HC Deb 01 March 2001 vol 363 cc1029-30
5. Gillian Merron (Lincoln)

If he will make a statement on changes in employment and unemployment over the past 12 months. [150139]

The Paymaster General (Dawn Primarolo)

Since the Government were elected, employment has risen by more than 1 million. Over the past year, it has risen by 225,000 and International Labour Organisation unemployment has fallen by 169,000. The claimant count now stands at just 5,000 above 1 million.

Gillian Merron

My hon. Friend will be aware that unemployment in Lincoln has almost halved since the general election, while long-term youth unemployment has decreased by 86 per cent. However, that positive picture is not exactly uniform across the city, as people in wards such as Park and Abbey remain more likely to be out of work. Will my hon. Friend step up the application of targeted measures to areas such as Abbey and Park, to ensure that all my constituents can benefit equally from the stable economy created by the Government?

Dawn Primarolo

My hon. Friend correctly identifies that there are particular areas where it is necessary for the Government to concentrate our effort, perhaps through the expansion of new deal opportunities to help people into work. We must continue to remove the barriers to ensure that people can move from welfare into work and be financially secure. Of course, we must also continue to ensure that that work pays and that people can progress through work using lifelong learning. It is through all those measures, including expansion of the new deal, that we intend to continue to drive down unemployment, to move to full employment and to ensure that all the talents of all the people in this country can be used.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

In reflecting on employment policy, does the Paymaster General, as a former member of the Bennite left-wing Campaign group of Labour MPs, now accept that that free-market capitalist the United States of America has been dramatically more successful than most countries in creating and retaining jobs? To that end, has she made any assessment of the efficacy of the Regulatory Flexibility Act 1980 and the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act 1996? If not, why not?

Dawn Primarolo

I should like to remind the hon. Gentleman of a couple of facts. First, the United States has the welfare-to-work partnership, which includes 10,000 firms. Secondly, it was the Conservative party that said in government that unemployment was a "price worth paying", following which it rose to the record level of 2.9 million. It is under this Government that 1 million jobs have been created and that long-term and youth unemployment are down. There are 1.1 million vacancies in the economy and the challenge is to match them with the people who are seeking jobs. The hon. Gentleman has no answers to that proposition.

Ms Rosie Winterton (Doncaster, Central)

In my constituency, we have a new deal for communities area, which means that about £50 million will be invested in the next 10 years to help people back into work, among other things. Thanks to this Government, big capital projects are also starting, such as the North Bridge road and the transport interchange. In the light of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor's earlier statement about community investment, will my hon. Friend consider what incentives can be given to big companies to ensure that they employ local people in areas of high deprivation?

Dawn Primarolo

I reassure my hon. Friend that that is precisely why my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has emphasised the importance of investment in our communities and, in particular, the use of tax credits in that work to build on the new deal for communities. I shall certainly bear her comments in mind.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate)

Given that the word "employment" appears in the title of another Department, is not the fact that this question was not transferred an example of the Treasury's astonishing contempt for other Departments in Whitehall?

Dawn Primarolo

If the hon. Gentleman does not understand that employment is part of the economy, I cannot help him further.

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