13. What recent assessment he has made of job creation and employment trends in East Anglia; and if he will make a statement.
In the east of England, the number of people in employment has increased by nearly 300,000 since 2010, and the employment rate is close to the highest on record.
Is the Minister aware that in my constituency unemployment has come down from 4.3% in 2010 to 1.5% last month, and that only last Friday Mars Food announced a very welcome £23 million investment in its King’s Lynn plant, thus creating more well paid, skilled jobs? Does he agree that in this post-Brexit climate we should all be doing what we can to flag up such successes?
That is yet another sign of just how fundamentally strong our economy is, which is helping us to deliver record numbers of people in employment.
I did not study geography at university, but the hon. Gentleman’s constituency is a little way away from East Anglia.
I am in a generous mood. I have known the hon. Gentleman for 30 years, and if he wants to persuade me that Bedford and Kempston is a hop, skip and a jump away from the constituency of the hon. Member for North West Norfolk (Sir Henry Bellingham), he has a taxing task, but let us hear it.
I am very grateful for your indulgence, Mr Speaker. As a lifelong watcher of Anglia Television from the heart of Bedford, I can say that we are very proudly members of East Anglia. In Bedford, a small town, we have only small employers—we do not have a large private sector employer. What steps are the Government taking to encourage small businesses to take on young people and others who are unemployed?
I would never have done anything like what the hon. Gentleman has just done when I was a Back Bencher.
As a Government, we recognise that 45% of private sector jobs are created by small businesses, and so such businesses are key to the success of creating new opportunities. This will be very much at the heart of the Green Paper, making sure that they are aware of initiatives, particularly the commitment to have 3 million more apprentices by 2020.