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Young People

Volume 611: debated on Tuesday 7 June 2016

1. What steps he is taking to ensure that young people are not disproportionately affected by reductions in government expenditure. (905188)

4. What steps he is taking to ensure that young people are not disproportionately affected by reductions in government expenditure. (905191)

The Government have a long-term economic plan designed to help young people, which includes 3 million new apprenticeship starts, a 10-year low in youth unemployment, the lifetime individual savings account to help first-time buyers, 360,000 16-year-olds doing National Citizen Service and record numbers going to university.

The Chancellor has claimed that the Government

“put the next generation first.”—[Official Report, 16 March 2016; Vol. 607, c. 951.]

However, the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s “Is Britain Fairer?” report, which was published last year, found that younger people in the UK faced the worst economic prospects for generations. Young people in my constituency are bearing a disproportionate burden of the Government’s cuts. The abolition of the education maintenance allowance has made it harder for 16 and 17-year-olds to pursue educational opportunities; university tuition fees have trebled and are set to rise again; changes to the schools funding formula will see—

Sorry, Mr Speaker. My question is, when will the Chancellor offer a fair deal to our young people, and stop closing off opportunities and driving them into debt?

That was an extraordinary question. It ignored all the announcements that I made about what the Government have been doing for young people. Let us not forget the situation we inherited in 2010, when youth unemployment had gone up by 45% under Labour. The facts are these: a record number of young people are going to university, including a record number from disadvantaged backgrounds, and the proportion of young people struggling financially has almost halved since the hon. Lady’s days in 2010.

The wages of 18 to 21-year-olds fell by about £1,000 a year during the last Parliament, yet under-25s are excluded from the national living wage. Will the Chief Secretary to the Treasury condemn what the Minister for the Cabinet Office said: that that is because people under 25 are simply not productive enough?

The hon. Gentleman is ignoring our amazing record on youth unemployment since we took office six years ago. Youth unemployment has fallen by 102,000 this year. Youth employment is up 94,000 over the year and is close to the highest proportion on record. On why the national living wage does not apply to those who are under 25, I remind him that the national minimum wage does apply to those who are under 25 and is increasing under this Government. For younger workers, the priority is to secure work and gain experience. Youth unemployment remains higher than the unemployment rate for those aged over 25.

Since 2010, nearly half a million fewer children and young people are in households where there is worklessness. Will the Chief Secretary confirm that the Government will continue to help households into work and to cut poverty?

My hon. Friend is quite right, and we will continue to take action in this space. The number of households where nobody had ever worked doubled under Labour. Thanks to us, youth employment is up 94,000 over the year and continues to rise.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the way to give a fairer deal to younger people is to make sure that they are not saddled with the debts of reckless spending? Will he assure me that he will do everything he can to ensure that this Government balance the books?

My hon. Friend is quite right that it is future generations who would have to repay the debt that the last Labour Government left us and the even greater debt that the current Labour team want to give us with their reckless spending pledges. Household debt as a proportion of income has fallen since Labour’s financial crisis. We are in a much healthier condition in 2016 than we were in 2010.

Order. I must advise colleagues that we are today visited by Mr Kadri Veseli, the Speaker of the Parliament of Kosovo, who is visiting the UK in the year in which that independent nation celebrates eight years of independence. My colleague and his team are warmly welcome in the House.