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Speech at the New Deal Conference, London 2000

Gordon Brown (Labour)

Location: London

Five years ago, we made a radical advance in our approach to employment policy, and proposed a wholly new programme - the New Deal to help young people back into work.

It was founded on an old ideal - of full employment - but based on new methods.

The principle that work was the best route out of poverty.

The belief that the overwhelming priority must be to get young people into real jobs, through a personal adviser service.

The importance of a partnership with the private sector.

The need for rights and opportunities to be accompanied by new responsibilities and obligations.

Because we are not complacent about levels of unemployment, now and into the next Parliament, we will continue to make radical advances in employment policy based on the founding principles of the New Deal .

And we do so at a time of possibility for our economy and for Britain - a platform of economic stability from which we can build, a steadily growing economy and a million job vacancies across the country.

Today, I want to set out four central challenges that I believe the New Deal must tackle:

First, lone parents? employment.

Research shows that if the lone parents who wanted to work were doing so, 75 per cent not 50 per cent would be in work. But the problem is that many lone parents face real barriers to doing so.

So today, having met our challenging objective for the New Deal for young people, we set with our new programme Choices to be nationwide from April a new challenging objective for lone parent employment - that, by the end of the decade, we reach 70 per cent of lone parents in employment.

Increasing lone parent employment rates from one of the worst in the industrialised world to one of the best.

Second, the rate of worklessness for partners of the unemployed is 57 per cent. Having begun in this Parliament to bring partners of unemployed men under 25 into the New Deal, we will consider extending the New Deal to all those women under 45 in unemployed couples without children - 55,000 more people - extending at the same time responsibilities to work.

Third, to tackle the problems of people and places too long excluded from prosperity in areas where unemployment is more than twice the national average, we are consulting on a ,1bn package of measures to encourage economic regeneration in our deprived areas, including new stamp duty relief in deprived areas and tax credits for community investment.

But we must go further in strategically addressing the problems and particular needs of local areas, through action teams often involving private sector intermediaries. John Prescott, David Blunkett and I have agreed that Regional Development Agencies will work with the Employment Service, Learning and Skills Councils and local employers, drawing up local full employment plans. For all areas of the country they will report on local labour market trends, likely growth areas in employment and the particular skill needs of localities, and tackle all barriers to unemployment with greater local flexibility to do so.

Fourth, although we have cut long-term unemployment by 60 per cent and cut youth unemployment by 70 per cent, we will not be satisfied until we have removed the scar of long-term unemployment from the face of Britain. We shall do so by matching obligations with opportunities. From next April, we are introducing a national New Deal for the over 25's on the same basis as the New Deal for the under 25's - with options of work and training there will be sanctions for those who fail to take up the options of what is available to them.

And for those guilty of fraud, as Alistair Darling will make clear, we will legislate a policy - two strikes and you're out - disqualification from benefit for 13 weeks for those convicted for a second time of cheating the system.

While the Government would extend and strengthen the New Deal, others would abolish the New Deal, leaving thousands of unemployed out of work on benefit. We have got them back to work.

And if we stay the course, the prize is substantial - to bring hope and opportunity back to millions more people left out.

Cut the costs of economic and social failure to the benefit of everyone.

And ensure that the economy can sustain higher growth with low inflation for longer, bringing higher living standards for all.

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