Youth unemployment is a critical issue. Specific measures to address it in Northern Ireland are the responsibility of the Executive, but the Government’s efforts to reduce the largest structural deficit in UK peacetime history are now bearing fruit. This, more than anything, will help to deliver a sustainable economic recovery and so directly assist young people to get into employment.
It is very kind of the hon. Gentleman to raise the matter of employment today of all days, as we bring the rate of unemployment across the UK down to 6.6%—which is pretty good, I would say—and in the 17th consecutive month in Northern Ireland when the claimant count has been down. Youth unemployment is down over the quarter by 2.4%. All youth unemployment is unfortunate, but we are working at it and achieving our aims, and I hope he would congratulate us on that.
8. Does the Minister of State agree that today’s employment figures prove that the long-term economic plan is working in Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom, demonstrating that the Conservative party has won the economic argument? (904135)
My hon. Friend may not be surprised to know that I do agree with him that the long-term economic plan is indeed working. I hope that Opposition Members will congratulate the Government on reducing the unemployment rate both in Northern Ireland and across the country, to the benefit of all the people of this United Kingdom.
9. Will the Minister update the House on what action UK Trade & Investment has taken with the participants in last year’s economic investment conference to increase much needed inward investment into Northern Ireland? (904136)
10. Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating Invest NI on an excellent year for attracting investment into Northern Ireland, and does he agree that the Prime Minister’s decision to take the G8 to Northern Ireland in June and to attend the international investment conference in October has played a key role in helping that objective? (904137)
I do of course. I welcome my hon. Friend back from his recent illness; I am delighted to see him and pay tribute to his work on the Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs. We can all see that the Government’s and the Prime Minister’s engagement in investment in Northern Ireland has been hugely successful. I hope that everyone in the House would congratulate us on that.
Today’s unemployment statistics show that the work of the Northern Ireland Executive in reducing youth unemployment is succeeding, but what specific measures are there in the Queen’s Speech to indicate a way of reducing youth unemployment at a national level for all regions across the United Kingdom?
As the hon. Gentleman will know, the Queen’s Speech is dedicated to pursuing this long-term economic plan, and it is working. There are no specific measures that immediately spring to mind for Northern Ireland, but we all wish to see the economy grow and people in Northern Ireland prospering as in the rest of the United Kingdom, and I think that is happening. I am currently visiting a lot of places in Northern Ireland and find people buoyant and optimistic about the future of Northern Ireland and its economy.