To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what progress is being made by his Department in reducing unemployment in rural areas; and if he will make a statement.
Information on unemployment in rural areas is not readily available. However, an independent unemployment analysis carried out for the Development Commission for Rural England suggests that rural areas are sharing in the general drop in unemployment. The analysis estimated that the average unemployment rate in the Development Commission's rural development areas as a whole fell from 10·4 per cent. in the year to April 1987. During the same period, the unemployment rate nationally fell from 11·5 per cent. to 10·9 per cent. and since then has fallen further to 9·4 per cent.My Department is playing its part with other interested Departments in fostering these improvements by helping rural economies to diversify and generate new jobs through support for local enterprise agencies, encouragement of rural enterprise, our enterprise, employment and training measures.