HC Deb 19 April 1994 vol 241 cc732-3
10. Mr. Barnes

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what is the current level of youth unemployment in the east midlands; and what it was in April 1979.

Miss Widdecombe

Among 18 to 24-year-olds, 51,271 in January 1994 and 58,627 in October 1983, which is the earliest date for which comparable information is available.

Mr. Barnes

The labour force survey shows that nearly 20 per cent. of 16 to 24-year-olds are unemployed, and that is on the Government's fiddled figures. That figure is far greater than for any other age group, and twice as high as for some age groups. What is to be done about the scandal of youth unemployment? Our futures depend on employment. Why cannot we have high-quality education, proper training and investment for jobs instead of low-level training schemes?

Miss Widdecombe

As the hon. Gentleman is so concerned about youth unemployment, a concern that is shared, perhaps he would like to welcome the following: that we have lower than the average EC youth unemployment; that only 138 young people in England have now been waiting for the delivery of the guarantee for more than eight weeks; that in his constituency the figure has fallen from 42 young people to one young person; and the increased training and vocational opportunities.

Mrs. Angela Knight

Is my hon. Friend aware that youth unemployment has been falling fast throughout Derbyshire, including north-east Derbyshire, and is down by 21 per cent. in Erewash compared with last year? Does my hon. Friend agree that it is businesses that create jobs and increasing business confidence and healthy order books in companies throughout the east midlands are already translating into better prospects for people out of work and for school leavers this summer?

Miss Widdecombe

I agree with my hon. Friend. If business confidence is the key, no one need look to the Opposition to generate it.

Mr. Janner

Does the Minister accept that there is a greater sense of relative deprivation between the poor and the well-off in the east midlands and elsewhere which, to quote from a Home Office document, has produced a class of person for whom a real job or the prospect of a real job has been absent in all the crucial years of their lives, or does she disagree with the view of that leaked Home Office document?

Miss Widdecombe

It is hard to match falling unemployment with the absence of job prospects. The hon. and learned Gentleman is out of date and his points are extremely selective. His mission in life appears to be to depress rather than cheer the most vulnerable.

Mr. Jenkin

Will my hon. Friend take note that, in a effort to reduce youth unemployment in France, the French Government are dismantling minimum wage legislation in order to create extra jobs?

Miss Widdecombe

If minimum wage legislation were ever to be introduced in Britain we would probably lose up to 2 million jobs. That is the Opposition's policy.