Brown pledges £1bn on jobs for young

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Indy Politics

The Prime Minister today announced wide-ranging reforms to boost employment and give people greater guarantees on public service standards.

Unveiling the Government's legislative plans for the year to the next election, Gordon Brown told the Commons the Government would spend £1 billion to create 100,000 jobs for young people and another 50,000 in areas of high unemployment.

In a statement to the House of Commons, Mr Brown unveiled the draft legislative programme which will form the bulk of this autumn's Queen's Speech.

The Premier said: "There is a real choice for our country - driving growth forward or letting the recession take its course; creating jobs for the future or doing nothing."

Promising not to "walk away from the British people during difficult times," he said an Energy Bill would support up to four commercial scale carbon capture and storage demonstration plants.

There would be a £150 million "innovation fund" for biotechnology, life sciences, low carbon technologies and advanced technologies, that would lever-up £1 billion in private sector investment.

Mr Brown said the Government would also treble investment in housing to £2.1 billion.

But Tory leader David Cameron dismissed the plans as "top-down bureaucratic tinkering". He said there was no "price tag" on the package and asked when somebody would tell the Prime Minister that he had "run out of money".

The Prime Minister's statement came after Business Secretary Lord Mandelson indicated the Government will not set out a fresh set of public spending plans before the next General Election.

In what amounted to a mini-manifesto, designed to establish clear blue water between Labour and the Conservatives, Mr Brown said the Government would legislate in the next session to remove the last hereditary peers from the Lords.

A Bill would also provide for the disqualification of peers "where there is reason to do so".

There would be a draft Bill to create a "smaller and democratically constituted second chamber."

On health reforms, he said there would be a guarantee that nobody needing to see a cancer specialist would have to wait more than two weeks. No one would have to wait more than 18 weeks for hospital treatment.

Mr Brown said as the Government sought to move the economy out of recession, it was setting out steps to support growth and jobs.

"In the last two recessions tens of thousands of young people were written off to become a generation lost to work - a mistake this Government will not repeat."

The new initiatives were to be paid for from spending allocations made in the Budget and from "switches in spending" to meet new priorities.

Starting from January every young person under 25 unemployed for a year or more will receive a guaranteed job, work experience or training place.

But they will have an "obligation" to accept that guaranteed offer.

"This is the first time that any Government has guaranteed that jobs and training will be available to young people and, crucially, has made it mandatory for young people that, if there is a job available, to take this work up and have their benefits cut if they do not."

He said £1 billion was being set aside for the future jobs fund that will provide 100,000 jobs for young people, with another 50,000 in areas of high unemployment.

"In total .... we are preventing the loss of around 500,000 jobs."

Mr Brown said the Government would use the autumn's Queen's Speech, the last before an election, to push ahead with new opportunities in low carbon energy, digital technology and bioscience.

The Energy Bill will provide support for up to four commercial-scale carbon capture and storage demonstration plant for Britain.

Between now and 2020 around £100 billion would be invested by the private sector in renewable energy, making Britain a "major global player" in the low carbon market, with "another 400,000 green jobs by 2017".

The Digital Economy Bill will underpin investment in the high-sped broadband network and an innovation fund will provide £150 million of public money to pump prime private investment in new technologies.

He said there would be a new drive to improve the country's infrastructure, with the creation of a new body Infrastructure UK.

An Asset Sales Board will aim to achieve a target of £16 billion in sales to provide money for investment in public services.

"These investments will strengthen our economy and create new jobs. We believe investment by Government and the private sector will enable the economy to create, over the next five years, 1.5 million new skilled jobs in Britain."

But Conservative leader David Cameron responded: "The Prime Minister is living in a dream world, in which investment is going up, spending is going up - when is someone going to tell him he has run out of money?

"People are entitled to ask, simply, what world is he living in?"

He dismissed the Premier's announcements as "a package without a price tag" and "re-hashed initiatives".

Mr Brown said that from next January, all under-25s who have been out of work for a year will receive a guaranteed job, work experience or training place which they will be obliged to take up.

From September, all 16-17-year-olds will receive an offer of a school, college, training or apprenticeship place.

He said legislation in the Queen's Speech will seek to ensure that the British economy is "best placed" to take advantage of opportunities in the industries of the future, including low-carbon energy, digital technology, financial services, bioscience, advanced manufacturing and transport.

This will include an Energy Bill to support up to four carbon capture and storage power plants to help make Britain a "major global player in the low carbon market".

Private sector investment in low carbon energy can be expected to reach £100 billion by 2020, while more than one million could be employed in the sector by 2017, he said.

A Digital Economy Bill will pave the way for universal broadband access by 2012 and a nationwide high-speed network by 2016.

And a new £150 million Innovation Fund will "lever in" £1 billion of private money for the hi-tech sector.

These and other measures would help create 1.5 million new skilled jobs in Britain over the next five years.

Mr Brown said that, by reallocating funds, the Government would more than treble investment in housing to £2.1 billion, financing 110,000 affordable homes over 24 months.

Local authorities are to be given new powers to give priority to local people on the social housing waiting lists and there will be a consultation on changes to allow them to retain all proceeds from council house sales and rent.

Mr Brown said a Financial Services and Business Bill would take forward "far-reaching" reforms of financial supervision triggered by the economic crisis, including a ban on unsolicited credit card cheques.

The new public service "entitlements" will largely replace Labour's flagship programme of targets pursued under Tony Blair.

NHS patients will have enforceable entitlements to prompt treatment and care, including a guaranteed two-week maximum wait to see a cancer specialist, a free health check for all over-40s and a limit of 18 weeks on the waiting list for hospital treatment.

Parents will be given a guarantee of "individually tailored education" for their child, with personal tutoring for all those who need it.

And residents will be given more power to hold local police to account at monthly beat meetings, to have a say on CCTV use in their neighbourhoods and to vote on how offenders "pay back" to their communities.

A Policing, Crime and Private Security Bill will give officers more time on the beat by cutting paperwork.

And the points-based immigration system will be extended to probationary citizenship, ensuring that migrants who contribute to society have a better chance of gaining British citizenship.

On Lords reform, Mr Brown said that in the next session the Government will legislate to "remove the hereditary principle from the second chamber", along with a draft bill for a "smaller and democratically constituted" upper house.