§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Phillip Oppenheim)
The latest available figures show that, in November 1994, seasonally adjusted claimant unemployment in London stood at 307,800 for men and 106,800 for women. In each case, this represents a reduction of about 10 per cent. on a year ago.
§ Mr. Cox
Whatever the Minister may say, is he aware that Greater London has one of the highest unemployment rates of any region in the United Kingdom and that vast numbers of people are seeking the few jobs that exist? Exactly what are Government policies for Greater London to create meaningful employment, in view of the countless thousands of jobs that have been lost year by year since 1979?
§ Mr. Oppenheim
What the hon. Gentleman does not say is that many jobs in London were also lost in the 2 1970s. I think we all accept that unemployment in London is too high, as it is elsewhere in most parts of the developed western world. The only way to cure that is to improve the competitiveness and productivity of our economy, as we are doing, to produce more high-quality, better-paid jobs for our people.
§ Mr. John Marshall
Does my hon. Friend think that unemployment in Greater London would increase or be reduced if we adopted the social chapter, a national minimum wage or even clause IV, which seems to have some residual popularity in the Labour party?
§ Mr. Oppenheim
Almost every survey from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund shows that a minimum wage has an adverse effect on job creation. If the hon. Member for Peckham (Ms Harman) is serious about that policy, I challenge her to tell the House at what level she would set a minimum wage and what she would do about the problem of differentials.
§ Mr. Chidgey
Will the Minister confirm that surveys have shown that more than 80 per cent. of participants in workstart pilot schemes in London and elsewhere are likely to be offered permanent jobs? Does he agree that that is clear and concrete evidence of the need urgently to establish a working benefits transfer programme across the nation to get the long-term unemployed back into work?
§ Mr. Oppenheim
One of the good features of what is happening in London is that the number of very long-term unemployed people has fallen by about one half since 1987. There are a number of reasons for that, but one of the main ones is the effect of the very well-targeted Government schemes to help the very long-term unemployed, who have particular problems, to get back into work.
§ 2. Mr. Waller
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what proportion of young people possess qualifications at the conclusion of youth training.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. James Paice)
Seventy-two per cent. of young people completing youth training gain a qualification or credit towards one.
§ Mr. Waller
I thank my hon. Friend for that encouraging information. There is great variety in the level of qualifications that young people may obtain. Is my hon. Friend able to give more detailed data about the quality and level of qualifications that young people participating in youth training schemes can obtain?
§ Mr. Paice
I can assure my hon. Friend that there is substantial evidence that the level of qualifications being achieved through youth training is increasing year by year. A greater proportion are achieving national vocational qualifications, NVQs, at levels 2, 3 and 4. In addition, I assure my hon. Friend that when modern apprenticeships are fully up and running, they will lead to another substantial jump in the levels achieved.
§ Mr. Gerrard
I am sure that we would all welcome an increase in the number of people obtaining qualifications. However, in his answer the Minister did not quote the figures. One of the stated aims of youth training is to enable young people to obtain NVQs at level 2 or above. How many are attaining level 2 and how many are getting above that level?
§ Mr. Paice
I do not have the precise figure, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman something much more significant: more than 50 per cent. of all those leaving youth training, at any time after starting it, obtain jobs. That is the major importance of youth training. Of those who complete the training, 67 per cent. obtain jobs. That is a clear indication that youth training works for the vast majority of young people, as shown by surveys of them.