Skip to main content

Jobseeker’s Allowance (New Forest, West)

Volume 495: debated on Monday 29 June 2009

14. How many jobseeker’s allowance claimants there were in (a) the UK and (b) New Forest, West constituency on the latest date for which figures are available. (282361)

In May 2009, as we have just heard, there were 1,516,921 jobseeker’s allowance claimants in Great Britain, and 963 in the New Forest, West constituency.

That figure of 963 has increased faster than the comparable figure in almost any other constituency in the land, principally because of the large number of small businesses that are located in the New Forest, many of which have very good order books but have cash flow problems. Were the zombie banks able to lend to them, they would have survived. Does the Minister agree that if the Government had got on the case and had a much more impressive loan guarantee scheme on the books earlier, those businesses would have survived?

Certainly I am aware of the increase in the claimant rate in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency. He can give statistics based on proportions that start from a very low base; I can give him back statistics based on the actual numbers, which make the picture look slightly better. On his substantive point, it is important that the Government support small businesses. I, myself, ran a small business for 10 years before entering Parliament, and he will of course have noted and been pleased that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs helped more than 100,000 businesses by allowing them to delay their payments to it. That is far more effective than what he has talked about—and probably does not have the money to fund.

In relation to people in the building industry claiming jobseeker’s allowance, real problems have been raised in my constituency about their ability to obtain it because of their special employment status. Will my right hon. Friend comment on that and agree to meet me to discuss their problems further?

It is always a delight to meet my hon. Friend, and I should be very happy to do so in this case; it will be a relief not to have to talk about the problems of the schools in Northampton when I do. There is clearly an issue for large numbers of construction workers who are self-employed and have chosen to pay class 2 rather than class 1 national insurance contributions. That decision removes their right to some entitlement-based jobseeker’s allowance, but I am happy to discuss the issue with her. She will understand that there is a basic principle involved, but I hope that her constituents understand also that, thanks to the Government’s accelerated introduction of capital spending, the public sector is doing a lot to help the construction industry.