New Deal

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Education and Employment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th March 1999.

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Photo of Andrew Smith Andrew Smith Minister of State (Department for Education and Employment) 12:00 am, 18th March 1999

I know the close personal interest that my hon. Friend takes in the new deal in his constituency, and that is greatly appreciated by all those responsible for the programme locally. As to the challenge of what the new deal could do for the Conservative party, I have always been careful about the claims that I make for the new deal and even I would not suggest that the new deal would be capable of bringing indolent Conservatives into the Chamber, even at this late hour in the morning.

The programme is giving young unemployed people in my hon. Friend's constituency and elsewhere the chance—for many of them for the first time in their lives—to obtain rewarding work. I agree that we must develop the flexibility to ensure that the gateway and other training support can equip people to fill the vacancies that are available. The increase to £5 million for the innovation fund for the new deal in the Budget will enable us to carry forward precisely the sort of initiative for which my hon. Friend argues on behalf of his local partnership and others.