The October labour market survey reports that the unemployment rate in Northern Ireland for 18 to 24-year-olds has come down 4.2 percentage points over the year. The Government’s policy of reducing the largest structural deficit in UK peacetime history is delivering a sustainable economic recovery and assisting young people into employment.
As the Secretary of State will know, youth unemployment is still stubbornly high in Northern Ireland. Jobs Growth Wales has created 12,000 opportunities for young people living in Wales. Has she had the chance to study the programme with the Executive, with the hope of adopting it?
The Government are working hard to support a balanced economic recovery right across the United Kingdom. We welcome the fact that the UK economy is now growing faster than any major developed economy and that we have seen record falls in unemployment. We will continue to work hard on reducing the deficit, keeping mortgage rates low and reducing business taxes to encourage employers to take on more people in the workplace, particularly young people.
9. PricewaterhouseCoopers has noted that unemployment in Northern Ireland is falling at half the rate of the rest of the United Kingdom. Will the Secretary of State discuss with the Northern Ireland Executive some specific proposals, such as Labour’s plan for a one-year national insurance tax break for all small firms that take on new workers? Would that not help to promote employment in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK? (905672)
We are doing better than that. We are actually cutting national insurance contributions for employers across the whole of the United Kingdom. As from April, employers in Northern Ireland—just as in the rest of the UK—will not pay any national insurance contributions at all on the people they employ who are under 21. That is real action, helping young people in Northern Ireland into jobs.
Young people in Northern Ireland can be exploited rather than given employment opportunities. Tomorrow night in Londonderry an event is scheduled to mark the 40th anniversary of a young man of 16, having been recruited to the IRA, killing himself in a bomb explosion. Does the Secretary of State agree with me that Sinn Fein representatives in Northern Ireland should be helping to create employment opportunities for young people rather than trying to rewrite history about a small number of young people being given instructions to carry out bomb attacks who ended up destroying their own lives and the lives of others?
I urge anyone who is planning any form of commemoration to consider the impacts of their decisions and choices on people from all sides of the community. I certainly have concerns about the sort of commemoration to which the hon. Gentleman referred. As well as addressing matters relating to the past, it is important for both the Executive and the UK Government to focus strongly on sustaining the recovery in Northern Ireland’s economy. It is going well—unemployment is falling—but there is, of course, more to do to tackle youth unemployment. This Government will continue to do so through their long-term economic plan.