§ Mr. Hepburn
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what the change in the level of unemployment has been in the Jarrow constituency in each year since 1997; 
(2) what action the Government have taken to help reduce unemployment in the Jarrow constituency since 1997. 
§ Mr. Nicholas Brown
Information on the change in the level of unemployment in Jarrow is in the table.
Our policies have created a strong economy geared to delivering stability, low inflation and sound public finances. Building on this foundation, our labour 499W market policies have helped to deliver record levels of employment across the country, and unemployment at its lowest level since the 1970s.
As the table shows, my hon. Friend's constituency has shared in this success. As well as the reductions in claimant unemployment in Jarrow since 1997, long-term unemployment (over 12 months) has been cut by over 70 per cent. The local Jobcentre has played an important part in these achievements, helping their clients move into work and working closely with employers to fill their vacancies. It is not only unemployed people that have been helped, across the New Deals in Jarrow over 2,000 people have been helped into work.
We have also introduced Action Teams for Jobs to help disadvantaged people in the most employment deprived areas move into jobs. Be the end of 2002, the Action Team operating in my hon. Friend's constituency had helped 820 people move into work. The Team has developed innovative ways to help jobless people overcome the barriers to work they may face. For example, they have secured funding from the Transport Projects Fund we introduced last year to provide a bus service from South Shields to the Metro Centre and Team Valley, running through Jarrow, to help their clients overcome their transport barriers to work. The Team are also taking their services into the communities they help in Jarrow using a Mobile Unit.
We are building on the services we provide in Jarrow. The new Jobcentre Plus office in Jarrow will open later this year, delivering a single, integrated service to benefit claimants of working age, with a clear focus on work. Jarrow will also be part of a progress2work-LinkUP pilot starting in the autumn. This new initiative will provide further support for those facing the greatest disadvantages in the labour market, including ex-offenders, homeless people and recovering alcohol misusers.
§ Mr. Hancock
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what recent assessment he has made of trends in the rate of unemployment in Portsmouth; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Nicholas Brown
The Government's policies have created a strong economy geared to delivering stability, low inflation and have helped deliver a high and stable level of employment benefiting every part of the country. Alongside this, through Jobcentre Plus and programmes such as the New Deal, our labour market policies are helping more people move into work.
The number of people out of work and claiming Jobseeker's Allowance in Portsmouth has fallen by over 60 per cent. since 1997. Between January 2001 and January 2002 the number of claimant unemployed people in Portsmouth, as a percentage of the resident population of working age, fell from 2.7 per cent. to 2.4 per cent. However, in the last 12 months unemployment has levelled out and is 2.4 per cent. in January 2003. But, with unemployment at levels not seen since the 1970s and inflation and interest rates low, we believe that the UK is better placed than for many years to weather the current uncertainties in the world economy.