Good morning, Mr. Speaker. I visited a number of organisations in Ayrshire last week, including the coalfield community transport initiative, where I met people who are now in work thanks to the future jobs fund.
I am grateful that my hon. Friend has made time to come to Ayrshire. However, she may not recall that in 1997 one of her predecessors, Brian Wilson, the Minister at the time, set up a taskforce because of high unemployment in the Prestwick area. The taskforce has proved to be highly successful. I wonder whether she can arrange a meeting between herself and Ayrshire Members of Parliament, along with Scottish Executive Ministers.
I thank my hon. Friend for his question. Following the national jobs summit, which was successfully held in Glasgow on Monday and at which more than 120 delegates were present, I can confirm that I shall be pleased to hold a similar, local summit in the Ayrshire area. I am also pleased to note the good work that has been done by local authorities and the voluntary sector in Ayrshire. To date, that work has created almost 500 jobs, from the future jobs fund, for young unemployed people. That is a magnificent contribution to overcoming the problem affecting every community in Scotland.
I am sure that the Minister’s summit will be welcome, but in Ayrshire alone a further 3,419 people have been forced on to the dole in the past 12 months. Can the Minister tell all those people, as well as the hundreds of thousands of other jobseekers in Scotland, where exactly they will find the signs that Scotland is coming out of recession that the Secretary of State claimed were there on Monday? He claims that those signs exist, but is it not the case that the evidence in Ayrshire and elsewhere in Scotland simply does not back him up?
There are clear indications from a number of independent experts that we are moving out of the recession, but we are certainly not complacent. We are well aware that there are hot spots of unemployment—in Ayrshire and Lanarkshire—but unlike in the 1980s and 1990s, when the hon. Gentleman’s Government ignored those areas, we are determined to protect the most vulnerable. That is why we are investing £1.2 billion throughout the United Kingdom to help young people into work. It is also why we have changed the young person’s guarantee, from 10 months to six months, so that we can get young people into paid work at the earliest moment, providing them with the opportunities to become well placed to get into the job market.
The Minister and the Secretary of State are good at talking the language of the 1980s, but sadly not so good at dealing with the issues of the present. On the very day that the Secretary of State claimed that there were signs that Scotland was emerging from the recession, the latest purchasing managers index showed that manufacturing was still contracting and that the flow of new orders in Scotland was considerably weaker than elsewhere in the UK. The Minister and the Secretary of State refer to the future jobs fund, which has brought some benefits, but is it not the case that the fund is increasingly focused on public sector employment, rather than on our hard-pressed private sector? So other than warm words—
Today there are 250,000 more people in work in Scotland than in 1997. That shows the credit of our policies, under which we do not allow people to be left behind. We are strongly committed to maintaining our support for the most vulnerable in our community. That is why the future jobs fund will be creating 15,000 jobs in Scotland and why we have managed to assist thousands of people in the past year in getting back into work if they have faced the prospect of redundancy. We are certainly not complacent, unlike the previous Government, as their record shows.