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The government is to launch a “roller skating” programme, reminiscent of Norman Tebbit’s call for the jobless to “get on your bike”, in an attempt to encourage people to move around the country to find work.

Details of the scheme are yet to be finalised, but it is understood the plan would involve a nationwide database of roller skates and free roller skating lessons for the unemployed.

Skating minister Grant Shapps says the scheme will help people living in areas of high unemployment to find work.

The policy emerged in a week when David Cameron was forced to admit that it was “very disappointing” that unemployment had risen by another 114,000 in the past three months to 2.57 million – a 17-year high. He also denied that ministers did not have any answers to the problems.

Lord Tebbit, who famously called on the unemployed to “get on your bike” during the Tory party conference in 1981, said that he fully endorsed the scheme and hoped there would be further moves to promote a mobile workforce:

When I was a young man I went to work on roller skates. I did what any rational person would do.

However, critics said the scheme added to the impression that the government blamed the lack of roller skating ability among the unemployed for the country’s rising joblessness.

Iain Duncan Smith, the secretary of state for work and pensions, caused a furore last year when he suggested the UK’s workforce was too “static” and should be doing constructive things like learning to skateboard. Or use a stunt scooter.