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Central Ayrshire

Volume 530: debated on Wednesday 22 June 2011

The seminar I hosted in Irvine last month discussed how to tackle the high level of youth unemployment in Ayrshire. The Scotland Office is working with key partners such as Jobcentre Plus to focus resources on the most challenging areas identified at the seminar. We look forward to working with the Scottish Government on this complex issue.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. One of the areas of major concern identified at the seminar was the high unemployment among those aged between 16 and 18, which seemed to have slipped off the radar. It was the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, who was present at the meeting, who made that very important point. What is the situation, what assessment has been made by the Secretary of State for Scotland and what is going to be done about that issue?

First, may I thank the hon. Gentleman for his full participation in the seminar? It was the first in a series that we will hold across Scotland to tackle a deep-rooted problem, not just in Ayrshire but elsewhere, that has defied Governments through the ages. He rightly points out that my right hon. Friend was at that seminar; we continue to discuss the serious challenges in relation to youth employment and I will be happy to discuss those further with the hon. Gentleman in due course.

As the Secretary of State knows, Ayrshire has some of the worst rates of unemployment and youth unemployment in Scotland. In 2007, Scotland had the highest levels of employment in Britain, but it now has the lowest levels of employment and the highest levels of unemployment. What more can the Westminster Government do to work with the Scottish Government to take concrete steps to address the problem?

I make two observations to the hon. Lady. First, we need to get the economy into a place from which we can see sustained, strong and balanced growth, which would be a complete contrast to the situation we inherited from her Government. On her second point about working with the Scottish Government, she is right to highlight the serious economic powers that they already have and it is vital, as I said to the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Cathy Jamieson) earlier, that we work together to ensure that we do the best for people across Scotland.