Youth unemployment is unacceptably high. We will introduce the new single Work programme in the first half of 2011, which will offer young people targeted, personalised help. That will be delivered through the best of private and voluntary sector providers. We will ensure that young people continue to have access to employment support prior to the implementation of the Work programme.
I thank the Minister for that reply. The Tories are the party of mass unemployment; they had left thousands of young people in long-term unemployment in the mining areas and elsewhere in this country when they were turfed out of office in ’97. Will the Minister confirm last week’s authoritative report that said that the fiscal strategy that the coalition is adopting will lead to there being another half a million people—many of them young people—in the dole queues for at least the rest of this Parliament?
The hon. Gentleman ought to remember that the level of youth unemployment today is higher than it was in 1997, when the Labour party took office. He should also remember that year after year, despite all the last Government’s promises about apprenticeships, which could have provided long-term, sustainable opportunities for young people, the Labour Government consistently missed their targets and promises for apprenticeships. We will take no lessons from Labour about youth unemployment.
When the Minister is looking at the issues involved in providing more jobs for the young unemployed, will he consider the impact of the Pension Protection Fund, particularly on long-standing manufacturing companies, which may be inhibited from providing new apprenticeships by their future commitments to the PPF?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. The Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Thornbury and Yate (Steve Webb), will be considering that. It is important to provide the right balance between protecting the pensions of those whose pension provision for old age may be at risk and ensuring that we do not drive businesses out of business as a result. We will be looking at this carefully and attempting to find the right balance.
Does the Minister accept that the future jobs fund offered real opportunities for the young people who were drowning in the prospects of employers’ refusal to give them work while at the same time it provided the Government with their only genuine test of whether somebody really wanted to work? Why, therefore, is it being cut when no other Government programme will achieve both those objectives?
The right hon. Gentleman knows that what his constituents and other people on Merseyside really need is sustainable, long-term opportunities. The future jobs fund will continue to offer tens of thousands of opportunities over the next few months, but what the young people of Merseyside really need is apprenticeships that can take them into proper long-term opportunities. That is what this Government will provide.