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Youth Unemployment

Volume 563: debated on Tuesday 14 May 2013

Q2. What assessment he has made of the effect of current fiscal policy on the level of youth unemployment. (153849)

The Chief Secretary says the economy is healing but he should take more seriously the fact that youth unemployment is growing again, with nearly 1 million young people unemployed for the last year. Will he explain why, in the past year, youth unemployment has grown by a staggering 355% since the Work programme was introduced? Is that not disgraceful? Should not the Government prioritise a compulsory jobs guarantee paid for from a bank bonus tax?

In this matter, a wee bit of humility from the Labour party would not go amiss, on the basis that youth unemployment has been a persistent problem in this country for many years—youth unemployment has been rising since 2003 or 2004. I note that, in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency between December 2010 and December 2012, youth unemployment fell by 11.8%. Through measures such as the Youth Contract and the Work programme, we are deploying considerable support for the task that he and I agree on, which is getting more young people into work.

Did the Chief Secretary to the Treasury note that, while Finance Ministers seemed remarkably cheerful in Aylesbury last weekend, the Archbishop of Toledo was warning that their fiscal policies were threatening to cause social breakdown and the overthrow of democracy in Spain and much of southern Europe?

I am afraid that I had not noted the comments of the Archbishop of Toledo, but I did notice the successful G7 Finance Ministers meeting.

Fiscal policy is not the only thing providing a difficulty for young people. Welfare policies mean that they have to stay at home and cannot move to places where there might be jobs. The policy on youth services, which are being dramatically cut throughout the country, means that young people are not getting the skills that might make it possible for them to get into work. Is not the truth of the matter that the only people in this country who are doing anything to get young people into jobs are those in the Labour-run Welsh Assembly?

I cannot agree with anything the hon. Gentleman says. The truth is that this Government are creating more opportunities for young people to take steps towards work than any previous Government. Let me give an example from the Department of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. One million apprenticeship starts—a 50% increase on the previous Government—are creating valuable opportunities for young people to gain experience in the workplace and employment afterwards. The hon. Gentleman should welcome and support those efforts, not condemn them.

The Archbishop of Toledo might well have been concerned about high rates of youth unemployment in Spain, which are much higher than they have ever been in this country, but does my right hon. Friend agree that, despite the fact that the problem, as he has just said, has been intractable for more than decade, the Deputy Prime Minister’s Youth Contract gives an opportunity for young people to have work experience in the private sector, from which most of the growth and job opportunities of the future are likely to come?

I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend. The Youth Contract, which was launched in April, supports 500,000 young people into employment through a range of measures, including an in-work subsidy and access to work experience. Alongside the 1 million apprenticeships that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills is starting during this Parliament, the Youth Contract offers a range of new opportunities for young people, which are necessary in getting more young people into work, which the House agrees is vital for the country.