Although unemployment is up by about 79,000 since the election, employment is slightly higher, at 29.1 million, and International Labour Organisation unemployment slightly lower, at 2.56 million, than the Office for Budget Responsibility thought it would be at this point. The total number claiming one of the main out-of-work benefits fell by about 25,000 over the last year to August. The number claiming incapacity benefit or lone parent benefits fell by nearly 140,000, while the number claiming jobseeker’s allowance rose by 115,000 over the same period. Jobcentre Plus has taken 1 million new vacancies in the last three months and there are 460,000 unfilled vacancies at the moment, up 1,000 this quarter and 5,000 on the year.
The question was about unemployment, which is at its highest since the last Tory Government lost power. We have no growth, and we need it to cut unemployment and the deficit. Will the Secretary of State support measures such as a temporary VAT cut on home improvements, which is supported by 49 business organisations, including the Federation of Master Builders and the Federation of Small Businesses, and would create jobs in small businesses in the construction industry?
I felt that I answered the question. The hon. Gentleman might not have liked the answer, but I none the less answered it.
We do not agree with the Opposition’s suggestion of a VAT cut. It is also worth gently reminding the hon. Gentleman that he is part of a party that in government saw a huge rise in unemployment and stagnation of the economy, so before we get lessons and lectures from the Opposition, it would be nice for them to say, “We’re sorry for the mess we left things in.”