In May 2009, there were 1,516,921 jobseeker’s allowance claimants in Great Britain, and 1,416 in the Preseli Pembrokeshire constituency.
Unemployment in my constituency has gone up by more than 100 per cent. in the past 12 months. One piece of good news is the new RWE gas-fired power station, which will create 2,000 jobs during its construction phase at the site in Pembroke. My constituents well understand that Ministers cannot guarantee jobs for British workers, let alone Pembrokeshire workers, but what steps has the Minister taken through his Department and through Jobcentre Plus to ensure that people in my constituency are at the front of the queue for the construction and engineering jobs being created at that site?
The hon. Gentleman is clearly right: as a result of the global recession—the first global recession for many years—unemployment has risen, but he will of course have noted that long-term unemployment has fallen by 94 per cent. in his constituency, and long-term youth claimant unemployment has fallen by 73 per cent. in his constituency. The important thing for us is that we have a sufficiently active welfare state to turn people around when they become unemployed and get them back into work as quickly as possible. Thanks to the welfare reforms that the Government have put in place, we have made good progress on that. As for getting his constituents to the front of the queue, I continue to meet my colleagues at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and work through some of those interesting issues.
In constituencies such as that of the hon. Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Mr. Crabb) and in mine, where technology has removed many jobs from the petrochemical sector, there have been structural changes over recent years that have required a change of approach by everyone—local authorities, the Department and employees in the community. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that he works closely with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Communities and Local Government to ensure that the structural changes that are going on are supported by the Government, and that we see moves into the new kinds of jobs as quickly as possible?
I can certainly give my hon. Friend that reassurance. In my new role I will be working closely with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Communities and Local Government. One of the things that I am particularly keen to pursue is the opportunities created by bringing together skills and business in a single Department so that we can ensure we are keeping pace with the sort of changes that my hon. Friend mentions, and linking them into the employment work that we do in the Department for Work and Pensions.