Labour recycles old policies in 'New Deal' for youth

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Indy Politics
Tony Blair and four of his Shadow Cabinet ministers yesterday launched a "New Deal for a Lost Generation" of young people in an attempt to unite a fractious high command and to answer criticisms that "new" Labour lacks concrete policies.

Mr Blair led a show of unity behind a programme which largely brought together policies which had already been announced. These included plans by the shadow Chancellor, Gordon Brown, to cut the dole for young people who refuse training places and to withdraw child benefit from the parents of 16- to 18-year-old students.

The main elements of the "New Deal", which are intended to form part of the pre- election manifesto which will be put to a ballot of all party members in December are:

The Youth Training programme to be replaced by Target 2000 to ensure all 19-year-olds have basic skills of literacy, numeracy, computer ability and teamwork.

Every 18- to 25-year-old to be offered four options: full-time education; employment (with a pounds 60-a-week tax subsidy for employers of long-term unemployed young people); and voluntary service and work on a green task force, both of which would pay a "wage" higher than benefits.

After six months out of work, young people "have an obligation to avail themselves of one of the options". Benefit will be cut by 40 per cent for those who refuse.

Benefits system to be changed to encourage voluntary work and to allow people to study part-time while claiming.

Child benefit for mothers of 16- to 18-year-olds to be "reviewed".

Yesterday's launch took place in the wake of a bitter struggle between Mr Brown and shadow ministers, especially the social security spokesman, Chris Smith, over policy documents to be debated at the National Policy Forum in Manchester this weekend.

Mr Smith's policy paper on helping people to move from "welfare into work" has been blocked by Mr Brown, because it contained measures which would increase public spending in the short term.

There will be just one policy paper on social security - on the Child Support Agency. This contains the only spending commitment allowed by Mr Brown's Treasury team: an increase of up to pounds 50m a year in public spending on lone mothers.