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Employment Trends

Volume 611: debated on Tuesday 7 June 2016

We have the highest employment rate on record, a record number of women in work, and the lowest claimant count since 1974. That means millions more opportunities for our fellow citizens. We must not now put at risk the security that has been brought about by our long-term economic plan.

From April to June 2014 to April to June 2015, the employment of British workers in the UK increased by a welcome 84,000, but the figures are three times higher for EU nationals. With respect to the national living wage, what assessment has been made of anticipated job growth in the UK? Does my hon. Friend believe that that will benefit the UK or EU citizens most?

Almost two thirds of the increase in employment over the past five years is accounted for by UK nationals. Today, nine in every 10 people in a job in the UK are UK nationals. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has said, Britain deserves a pay rise and the national living wage delivers it.

I am sure the Minister and the whole House welcome the latest unemployment figure in my constituency—it stands at only 361, or less than 1%—but what more can be done to ensure that that trend continues, given that we are down to the last few and the most difficult cases, especially bearing in mind the over-50s and those in the 18 to 24-year-old bracket?

I welcome that news from Mid Dorset and North Poole, and by further increasing support for the hardest to help we share my hon. Friend’s keenness to ensure that no one is left behind. We have announced the new youth obligation and made it more cost-effective for employers to hire young people and apprentices. We are also helping older jobseekers to retrain through pilot schemes that began in April 2015.

This morning, the head of Hitachi warned that a Brexit vote means that jobs will be lost. What is the Treasury’s estimate of the number of jobs that will be at risk if we leave the European Union?

Our projection is that, following the immediate economic shock that would follow from Brexit, 500,000 jobs would be lost and there would be an increase in unemployment. Part of that is from the initial impact on foreign direct investment, but that effect continues thereafter.

It is a concern not just of Hitachi but of any non-European company that has its European headquarters in the UK. The UK is much the most attractive location for them currently, and they would be in great difficulty if we left the European Union. Has the Department made an assessment of what that group of employers contributes and will contribute in future to UK employment, which would be at risk if we left the EU?

We have modelled the effect on foreign direct investment. One does not have to believe that people currently in the UK would leave. All one has to consider in relation to the detrimental impact on the UK is what will happen to foreign direct investment in the future. There are many good reasons to invest in Britain, but we know that 72% of firms that invest in this country say that our membership of the European Union is a key factor.

Alongside genocide and war, we hear all about the threat to jobs of leaving the European Union. Will my hon. Friend tell me what will be done if we vote to stay in and continue to have unlimited immigration from 27 foreign countries? What will be done to protect my constituents, low-paid workers who have seen their wages flatline because of unlimited immigration?

We have already taken steps to ensure that people cannot just come here and claim benefits from day one. The renegotiation the Prime Minister secured addressed the unnatural draw of our in-work benefits system. I should also say that one should not assume that the effect on immigration would be quite as great as is sometimes supposed, particularly when we look at the other models of agreements with the European Union, a number of which include free movement.

Does the Minister agree that a vote to leave the European Union on 23 June could have a negative effect on employment trends, particularly in Northern Ireland where 50,000 jobs are related to exports to the EU? The Chancellor saw the effect of that directly yesterday in Warrenpoint in my constituency.

I know that my right hon. Friend was in the hon. Lady’s constituency yesterday. Northern Ireland is of course in a particularly sensitive position because of the land border with the Republic of Ireland, which would be a land border with the EU if we left. There are more people in work in Northern Ireland than ever before and we need to protect that.