MPs' visits to jobless trainees face veto

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

THE Department of Employment will be able to veto visits by MPs to compulsory training sessions for unemployed people due to be introduced in April, writes Barrie Clement.

If the department objects to the visit, the provider of the programme must cancel it or 'provide assurances to the satisfaction of the department that such a visit will not be prejudicial to the conduct of the programme'. The Government is demanding seven days' notice of any inspection.

The rule will also apply to journalists who want to visit the week- long 'Jobplan Workshops' which people out of work for more than a year will be forced to attend or lose 40 per cent of their benefits.

The department wants one of its 'authorised representatives' to accompany visitors to 'assist . . . in the provision of information'.

Tony Lloyd, Labour's training spokesman, said the regulations displayed government paranoia. 'Any MP should expect to have access to government schemes in his or her constituency. It's part of an MP's role to make sure that constituents are getting fair treatment from the Government.'

A spokeswoman for the department said the Government was anxious that MPs and members of the press be allowed to visit the programmes, provided they went as bona fide representatives of the public.

The Government is to call a halt to the spread of 'voluntarism' in the delivery of vocational training. Gillian Shephard, Secretary of State for Employment, has decided to keep the Construction Industry Training Board, which has the statutory power to collect a levy from employers.