Backbench Business

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:08 pm on 16th March 2017.

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Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions 4:08 pm, 16th March 2017

I can. I was going to come on to Lewisham and some of the points that the hon. Lady raised on London, but I will address it now. Overall, the estate is 20% under-utilised, but that does not mean to say that in every individual jobcentre there is exactly 20% of unused space. In terms of the utilisation rates, there is a wide range in individual jobcentres and between cities, when we take the total estate in that city into account. There is no complacency at all about the strength of the labour market in London, Sheffield or Glasgow, or in any other place. In all of the locations that we operate from throughout the United Kingdom, jobcentre staff are focused night and day on helping people to get into work.

In the case of Lewisham, the landlord did not want to re-lease and we believe that 2.1 miles to the Forest Hill location is a reasonable distance to ask people to travel additionally. As the hon. Lady will realise, the London property market is an expensive place to have real estate and there are particular challenges with finding premises in London. We think that the estate we have across London is reasonable in terms of asking people to get around.