal with the VAT effect. Many Conservative Members derided the effectiveness of the last Government's reduction of the VAT rate to 15%. They said it would be ineffective, but we all know that that was not the case.
There are real worries in the building industry about the new VAT rise. It will harm in many ways. First, it will chase people away from embarking on improvements, and in doing so it will cost revenue and jobs-and if it costs jobs, it will cost even more revenue. It will encourage a black market as people turn to cash-in-hand jobs to save that 20%, and what will that do? It will lead to a loss of revenue. Cash-strapped home owners will become increasingly vulnerable, and the £170 million that was estimated to be taken on the housing sector black market this year looks set to grow.
Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): I am listening very closely to what my hon. Friend is saying. As a former Minister with responsibility for construction, I think the VAT increase on environmental improvements to homes is a major error, because it disincentivises people from making homes more energy-efficient. I cannot see a more short-sighted measure in the Budget.
My hon. Friend is right, and it is not just about the environmental or green side; it is also about quality of life. The quality of a property has a knock-on effect on children's ability to grow up and learn, so there will be a negative effect all round. I am not sure that he, as a former Minister with responsibility for construction, will enjoy what I am about to say, but I think there is a strong argument for reducing VAT to stimulate the economy, just as the last Government did,
but in a more targeted way. Reducing VAT to 5% on the labour element of home maintenance repair and improvement work could, as argued by Experian, create an extra 55,000 jobs this year alone. What the Government are doing will cost jobs. The views we have heard today about job growth are not shared by the Federation of Master Builders, which argues that 7,500 jobs will be lost in small and medium-sized enterprises in the construction sector this year alone as a result of the VAT increase. When the multiplier effect is taken into account, the effect on small and medium-sized construction companies in this year alone could be the loss of between 23,000 and 25,000 jobs.
Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): The hon. Gentleman mentions the construction industry, which I think is relevant to all hon. Members in the Chamber; it is certainly relevant to the area I represent. Does he agree that the Government should try in particular to help those aged 50 and over who have worked in the construction industry all their lives? They cannot get jobs anywhere else and find it hard to retrain.
Gordon Banks: I do agree, but I would much rather see them retained in the construction sector. There is a strong argument that the construction sector can drive economic growth in this country, and I would like the Government to take that forward.
As I said earlier when I intervened on my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), if we do not deliver skills learning for apprentices today, we will have a skills shortage in future and that will have an economic impact. That should not be tolerated, but we have to understand that struggling businesses do not take on apprentices; they survive day to day and fight day to day. The last thing they are thinking about is having an apprentice, because they are thinking about getting through the day without the bank phoning them.
When the construction industry loses jobs, there is a lack of focus on the resulting suffering because it does not affect 2,000 or 3,000 people all under one roof. They are in different places around the United Kingdom, and when jobs are lost, it is 20 jobs here and 40, 50 or 100 there. That makes it very difficult for the construction sector to show the impact of policies and to get through to the Government and people in general the impact of decisions. It is very easy to see what is happening when a car plant or a big manufacturing location is threatened with closure, but it is very difficult to take on board everything that is happening in the construction sector because it is so disparate and is spread throughout the UK.
Before I discuss my constituency, I make one last plea for the construction sector. It is vital for training, revenue and business growth, and it is vital for improving public services, which I want to improve. It is also vital for improving the quality of life of UK citizens. I strongly urge the Government to recognise that and to invest in it accordingly.
My constituency is quite large and varied, with a rural aspect to much of it. We have industry, of which we are very proud. Some of it is excellent. There are
businesses such as Highland Spring, Vector Aerospace, Owens-Illinois and Diageo, and I want to focus on two of those, their interdependence and the impact of the VAT increase. Diageo has long had an interest and a presence in Clackmannanshire. The county is very proud of that business, as it is of Owens-Illinois-or the Glassworks as it is called locally. The interdependence is that one of the companies produces the packaging for the product that the other produces.
My concern is that the VAT increase will impact negatively on product sales, which will impact negatively on the requirement for packaging. If that occurs, the safety valve will be jobs. It is not rocket science-it is simple and straightforward. In my opinion, and as we heard yesterday, the recent reduction in the budget deficit is a result of increased tax take arising from businesses getting back on their feet, from people being in work and from a return to growth. The VAT increase puts all that at risk. It is regressive, hits the poorest hardest and will result in job losses. It will not deliver the revenue necessary for the Treasury, and it could have a negative effect that might deliver a downward spiral. The VAT increase coupled with the axing of the future jobs fund makes the outlook anything but secure.
We have discussed today why the future jobs fund has been cut, and I am afraid that I and my Opposition colleagues do not understand why it has been cut. We also do not understand why the Prime Minister, who thinks it is a good idea, has decided to cut it. It is interesting to see some Liberal Democrats in the House this afternoon, because they think that the future jobs fund is a good thing, too, but have played their part in cutting it. In fact, the Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions, the hon. Member for Thornbury and Yate (Steve Webb), said:
"We have no plans to change or reduce existing government commitments to the Future Jobs Fund. We believe that more help is needed for young people, not less".
In Scotland, some 11,000 young people will be discarded as a result of the Prime Minister and the Lib Dems going back on their word. Much more can be said about the Government's support for jobs-or lack of it-but I will end by saying this. The VAT increase will cost jobs, axing the future jobs fund will cost jobs, and failing to recognise the importance of the construction and housing sectors will cost jobs. They will all cost revenue, ruin lives and put the recovery at risk. None of them are a chance worth taking.
Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. Before I call the next speaker, I would appreciate it if Members could try to aim for 11-minute speeches. If they do not, not everybody will get in. I did not want to put the clock on, but I am being tempted. I understand that Members have a lot to say, but I ask them not to forget, if they take interventions, that if they can stick to around 11 minutes I will be much happier.
Elizabeth Truss (South West Norfolk) (Con):
We have heard a lot of talk from the other side of the House about jobs and growth, but over the past 13 years we
have seen illusory growth and illusory jobs that have been fuelled by public spending and paid for by unsustainable debt. Let me give an example: the National Audit Office published a report that suggested that between 2002 and 2007 the jobs created by regional development agencies cost £60,000 each. For every new job, the Government effectively spent £60,000. Such a level of public sector job creation is not the way that we will increase jobs in the long term.
There has also been a lot of talk about evidence, but if we consider the evidence of what creates growth and what creates jobs-I have looked at some international Treasury studies on this-we see that the most productive area of public spending as regards growth is infrastructure spending and the second most productive in terms of growth and jobs is education spending. That is where the Government should be focused and that is where we are rightly focused.
Mr Lammy: In the light of what the hon. Lady has just said, which was put very well, will she make representations to the Government about the closure of the Building Schools for the Future programme, which is at the centre of both education and infrastructure in this country?
Elizabeth Truss: The evidence suggests that the most productive education spending is that on the quality of teaching, not on the quality of the buildings. I am happy to discuss that further with the right hon. Gentleman, and I will do so by letter if he likes.
Moving on to the reports that demonstrate that infrastructure spending is the most effective way to spend, it is not just those in ivory towers who think that-indeed, the Library agrees-but local businesses in my constituency do, too. I asked them to give me their priorities for what the Government should do for South West Norfolk businesses. They said, "No. 1: improve the road and rail links. No. 2: get the performance up in our schools, so that we have the skills that we need locally." That is what people say.
Gavin Shuker (Luton South) (Lab/Co-op): In the light of what the hon. Lady has just said, will she say a few words about the cancellation of the A14 project, which is vital to her region and my region in the east of England?
Elizabeth Truss: I am in the process of making representations on the A11, which is a crucial project that would open up businesses in Norfolk. We should assess such projects-I shall come to this later in my speech-on the basis of economic return. We have a very small pot now, owing to what has happened and the money that has been spent in the past few years, and we need to use that pot wisely. I should like to see the evidence on those various roads and consider the highest rates of return. That is my answer to the hon. Gentleman's point.
Given that businesses would like growth to be created in that way, so that they can create jobs, where have the last Government spent the money? Have they spent it on infrastructure? The World Economic Forum report suggests that Britain is sixth in terms of gross domestic product. Where do hon. Members think that we are on the infrastructure table after 13 years of Labour
Government? We are thirty-fourth. That record has created the problems that we see: new jobs are not being created in the private sector because the money was not spent. Not only did the last Government fail to fix the roof while the sun was shining, they failed to fix the roads while the sun was shining, and we are left with that legacy. We are left with a difficult position. Not only are there potholes in our roads, but there is a huge hole in our budget. We must ensure that we spend on things that provide value for money.
Elizabeth Truss: Such decisions should be based on the economic return, as I have said. That is how we should consider spending our money. The problem with the previous Government is that the money has gone on politically motivated white elephants, to gain good results in Government elections or to placate interest groups. We have not seen value for money.
Mr Edward Timpson (Crewe and Nantwich) (Con): Is one of the other areas on which the previous Government wasted a huge amount of public money the most convoluted procurement processes for the spending of taxpayers' money? That money should have been spent on the infrastructure that my hon. Friend has spoken about so well.
Elizabeth Truss: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Not only was the analysis of where the money was spent incorrect, but the processes by which it was spent were cumbersome. I believe that the Building Schools for the Future process had nine stages. That has taken a lot of money that could have been used to create real jobs in our economy, by improving our infrastructure and education. I completely agree.
We have heard a lot of arguments from Opposition Members about how people would support a particular fund or a particular level of spending, but we have not seen a cost-benefit analysis. We have limited funds. We need to prove that those funds are better used on one project, such as the future jobs fund, or another project, whether that is the A14 or the A11. We have not seen such analysis. What we have heard from Opposition Members is a number of anecdotes. I do not think that anecdote is a good way to conduct government. We need to conduct government on the basis of evidence.
I would. That is not to say that everything spent by RDAs was wrong. There have been many good projects. But the way it was spent and prioritised did not use Government money to its best effect. That is my point. That is why I want to see the Government assess projects on the basis of economic return, as I mentioned earlier to the hon. Member for Luton South (Gavin Shuker). I want the way in which
the projects are assessed to be fully open and transparent, so that we can have a proper debate about the best way to spend our limited money.
It will be growth on the basis of real jobs and on the basis of decent infrastructure, good railways and roads, that will seal our economic future in the right direction, not pursuing the initiatives and schemes that we have seen time and again during the past 13 years, frittering away valuable money. It is our money, not the Government's money. Ultimately, it is the money of all those in my constituency who pay taxes.
Alison McGovern: It is interesting to hear how fearful the hon. Lady is about incorrect spending on infrastructure projects and what she said about how the Labour Government wasted money. My region has seen great benefits from the improved infrastructure on the west coast main line, and we were looking forward to reconnecting the whole of our region, led by the RDA, with the Manchester rail hub. Will she call on Government Front-Bench Members to commit to those infrastructure projects? Will she acknowledge to the House that the money that was spent on infrastructure by the Labour Government was extremely helpful in resetting our national economy?
Elizabeth Truss: I am afraid that the hon. Lady's intervention illustrates the problem with Labour Members. They present schemes, but there is no ex-post or ex-ante analysis of their economic benefits. The hon. Lady asks a question, but does not produce the evidence. Again, I would be happy to discuss that with her later, but she did not present the evidence. We must have debate. Not only are we talking about what we are putting in, we are also talking about the benefits that we get out. We need an economic policy that is based on the costs and benefits and that talks about the important areas of spending. I am pleased that the Chancellor in his Budget decided not to reduce capital spending further, but to make sure that it will go ahead so as to have a proper basis for economic growth and jobs in the future. That is the important area that we need to be looking at.
Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle upon Tyne North) (Lab): I am delighted to follow the interesting speech of the hon. Member for South West Norfolk (Elizabeth Truss) on the need for an economic benefit analysis of every decision that is taken by Government. That is one of the factors that led to the devastation of many of the regions, because some things cannot be measured in pure economic benefit alone. There is also the social value of projects. That is why I want to address the House today on the disproportionate and unfair impact of Government spending cuts on the north-east of England-and, I am sure, on many other regions, but I speak for my own today.
In Newcastle upon Tyne North, we have many public sector workers, but we also have several major private employers, including Sage, Nestlé and Sanofi Aventis. Projects in recent years, such as Newcastle airport industrial estate, Newcastle Great Park developments and the development of many retail outlets, have diversified the local jobs market in Newcastle. None the less, many of my constituents are long-serving and dedicated public servants who stand to be directly and swiftly hit by the Lib-Con austerity drive.
In Newcastle upon Tyne North, the current situation has come as no surprise, because during the election campaign the now Prime Minister publicly identified the north-east as a region where spending was unsustainable and where public sector employment was simply too high. The first wave of public cuts were announced on 24 May, and now we have the ideologically motivated cuts laid down in the Budget.
Jim Shannon: It was not only Newcastle that was mentioned; it was also Northern Ireland. The Prime Minister was quick off the mark there. However, the level of public sector economic activity in Northern Ireland is almost 27%-5.2% above the UK average-and the dependence on public sector jobs is perhaps greater there than in other parts of the UK. I say to Government Members that it is important that the private sector is increased before anything happens to the public sector. I want everyone to be aware that the impact will be great, as the hon. Lady has said.
Catherine McKinnell: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. He is absolutely correct that those two regions were identified by the Prime Minister as specific targets for cuts. Recent announcements have made it clear that the future is particularly distressing for regions such as mine and that of the hon. Gentleman.
Mr Timpson: The hon. Lady suggests that the cuts announced in the Budget are ideologically driven, but does she accept that she stood on a manifesto promise at the last election to implement a 20% cut in departmental spending and a 50% cut in capital spending?
Catherine McKinnell: I thank the hon. Gentleman for highlighting the fact that the Labour Government stood on a manifesto accepting that cuts were necessary to reduce the deficit. That seems to be forgotten on many occasions when I and my hon. Friends are accused of not having announced any cuts.
Gordon Banks: Does my hon. Friend agree that we have seen a significant driver coming through-the 11% increase in the tax take this April-May compared with April-May last year-because of the growth in the economy? Does she also agree that growth is the best way to get the country out of recession and into growth, and to cut the deficit?
Catherine McKinnell: Absolutely, and I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. It is notable that, since the emergency Budget that we debated yesterday was announced, the growth forecasts have reduced as a result of that Budget.
I return to the subject that I want to address today: the impact of the Budget on the north-east. Approximately 266,000 people in the north-east are employed as public servants-almost one in three workers-and many of those individuals, and the families they support, live in Newcastle and the surrounding areas. Large-scale redundancies in the public sector, which are now certain, will be disastrous for the city's economy, which is, in turn, an engine for regional growth. The likely result will be lasting unemployment and an enforced exodus of talented professionals from what, during the past decade, has been a rapidly emerging region.
That is not the full picture, however. The public sector is so economically vital that it is not hard to imagine the impact of large-scale redundancies on private firms in the region. Simply throwing public sector workers out of their jobs will mean not only a loss of direct employment, but the devastation of private firms. More than in other areas of the country, such firms in my region depend upon revenue from public sector organisations.
That is directly linked to my next point, which is my deeply held opposition to the abolition of my region's very popular and highly respected development agency, One NorthEast, which is located in my constituency on Newburn Riverside park. Owing to massive cuts in Government spending on regional development, combined with the Liberal-Conservative pledge to transfer RDAs' functions to local authorities, the Government have announced, after damaging indecision and backtracking, that One NorthEast is to be abolished. Its closure will remove a vital local driver for recovery and eliminate a key means of building a stronger local private economy.
In March, the National Audit Office published its report on RDAs and concluded that £3.30 had been generated for every pound of Government funding given to them. A year ago, another investigation into RDA effectiveness, this time carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers, showed that for every public pound invested there had been a return of £4.50 to the private sector. The ill-thought-out shunting and transfer of some of the RDAs' roles-I presume not all of them-to under-resourced local authorities will be totally unworkable.
Nadhim Zahawi: The hon. Lady cites the PricewaterhouseCoopers report, but the Institute of Directors also produced a report on the RDAs, which showed that only 18% of directors thought that they made a contribution, and 60% thought that development would have taken place in the regions without the RDAs being in place. To cite selectively from PricewaterhouseCoopers is slightly misleading.
Catherine McKinnell: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, because it highlights my point that these issues cannot be examined as a whole across the UK. The situation in each region is incredibly different and unique, which is why the RDAs were so successful in particular parts of the country and why the removal of the north-east's RDA, which is successful and which business leaders across the region accept as a major driving force in the private economy, is a travesty.
Alison McGovern: My hon. Friend makes a very important point. Does she agree that regions are different, and that the previous Government used the movement of public sector jobs to regions such as the north-east and the north-west partly to save costs to the public purse?
Catherine McKinnell: Absolutely, and my hon. Friend rightly draws attention to some of the worrying consequences that will come out of the Budget. It will drive up unemployment and difficulties and increase public spending, particularly in the regions.
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