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Youth Employment

Volume 503: debated on Wednesday 6 January 2010

9. What recent discussions he has had with the First Minister on assisting young people into employment; and if he will make a statement. (308878)

We know that young people in Wales and throughout the United Kingdom have been hit particularly hard by the recession. That is why we quickly introduced measures such as the young person’s guarantee and the future jobs fund—to help them to find work as quickly as possible.

Further to the questions asked by my hon. Friends the Members for Ynys Môn (Albert Owen) and for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Havard), my hon. Friend knows that when larger employers close, it has the social effect of well-paid jobs and apprenticeships being lost. What is he doing to ensure that well-paid jobs and apprenticeships are maintained in affected areas?

It is important to remember that some 54,000 young people have been helped into work in Wales through a new deal for young people and £1 billion has been set aside in the future jobs fund. Those schemes are creating real jobs for young people the length and breadth of the United Kingdom, including Wales. I find it strange that Opposition Members opposed both initiatives. We are adamant that the mistakes of the past in the 1980s and 1990s will not be repeated. We will not stand aside and allow our young people to be lost from work for a whole generation.

But is it not the truth that this Government’s approach to youth unemployment has been characterised by massive complacency and a failure to engage with the issue? When the Minister and the Secretary of State met for their friendly pint with the new First Minister last night, what practical steps did they agree on to rescue Wales’s lost generation of young people—the tens of thousands of youngsters doing nothing constructive with their lives?

The most important thing to realise is that we will not repeat the mistakes of the Tory past. That is the lesson that we have learned here at Westminster, and that the Welsh Assembly Government in Cardiff are learning as well. We are working together in a spirit of partnership to make sure that as many people as possible are put back into work as soon as possible, and our progress is there for all to see. If the Tory policies were implemented, there would be far more unemployed people in Wales than there currently are.

Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating the Rhyl city strategy team on its successful bid for the future jobs fund, which will put 320 young people back to work in my constituency over the next six months?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the excellent work he has been doing. What is happening in Rhyl is a good example of what can be achieved through proactive government at local authority level, Welsh Assembly level and here at Westminster as well. It is an excellent example of what can be achieved when we all work together and we do not stand to one side. It is worth remembering, too, that unemployment in Wales is still 30 per cent. lower than at the height of the early ’90s; we will not forget that.