Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda and Marks & Spencer have joined forces with the government to encourage the long-term unemployed back to work.

Revealed by Chancellor Gordon Brown in yesterday's Budget, the retailers have signed up to a Local Employment Partnership Scheme where they will work with local job centres to offer work trials and work experience schemes to the unemployed, and commit to one-to-one mentoring of long-term unemployed people to help prepare them for a return to work.

The scheme would help create as many as 100,000 jobs in the UK over the next five years, Brown said.

“Some of our most committed colleagues are ones that have spent a large proportion of their lives on benefits or facing long-term unemployment,” said Asda's people director David Smith.

“Stores like Breck Road in Liverpool, where 60% of the workforce were from long-term unemployed backgrounds, are a shining example of the untapped potential these people have to offer. We look forward to welcoming them into our business,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Chancellor increased tax on cigarettes by 11p. Tax on wine rose by 5p a bottle, with beer and cider up 1p. The duty on spirits was frozen.