§ 8. Mr. Barry Jones
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what is her estimate of the number of people aged 25 years and under who are unemployed.
§ Mr. Jones
That is over 800,000, and 41,000 of them are in Wales. They are appalling figures. They represent the ruin of youthful hopes and great unhappiness in families. Will the right hon. Lady admit that it would be wrong for the Government to plan to strip many parts of the north of Wales of development area status, which represents the hope of more work, and give it to south coast towns? That would represent the complacency of her Department.
§ Mrs. Shephard
The assisted area map is a matter for some of my right hon. Friends and not necessarily for me. But I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would expect me to have input into the drawing up of that map, especially as far as the levels of unemployment are concerned.
In that regard, I am amazed that the hon. Gentleman, who takes a close interest in these matters, has not remarked on the fact that unemployment in Wales has fallen for the past three months, that it is below the national average, that the latest CBI trends survey shows that Wales is leading the country in terms of reported output and orders, and that that survey represents the best possible future for people in Wales, including young people.
§ Mr. Milligan
Has my right hon. Friend seen the extraordinary figures for youth unemployment in Hampshire, which show that youth unemployment has been steadily falling and is now at its lowest level for three years, which is remarkable in view of the recession? Does she agree that it reflects the good work not only of her Department but of the Hampshire TEC, the Hampshire education department and especially the schools in achieving a higher staying-on rate?
The Weston Park girls school, which I visited last week, has an intake from one of the most deprived parts of the constituency, yet it has increased its staying-on rate from 35 to 80 per cent.
§ Mrs. Shephard
It is possible that the words of my hon. Friend would have given some comfort to the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) if he had been listening—which, of course, he was not. There is no question but that a well-trained, well-prepared cohort of young people, as we have in Hampshire, has the best possible chance of finding good jobs.
§ Ms Eagle
Does the Secretary of State realise that a figure of more than 800,000 youth unemployed is horrific to behold and that many of the young unemployed listening in Wallesey will not recognise the rosy picture that is being painted by the Conservative Government of the reality out there and their chances of getting work? What hope can she offer to the many people under the age of 25 whom I have met since I was elected a year ago who have never worked since they left school and see no prospect of work ahead of them?
§ Mrs. Shephard
The hon. Lady will know, because I have repeated it often in the House and elsewhere, that I have the utmost sympathy for anyone who faces unemployment. That, of course, includes young people. I hope that she is giving her support to the first-class work of the Employment Service and Merseyside TEC, which is doing sterling work with young people in her area, as well as the other TECs in the north-west. I also hope that she understands that if her party continues to espouse the extraordinary policies that it does, there will be no chance 743 and no hope whatever for young people or anyone else to look for better prospects in employment under a Labour Government.