HC Deb 18 December 2003 vol 415 cc1703-4
4. Mr. Mark Todd (South Derbyshire) (Lab)

What representation he has received on measures promoted by his Department to help people into work. [144719]

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Gordon Brown)

I receive a variety of representations on the Government's measures to help people into work. The success of those measures is evident in Wednesday's employment figures. There are more people in work now than at any time in our history, and the unemployment rate in Britain is at its lowest since 1975. The new deal has helped more than 950,000 individuals into work.

Mr. Todd

I thank the Chancellor for that answer. There is a great deal for which we are thankful in South Derbyshire, with those who are unemployed and claiming benefit now numbering only 850—1,100 fewer than when the Government came to power. I would welcome his response to my gentle suggestion that he clarify the future of the export credits guarantee scheme, which is critical to the future of companies such as Rolls-Royce, which employs many of the workers in my area.

Mr. Brown

I have met John Rose, the head of Rolls-Royce, and we are aware of the importance that it attaches both to export credit guarantees and to the Government's support for innovation and for science. My hon. Friend will know that we are doing more than any Government have done to promote science in this country.

As for the new deal, not only has my hon. Friend's constituency seen a very big reduction in unemployment, but unemployment rates in almost every one of the constituencies of Conservative Front Benchers are now 2 per cent. or below.

Mr. Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con)

Will the Chancellor confirm that two thirds of the new jobs created this year are in the public sector and that, although many of them may be very worth while jobs in nursing and teaching, they all have to be paid for by the wealth-creating sector?

Mr. Brown

I thought that the hon. Gentleman was going to congratulate us on the 60 per cent. cut in unemployment in his constituency since 1997. The reason why he did not is that the Conservatives want to abolish the very instrument for getting unemployment down£the new deal. He will know that it is completely untrue to say that two thirds of jobs created since 1997 have been created in the public sector. The fact is that 1.24 million jobs have been created in the private sector. Conservative Members should be congratulating us on having the lowest unemployment rate of any of the major countries—something that they never achieved in 18 years of government.

Valerie Davey (Bristol, West) (Lab)

In Bristol, the new deal has been particularly successful in getting young people into work. Will my right hon. Friend comment on the level of youth employment nationally and its effect on the economy?

Mr. Brown

Only around 5,000 young people—an average of eight per constituency—have been unemployed for more than a year. In the mid-1980s, under a Conservative Government, 350,000 young people were in that position. The fact that the Conservatives would abolish the new deal shows that they have learned nothing from the mistakes of the past.

Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con)

In a spirit of Christmas cheer, I congratulate the Chancellor and the Government on their job creation efforts, which have gone well£there is no denying that.[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Well, fair play. However, may I encourage the Chancellor to look again at the growing level of regulation, which is depressing job creation in the wealth-generating sector?

Mr. Brown

It is precisely because of the issues involved in regulation that we simplified the VAT system in the Budget and removed the audit requirements and the requirement on companies to issue two sets of accounts—one for the Inland Revenue and one for Companies House. The hon. Gentleman has welcomed the new deal—he should have a Christmas lunch with the shadow Chancellor, who said that the new deal is an expensive failure. They must reconcile those contradictory positions.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab)

Is the Chancellor of the Exchequer aware that, in coalfield areas, particularly Derbyshire, the Tories took the pits out of the public sector, put them into the private sector and then shut every single one? Since 1997, we have had the mammoth task of trying to rejuvenate those areas. That has been a huge success, but we still have one pending—the Bolsover-Markham employment zone, near junction 29A off the Ml. Five thousand jobs will materialise in that area. Will he ensure that as the planning applications have not been called in we can have a Christmas present for all the people in north Derbyshire?

Mr. Brown

Christmas cheer is around at the moment and I respect my hon. Friend's work, undertaken even when he was ill, in promoting coalfield regeneration. We will look back on the past few years as an attempt to resurrect communities that were left with terrible problems as a result of the way in which the coal industry was run down in the 1980s. I shall consider his proposal for Bolsover, but he should know that the new deal for communities is being expanded. There are now 2,000 designated enterprise areas, with huge incentives for development. We are intent on not only keeping unemployment low but tackling areas of continuing long-term unemployment that deserve the support of a compassionate Government.