§ 1. Mr. Wareing
asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is the latest number who are now unemployed in Liverpool and on Merseyside; how many have been unemployed for 12 months or over; and if he will make a statement.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Alan Clark)
On 9 February the total number of unemployed claimants in the area covered by the Liverpool and Toxteth jobcentres was 15,046, and the total number in the Merseyside special development area was 141,674. The number unemployed for over 52 weeks in these areas on 12 January was 8,522, and 67,706.
§ Mr. Wareing
Are not these appalling figures testimony to the fact that the Government's economic recovery is far, far away from the people of Merseyside? How can the Minister's Department contemplate slashing 1,300 places from the YTS scheme, affecting places such as the Old Swan boys club in an area of particularly high unemployment within Liverpool, when there have been protestations from all and sundry, including the Bishop of Liverpool? What action will the Minister take about that, and what action are the Government contemplating to bring permanent jobs to Merseyside?
§ Mr. Clark
I do not accept that the picture is as dark as the hon. Gentleman paints it. Vacancies notified to the jobcentres are up by 32 per cent., placings are up by 16 per cent. over the last year, and there are over 10,000 young people on the young workers scheme. As to his allegation that the mode B1 places have been cut, there is a place on the youth training scheme for every person who wishes to take one up.
§ Mr. Porter
Does my hon. Friend agree that, while these figures are rather bad, the situation is not helped by the activities of the majority of the Labour members of Liverpool city council, who have behaved like raving lunatics in relation to finance? Does he agree that if they would only come to their senses the prospect for employment in Liverpool, and on Merseyside, would be very much better?
§ Mr. Clark
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. It is not for me to digress on the internal ramifications of the 892 Labour party and the various allegiances that it adopts, but it will have noted that its own leader has refused to align himself with the policies of the Labour majority on the city council.
§ Mr. Alton
Does the Minister not accept that, with one in five of the local population out of work, there are no grounds for complacency? Given that the large majority of the unemployed are construction workers, does the Minister not think that it is time that the Department, with other Government Departments, looked at the possibility of a major capital works scheme, such as a tidal barrage across the Mersey, to create construction workers' jobs?
§ Mr. Clark
The hon. Gentleman asks for a major capital works scheme. He should recognise that the city of Liverpool benefits from the public purse in the following sectors. It has special development area status, it has a development corporation, it has an inner city partnership, it has an enterprise zone, and it has recently been chosen as an experimental freeport location. He may well feel that other and neighbouring areas may be asking themselves why they, too, cannot benefit.
§ Mr. Nicholls
Surely if these figures are testimony to anything, they are testimony to the fact that, since 1973 at least, that particular authority has been under the control of the Labour party, as recently, or of the Liberal party?
§ Mr. Sheerman
Is not the Minister yet again, by his answer to my hon. Friend, attempting to mislead the House? He has mentioned the youth training scheme. Is not the figure for youth unemployment only 1 per cent. different from what it was a year ago? Does he accept that young people are no longer being attracted to the youth training scheme, either in Liverpool or nationally, and that there are 370,000 young unemployed who are not joining the youth training scheme? There is something wrong with the scheme if the Government have to give such an answer to the House.