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Volume 587: debated on Wednesday 29 October 2014

8. What steps she is taking to ensure that the change in Northern Ireland’s unemployment rates is similar to that of the rest of the UK. (905671)

Northern Ireland’s claimant count has fallen for 21 consecutive months, which shows that the Government’s long-term economic plan is working. The latest labour market survey shows that the level of unemployment in Northern Ireland is 6.1%, which is only marginally higher than the United Kingdom figure.

As the Secretary of State well knows, unemployment has been reduced in parts of Northern Ireland, but we can do more. The agri-industry in my constituency can provide more jobs if it is helped to do so, and the same applies to the pharmaceutical industry and tourism. What can the Secretary of State do, along with other Ministers here on the mainland, to enable those sectors to expand and provide more employment for young people and those aged over 50?

One of the main ways in which we can help is through the tax system. That is why we have cut corporation tax, which will be the lowest in the G20 by April, and why we are cutting job taxes for employers for the benefit of, in particular, young unemployed people. We think that it is vital for more people to have the security of a pay packet to take home to their families, and our tax policy has been driven by that.