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Economic Inactivity

Volume 496: debated on Wednesday 15 July 2009

7. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on the level of economic inactivity in Wales. (285612)

I have regular discussions with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. We will not let short-term job losses turn into long-term unemployment, nor will we allow communities to be scarred by worklessness for a generation once again.

The Secretary of State is right to mention long-term unemployment, because Wales was disproportionately affected by the loss of traditional industries, which took place as long ago as the ’80s. Certain regions of Wales are still suffering from that, so will he redouble his efforts with the Welsh Assembly to ensure that further education is funded and that there are no cuts? That is the way forward.

Yes indeed. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: the period of Conservative Government in the 1980s and 1990s devastated communities right across Wales, including in my constituency. That is why, this time, compared with the 1980s and 1990s, we are investing in people, new jobs and skills, including in further education colleges, to ensure that the recession of this period is not as devastating as the misery that was caused in the 1980s and 1990s.

The latest unemployment statistics show that young people in Wales are among the hardest hit of any group in this recession. They are bearing the brunt of the downturn. Youth unemployment is going up and the pool of those not in education, employment or training is going up. Young people are also being hit as apprenticeships are being cut, as jobs are being lost, so could the Secretary of State please tell us today what he is doing to help Wales’s young generation in 2009?

Yes, I am very happy to. First, the Welsh Assembly Government have announced a £20 million package to support new apprenticeships. Secondly, we established the future jobs fund. Thirdly, we have guaranteed help for all young people aged 18 to 24 who have been claiming jobseeker’s allowance for 12 months. That will provide opportunities for young people, who I agree are facing genuine problems at the present time—a stark contrast with the 1990s and 1980s, when a whole generation of youngsters was thrown on to the scrap heap by the hon. Gentleman’s Tory Government.