Thirteen careers services are now operating under contract after competitive tender, and tenders for 51 more in England and Wales are being considered. We have set demanding specifications for a high standard of impartial advice from ages 11 to 18.
Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating Sheffield careers service on winning its investors in people award, the first service in the region to do so? What are the Government doing to ensure that best practices are maintained in the careers service?
I congratulate Sheffield careers service on receiving its investors in people award, as I congratulate all the 1,000 or so businesses and organisations that have won that award. My hon. Friend is right to concentrate on the need to spread best practice, which is why we are working closely with the Department for Education. The two Departments recently produced a booklet called "Better Choices", which lays down a suggested framework for schools, colleges, local education authorities, training and enterprise councils and careers services to work together.
While the Minister is congratulating himself, will he give us some information about the career guidance that he will give the 11,500 jobcentre staff in London who have been asked to take an unpaid Christmas holiday due to the administrative pay budget shambles, or the 750 workers who have today been sacked by Severn-Trent water company? Those job losses are in addition to the 900 job losses already announced by Severn-Trent, although its chairman has been given a £173,000 pay rise and a £500,000 pay-off on leaving the job. Is not John Maples absolutely right about the Government—that Ministers are incompetent and that there are record levels of sleaze and greed? It is no wonder that there is no national feel-good factor.
I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his new position, but he is obviously so intent on making his mark that he has not read the question. His question had nothing to do with careers guidance, about which my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Sir I. Patnick) asked. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would take comfort from the fact that unemployment has fallen by 450,000 in the past two years, as a result of which there is less need for quite as many Employment Service staff.