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Volume 403: debated on Monday 14 April 2003

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If he will make a statement on the most recent unemployment rate in (a) Tamworth and (b) the UK.[108704]

Since 1997, the claimant unemployment rate in Tamworth has fallen by more than 40 per cent. In February, it stood at 2.9 per cent. That compares with the national rate of 3.1 per cent.

Our policies are providing a stable economic environment that is helping more people to move into work. We are building on this by promoting flexibility with fairness in the labour market, so that it can adapt to changing circumstances and deliver high and sustainable employment for the future.

Would my right hon. Friend like to congratulate organisations such as the Tamworth Programme Centre, which I shall visit on Wednesday? It works with Jobcentre Plus to get people back into employment. Does he agree that active labour market reforms have produced the record high employment that we have today, at a time of world recession? That runs counter to the idea that high unemployment kept the rate of inflation down and was therefore a price worth paying.

I join my hon. Friend in congratulating the centre in his constituency that is working in partnership with Jobcentre Plus. Partnership work such as that has, in Tamworth, cut long-term unemployment by 76 per cent. and long-term youth unemployment by 82 per cent. I am sure that the centre is looking forward to my hon. Friend's visit on Wednesday. Unemployment is never a price worth paying.