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Volume 557: debated on Tuesday 29 January 2013

The latest assessment was given in last week’s employment figures and showed that 90% of new jobs created were full time, and that the number of involuntary part-time workers fell by 23,000.

The Minister will know that 70% of the jobs that have been created—the new jobs—are part time. The Office for National Statistics has said that 3.5 million people are underemployed. Is the figure of one in 10 people underemployed rising or falling?

The hon. Lady is not quite right. In fact, the greater number of jobs created have been full time rather than part time. It is important to understand that the term “underemployment” refers to people who would like more hours even if they are employed full time. The fact is that 90% of people in work say they do not want any more hours. Most of the rise happened before the election. Since the election, the number of full-time jobs has increased faster than the number of part-time jobs.

The Minister and I met local enterprise partnership members in Newcastle 10 days ago and discussed the city deal and the increase in job numbers. Does he agree that, with a 9,000 increase in job numbers in the north-east in the last quarter, all jobs should be welcomed, whether they are part time or full time?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The number of hours being worked in the country is at a record level. We should not sneer at people who choose to work part time. That is their option, and they have more opportunities to work part time and full time than they had before.

Unemployment in my constituency went up last month and is up on last year, and underemployment is increasing. People in employment want to work more hours and are not working the maximum amount to be classed as people in full-time employment. How will cutting benefits for those people—they receive in-work benefits and are on low pay—help?

The hon. Gentleman will know that, under the Labour Government, the benefits system was a barrier to people increasing their hours. The reforms this Government are making through universal credit will remove that important barrier.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the best way to incentivise people back into work is to cut taxes for lower earners? Will he consider reintroducing the 10p income tax rate that was abolished by the previous Government?

I note and receive my hon. Friend’s bid for consideration in the Budget, but he will know that we have taken people out of tax, which has been important in restoring incentives and the rewards people have for going back to work.