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Man from the Pru to lead welfare-to-work team

The chairman of the Prudential insurance group, Sir Peter Davis, is to head the task force that will oversee Labour's welfare-to-work programme, it emerged last night.

Sir Peter, who is currently starring in a series of advertisements for pensions from the Pru, is the latest business supremo to be appointed by the Government, following in the footsteps of Lord Simons, formerly of BP, Martin Taylor from Barclays Bank and Alan Sugar of Amstrad.

His appointment to the welfare-to-work task force is being described as a coup for the Secretary of State for Education and Employment.

Mr Blunkett was in Brighton yesterday addressing members of the GMB general union where he called for a new unionism.

He said that the welfare-to-work programmes "must not be a pale imitation of the make-work schemes of the past" but rather be high-quality initiatives that would offer young people the opportunity "to learn as well as earn".

Sir Peter will report to the Cabinet sub-committee on welfare-to-work which is headed by the Chancellor, Gordon Brown. As well as Mr Blunkett, he will also work alongside the employment minister, Andrew Smith.

On Monday, Mr Blunkett said the welfare-to-work programme was a "hand- up not a hand-out".

He said it was a key weapon in the "fight to stop the growth of an underclass in Britain" by "combating the dependency culture".Too many people in Britain have slipped through the labour market and this is an appalling waste of potential for which we all pay the price.

"We have the responsibility to offer people decent employment or training opportunities and these will be available under the new deal," he said.

The Government aims to offer private sector jobs to 250,000 young unemployed people to be boosted by a pounds 60-a-week subsidy for each of them, or full-time training, or work on the planned environmental task force.

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