Select Committee on Work and Pensions Third Report


I. Introduction


1. The Committee agreed to undertake the inquiry on 28 November 2001. A Press Notice announcing the study and inviting written evidence was released on 5 March. At the outset the intention was to undertake an inquiry mainly focussed on the effects of an economic downturn on the Government's employment strategy, but as the written evidence in response to the invitation to submit evidence arrived it became clear that, while there was a general consensus that the strategy was effective, there were wider issues on which witnesses wished to comment and into which the Committee should inquire. The Committee therefore decided to widen the study to examine the Government's employment strategy in its entirety and in so doing to embrace the various matters on which witnesses had commented.

The Inquiry

2. We received written evidence from a wide variety of witnesses and took oral evidence on four occasions, including groups representing employers, organisations active in the jobs and training field, Trades Union Congress (TUC), Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) and experts in the employment policy area.[1] The Government's employment strategy is not solely the responsibility of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Committee therefore took oral evidence from officials of three other Departments having policies which affect employment: the Department for Education and Skills (DfES); the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the (then) Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLR).

3. We considered it was important to see for ourselves how some of the Government's initiatives were actually working and to compare the experience here with similar initiatives overseas. The Committee first visited Birmingham to see a particularly successful Employment Zone and talked to clients, the contractor, the local Jobcentre Plus officials, Birmingham City Council, and to others who were involved.[2] The Committee then visited three particularly relevant cities in the United States of America: Philadelphia, Portland and Seattle, where the employment problems being tackled were of a broadly similar size and scale.[3]

4. Our final oral evidence session was with the Rt Hon Nick Brown, Minister for Work, Mr Leigh Lewis, the Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus and a senior DWP official.[4] We are extremely grateful to all those individuals and organisations that assisted our inquiry.

5. Throughout the inquiry the Committee was assisted by its Specialist Advisers, Mr Paul Convery and Mr Dave Simmonds, Directors of the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion. We are enormously grateful to both of them for their valued advice and assistance.

1   The memoranda submitted are listed on pages 88 and 89. Back

2   A note of the Committee visit to Birmingham is included as Annex 1 to the Report. See page 51. Back

3   A note of the Committee visit to the United States is included as Annex 2 to the Report. See page 64. Back

4   The list of witnesses is on page 86. Back

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