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Claimant Count (Wellingborough)

Volume 521: debated on Monday 10 January 2011

16. What his most recent forecast is of the claimant count in (a) Wellingborough and (b) the UK in 2011-12. (32658)

The Department for Work and Pensions does not itself produce forecasts of unemployment. However, the latest UK claimant count forecast for 2011-12, published as part of the Office for Budget Responsibility’s autumn forecast, was 1.52 million at the start of 2011-12, falling to 1.47 million at the end of the financial year. I am afraid that no figures are produced at constituency level looking ahead.

Having watched the skill of my hon. Friend over the years in combating the former Chancellor and Prime Minister over the increased level of unemployment in his constituency compared with 1997, I am relieved to be able to stand at the Dispatch Box and note that unemployment today is lower than it was under the previous Government. Let us hope that it stays that way.

I thank the Minister for his kind words. Every Labour Government have left power with unemployment higher than when they came to power. When they came to power, unemployment in Wellingborough was 1,826; when they left, the figure was 2,916—an increase of 60%. Does the Minister agree that the Labour party is the party of unemployment and the Conservatives are the party of employment?

I have heard the hon. Gentleman’s question with some delectation, but sadly it relates not to the policy of the Government but to that of the Opposition. I call Mr David Winnick.

In view of some of the propaganda put out by the Government and their supporters, saying that unemployed people are reluctant to find work, I should tell the Minister that over the past few weeks the local press in my area has reported that where there are vacancies, more than 100 people have applied for one single vacancy. Does that not demonstrate that up and down the country the unemployed are desperate to find work?

I have never doubted that there are very large numbers of people on benefits who want work. Our challenge is to make sure that there are sustainable jobs for the future. That is why we are investing in apprenticeships, trying to create a better climate for business and trying to make Britain a good place to create employment for the future. The great tragedy of the past decade is that the previous Government failed to do those things in good times.

No one in the House wants to see the claimant count rise—most especially, no one wants young people to have to add themselves to the rolls of the unemployed. Given what has happened in the past few months, does the Minister now think that summarily cancelling the future jobs fund was the right choice?

The whole problem with the future jobs fund was that, first, it was extremely expensive—twice as expensive as the new deal for young people; and secondly, it did not create long-term jobs. This Government believe in creating apprenticeships, which create skills that lead to a career, not in six-month expensive work placements that lead nowhere.