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21 Oct 2002 : Column 105W—continued


Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many crimes involving firearms occurred in (a) 2000–01 and (b) 2001–02. [74109]

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Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The number of recorded crimes involving firearms in the year ending March 2002 is not yet available. The numbers of such crimes in the previous year, which were published in ''Criminal Statistics England and Wales 2000'' in December 2001, were 7,362 recorded crimes in which a firearm other than an air weapon was used, and 10,227 recorded crimes in which an air weapon was used.


European Union Institutions

Mr. Allen: To ask the President of the Council what percentage of hon. Members have used the facility of a visit to an EU institution in each of the years for which figures are available; and what steps he has taken to encourage greater take up of this facility. [73725]

Mr. Robin Cook: The number of hon. Members who have visited EU institutions under this scheme is as follows:

YearNo of MembersPercentage (%)
2002–3 (first six months)7611.5

The ''quick guide'' to members' allowances contains details of the entitlement. This was sent out to all Members in May, and further copies are available from the Department of Finance and Administration.

The House itself approved an amendment of the scheme on 9 May, to allow up to three visits each year to national parliaments of EU member states and those of candidate countries, in addition to EU institutions in Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxembourg.

I understand that Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) officials are ready to assist Members using the allowance, and I am pleased my hon. Friend has given me the opportunity to remind Members of its existence.


Structural Unemployment

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many parliamentary constituencies have levels of unemployment of 2 per cent. or less. [73075]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: The number of constituencies with claimant unemployment rates of 2 per cent. or less is 187. In 1997 there were only 44.

Our policies have reduced claimant unemployment by over 40 per cent. in the last five years. And it is not just these constituencies that have benefited; unemployment has fallen in every area across the country.

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New Deal

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the New Deal for 50 plus. [73076]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: New Deal 50 plus has been successful with over 81,000 people so far moving into work and claiming the Employment Credit. Evaluation of the programme has shown that it is providing people with the increased motivation and confidence they need to find work.

The success of New Deal 50 plus is contributing to our wider campaign to tackle age discrimination and improve prospects of older people.

Mrs. Anne Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the take-up of the New Deal for Lone Parents. [73077]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: By the end of June this year nearly 300,000 lone parents had participated in the New Deal and over half of these had found work, including 170 in my hon. Friend's constituency.

We are continuing to roll out compulsory Personal Adviser meetings for lone parents claiming Income Support. These meetings ensure that lone parents find out about the New Deal and all the other help and support we have introduced to enable them to move into work.

Mr. Rooney: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the New Deal for lone parents. [73088]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: We know that nine out of ten lone parents want to work and the New Deal for Lone Parents, along with a wide range of measures we have introduced, is helping them to help themselves. Since 1997 the number of lone parents dependent on Income Support has fallen by over 150,000.

The New Deal for Lone Parents is part of our long-term investment to make a real difference to the lives of lone parents and lift them and their children out of poverty.

Mr. Khabra: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to increase the involvement of employers in the formulation of New Deal programmes. [73094]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: Employers are a key partner in the achievement of our objectives to tackle poverty by helping more people move into work. We want employers to have a strong voice in the development of our welfare to work policies and services.

The National Employment Panel is an employer-led body that provides independent advice to Ministers on the design, delivery and performance of the UK Government's labour market policies and programmes. Its remit encompasses all the New Deals and other welfare to work activities delivered by the Department and its partner organisations at both national and local levels.

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Progress 2 Work Scheme

Ann Coffey: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the Progress 2 Work Scheme for recovering drug mis-users. [73078]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: We are introducing progress2work to give unemployed people who are recovering from their drug problem the extra help they need to get into work.

Progress2work provides additional specialist support to help recovering drug users to make the best use of our welfare to work initiatives. It will also equip Jobcentre Plus staff with the skills and knowledge they need to better identify, and refer to appropriate provision, people whose drug misuse puts them at a disadvantage in the labour market. And it will bring more local and national co-ordination to provision in this field.

We launched the first progress2work projects in the spring in 27 pathfinder areas throughout the country. The second phase of the initiative begins in a further 36 areas from this month, and we plan to roll out the programme nationally from next year.

Lawrie Quinn: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what help he will give to people considered by employers to be unemployable. [73087]

Mr. Nicholas Brown: We are committed to the goal of employment opportunity for all. Building on a foundation of a strong and stable economy, we have introduced measures to ensure that everyone of working age has the chance, and is encouraged, to be in work.

In April we launched Jobcentre Plus to deliver work focused support for all people claiming working age benefits. Jobcentre Plus will provide a single, integrated service, providing people with the help they need to move into work, and working closely with employers to encourage them to open up more job opportunities to Jobcentre Plus clients.

Our New Deals are providing the help people need to overcome the barriers they face when trying to move into work. The New Deals have already helped nearly three-quarters of a million people move into work and improved the job prospects of thousands more by giving them the skills, experience and confidence to succeed in the labour market.

We are also introducing further measures to help those people who continue to face significant barriers to work. For example:

Rural Employment

Mr. Russell Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what policies he is pursuing to assist the long-term unemployed in rural areas. [73090]

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Mr. Nicholas Brown: Since 1997 long-term unemployment in rural areas has been cut by 78 per cent. Our policies, based on the foundation of a strong and stable economy, have played an important part in this success.

The New Deals have helped nearly three quarters of a million people in all parts of the country move off benefit and into work. They have performed particularly well in rural areas. For example, nearly 60 per cent. of those leaving the New Deal for Young People in rural areas have moved into jobs.

Employment Zones and Action Teams for Jobs are helping people from the most deprived areas of the country move into work. The Action Teams and Employment Zones operating in predominantly rural areas have between them helped over 11,500 people into jobs.

With the introduction of Jobcentre Plus, we aim to make our services more accessible to a wider group of people. We are building on the services we already offer over the telephone and internet such as Jobseeker Direct and Worktrain. We are also developing new ways of bringing Jobcentre Plus services to those who need them through, for example, mobile offices covering remote areas.

We have introduced a number of initiatives to help unemployed people in rural areas overcome the transport barriers they may face. The New Deal can, for example, help participants meet the costs of travelling to their work or training placement. The Adviser Discretion Fund, which we introduced in July 2001, allows New Deal Personal Advisers to spend up to #300 to help individuals overcome barriers to work, including transport difficulties.

Employment Zones and Action Teams for Jobs are also helping overcome transport problems in rural areas, for example, by giving grants to clients for the purchase of scooters, bicycles or other vehicles to help them get to work. They can also help with the cost of taxing or insuring vehicles. In addition, they have helped to set up and subsidise bus routes to take jobless people to areas where work is available and run car lease schemes.

To build on this success, in April we launched the Transport Projects Fund, worth #5 million a year. Action Teams can bid for additional money from the Fund to support innovative transport projects that will benefit the local community.

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