Does my right hon. Friend agree that special advisers have highly unusual terms and conditions of service? Not only are their salaries arbitrarily linked to the remuneration that they received before they took their posts, thus causing the ridiculous differential between a merchant banker and an academic, but there is no scope for performance-related pay thereafter. Of more concern, perhaps, is the fact that about 50 per cent. of special advisers earn more than the Ministers they advise. Is it not about time that this ludicrous situation was sorted out?
My hon. Friend makes a number of important points on an area of responsibility that passed from my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to me and my Department last month. I should be grateful if my hon. Friend could give me time to ponder the significance of some of them. I will then certainly consider reviewing the policy in the way that he has suggested.
Will the Chancellor find out whether there is a special adviser at the Department of Employment? If there is, will he send him or her to my constituency to find out why and how the Allerton outreach team has had such remarkable success in placing unemployed people in jobs and full-time training? Will the adviser then go back to London and persuade the Secretary of State for Employment to ensure that the team's funding, which has come from the Department over the past few months, is continued so that its remarkable success may continue and the unemployment toll in my constituency be significantly reduced?
I will raise with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment the points that the hon. Gentleman has made, but I hope that he will recognise that there has been a significant fall in the number of unemployed people in this country, with 1,000 people coming off the dole every day for the past two years. It is about time that Opposition Members realised the facts, which are appreciated widely throughout the country: that the Government are responsible for the economic policies that are reducing the rate of unemployment.