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Volume 563: debated on Monday 20 May 2013

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. Can he confirm that the number of people claiming the main out-of-work benefits since the 2010 election has fallen?

Yes; this is an intriguing figure. As we have succeeded in enabling people who, when the last Government left office, were inactive but of working age to find employment, the total number of people without jobs has fallen by 380,000 since 2010. That fall has been driven by a fall in the rate of inactivity that was left by the last Government. As a result, the number of people receiving incapacity benefit and a number of other benefits—including lone parents—is at its lowest for some two decades.

Unemployment, including youth unemployment, is stubbornly high in Telford. Does the Secretary of State still talk to the Chancellor of the Exchequer or indeed the Prime Minister, because there was nothing in the Budget about youth unemployment, and there was nothing about it in the Queen’s Speech? Is he talking to them at all?

I talk to them regularly, and they talk to me. What I tell them constantly is that the figure for youth unemployment is lower than the figure that we inherited. We have also introduced the Youth Contract, which provides us with extra money so that we can give many people below the age of 24 a real chance to benefit from work experience programmes and apprenticeships. Many more people will go into apprenticeships under this Government than ever went into them under the last Government.

Last week I held my second jobs fair, at which 30 local employers met 300 jobseekers in my constituency to talk about more than 300 vacancies. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that there is currently a record number of vacancies in the United Kingdom?

That is correct. On average, about half a million vacant jobs are advertised, and that may not represent all the work that is available. Our universal jobmatch scheme ensures that claimants look for and apply for jobs, because they must be mandated on to the system. The number of private sector jobs has increased by 1.25 million since the election, and every six jobs created over the last six years correspond with one job loss in the public sector.

The House hears what the Secretary of State has to say about youth unemployment, but there is a youth unemployment crisis among young black men in particular. What action will he take to lower the present 50% level?

I agree that there is a particular problem in that regard. I am talking to all the voluntary sector groups as well as to providers, including all our staff at the DWP, and also to Opposition Members. We need to make more progress, because youth unemployment is not good regardless of the numbers involved, and we cannot do enough to drive it down. I can give the hon. Gentleman a guarantee that we will make more efforts to deal with this particular problem.