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Long-term Unemployment

Volume 552: debated on Tuesday 6 November 2012

7. What recent assessment he has made of the effect of the Government’s fiscal policies on the level of long-term unemployment. (126524)

9. What recent assessment he has made of the effect of the Government’s fiscal policies on the level of long-term youth unemployment. (126526)

15. What recent assessment he has made of the effect of the Government’s fiscal policies on the level of long-term youth unemployment. (126533)

The UK labour market is showing some signs of recovery. There are more people in work now than ever before, and youth unemployment is at its lowest since 2011. The Youth Contract was launched in April to support up to 500,000 young people into employment, and the Work programme has been under way since 2011.

In my constituency, long-term youth unemployment is not up by 11% or 110%, but by 1,150%. Will the Government now apologise for their complacent decision to scrap the future jobs fund?

I think it is the hon. Gentleman who should be apologising. He is probably having a hard time explaining to his constituents why the number of young people on jobseeker’s allowance in the last five years of the previous Government went up by 45%. I have some good news for him, however. Under this Government, that number is down, and under this Government the number of vacancies in his local jobcentres is up by 30%.

All other Olympic boroughs received a much-needed economic boost from the Olympic games, but the Office for National Statistics figures show that youth unemployment increased in my constituency between June and October, not to mention the 141% increase in long-term youth unemployment in the past year. Does the Minister agree that tackling this problem requires action from the Government, with a bank bonus tax to fund 100,000 jobs for young people, and action locally by the council, to take this issue seriously?

I know the hon. Lady takes this issue very seriously, which is why I believe she took her right hon. Friend the shadow Chancellor to Queen Mary university recently to discuss it with young people. I hope that they told young people that under the previous Government youth unemployment was created as a problem—up 72% in 10 years. I hope she also told them that youth unemployment has fallen by 62,000 in the last quarter because of the Youth Contract, the Work programme, investment in apprenticeships and other Government policies.

Long-term youth unemployment in my constituency in the past two years has increased by 188%. Rather than flinging back his low-grade abuse, could the Minister explain to the House his objection, as we approach bank bonus season, to implementing a bank bonus tax to help fund jobs for those young people?

The hon. Gentleman will know that the Government have introduced a permanent tax on bank balance sheets, which will raise far more than a bank bonus tax. If he is interested in the fiscal action the Government are taking to create jobs, maybe he can tell his constituents about the brownfield allowance the Government introduced for North sea oilfields a couple of months ago. A few weeks later there was investment of £1.6 billion, creating up to 2,000 jobs in Scotland and beyond.

One of the fiscal measures that best increases the incentive to find work for those who have been out of work for a long time is the benefit cap. Is the Minister surprised to learn that this morning a measure that will save the taxpayer half a billion pounds over the next two years and greatly increase the incentives to work was voted against by the Labour party?

I thank my hon. Friend for bringing that to the House’s attention, and I am not surprised to learn it, given Labour’s opposition to the benefit cap. The Government are determined to make the welfare system work in order to help people find employment, and that includes the benefit cap as well as the introduction of universal credit.

Does my hon. Friend recognise that it was virtually impossible to be long-term unemployed under the last Government, because they used to take people off the register, put them on a short-term course, and then put them back again, and is he pleased that we are being more straightforward?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. A number of people have made those accusations. The important thing is that youth unemployment is falling—down by 62,000 in the last quarter.

Has my hon. Friend considered the submission that the Government have received from FairFuelUK showing that putting up fuel duty will hinder job creation, and will he give serious consideration to cancelling the planned January fuel duty increase inherited from the Labour party in order to boost job prospects?

We carefully consider all submissions from stakeholders, including the FairFuelUK campaign. The important thing is that had the Government continued with their inheritance on fuel duty, that duty would have been 10p higher, which would have made things a lot more difficult for ordinary people.