The number of people in the UK claiming jobseeker’s allowance in October was 980,900. In Hammersmith and Fulham, the number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance was 2,188.
The Minister for London will know that at 7.4 per cent., London’s unemployment rate is already the second highest of any UK region. Indeed, it is significantly higher than in either Scotland or Northern Ireland, which receive big public subsidies. Hammersmith and Fulham already suffers from a high unemployment rate. If the Minister came to my constituency, he would see shops and restaurants closing down and overcrowding on the tube and buses declining. Does he agree that now is the time to take another look at the amount of subsidy that London is paying the rest of the country, in an effort to do something about unemployment in our capital city?
I do not accept the hon. Gentleman’s starting characterisation. What I accept is that London’s employment is particularly high. However, we cannot, as he implied we could, tell the nation—quite rightly—that the Olympics are a matter for the nation and not just London, or tell colleagues that something as significant as Crossrail is a national infrastructure asset, rather than something just for London, and then demand money back because of the geographic location of the City of London. It is utterly simplistic, but not uncommon for the hon. Gentleman, to put things in those terms. Indeed, given the characterisation of London that he draws, he might want to explain—in writing would be perfectly fine—how an amnesty for every illegal immigrant in London, which is currently his Mayor’s position, fits into it.
May I urge the Minister to reconsider the threat of closure that hangs over the Whitstable jobcentre, in my constituency, at a time when there is considerable unemployment along the north Kent coast? Unemployment is rising both nationally and regionally, and the proposal will hit some of the most vulnerable people in my constituency.
I announced in passing last week that, given the economic downturn, I thought it appropriate to review the position regarding not only the 25 closures but the future estate rationalisation plan. I received the hon. Gentleman’s letter last week, and I shall respond to him and other constituency MPs in due course.