HC Deb 13 December 1995 vol 268 cc986-8
14. Mr. Barry Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what new measures she plans to take to get unemployed 18 to 24-year-olds into work. [3881]

Mr. Paice

We propose to continue policies and programmes that have seen unemployment among this age group fall by 225,000, or 28 per cent., since the recovery began.

Mr. Jones

Are not 650,000 people in this age group unemployed, of whom 150,000 have been out of work for more than a year? Today, 350 people have lost their jobs in MANWEB as a direct consequence of privatisation and the Scottish Power takeover. Does he accept that the Government's policies are laggardly and hesitant, and that only a general election will help the unemployed?

Mr. Paice


Mr. Riddick

Does my hon. Friend think that it is interesting that youth unemployment in France is 25 per cent. and in Spain is 40 per cent., whereas in this country it stands at about 15 per cent.? Is it not also interesting that in France, which has a similar population to this country, there are 2 million fewer people in work. Is it not a fact that, while France and Spain have adopted the social chapter and the minimum wage, we have not?

Mr. Paice

My hon. Friend properly reminds the House that unemployment among 18 to 24-year-olds in Britain is, on comparable statistics, 7 per cent. lower than the European average. He also reminds the House of the difference between this Government's policies and those of many Governments in Europe. In particular, they have adopted the social chapter and the minimum wage—policies that the Opposition espouse. The Opposition pretend to care about young people's unemployment, but they espouse policies that would destroy jobs, as they have destroyed jobs in many other countries throughout Europe.

Mr. Byers

Will the Minister confirm that more than a quarter of all unemployed claimants are aged between 18 and 25? Does he accept that, in the past 12 months, unemployment in this age group has increased by more than 100,000? Given those facts, does the Minister accept that urgent action is needed? Why do not the Government impose a windfall tax on the newly privatised utilities to finance a programme of training and job creation, as proposed by the Labour party? Are the Government simply prepared to stand to one side and watch a whole generation of young people become the innocent victims of the Government's failed economic and social policies?

Mr. Paice

Let us deal first with the facts. It is a fact that unemployment among 18 to 24-year-olds—the group about whom the hon. Gentleman is concerned—has fallen by 225,000 in three years. The number of them who have been unemployed for six months or more has fallen by 106,000, a 30 per cent. decrease. The number of those unemployed for a year or more has fallen by 54,000, a decrease of 27.5 per cent. That improvement is dramatic, and hardly what one would expect from a Government who do not care.

I wonder how many times one can spend a windfall tax. Every time we challenge the Opposition to tell us how they would fund one of their programmes, they say through a windfall tax. It will be the most swingeing tax that any Government have ever imposed, should the Labour party ever have the chance, because the programmes that it will have to fund are legion.

I have to ask the hon. Gentleman—

Madam Speaker

Order. It is the Government's business to answer questions, not to ask them. We now have a statement.