In April 1991 there were 662,078 unemployed claimants under 25. That compares with 1,025,939 in April 1987 and 1,286,182 in January 1985. Latest comparable figures from the European Commission show that United Kingdom unemployment among the under-25s, at 12·3 per cent., is lower than the European Community average of 16·4 per cent.
Is not it true these days that many young people leave school with no job, no hope and no future? The reasons are obvious. In my constituency, for example, Ferranti is closing Bellesk house, Ranks Hovis McDougall is closing the Caledonia mills, and SAI, under Government pressure, is closing its fertiliser plant. That is a disgrace. Would not it be more appropriate if the Government got on their bike and allowed a socialist Government to take over? That is what is being demanded from outside.
I shall leave the hon. Gentleman to decide whether a socialist Government is on offer to the country. He may wish to discuss that with his hon. Friends.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned his constituency; he would want me to remind the House that when he was last elected, in 1987, 6,635 people were out of work there. He will rejoice with me that today only 4,300 people are out of work in his constituency. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will join me in celebrating that fact and that instead of coming to the House and running his constituency down he will come here with tales of how successful the employers in his constituency can be and say that he will help them to continue that success.
As white-collar unemployment. not least among the under-25s, appears to be rising, arguably faster than unemployment in other sectors of the economy, will my hon. Friend reconsider some of the training programmes and initiatives—especially, perhaps, some of the advertising by his Department to aid the jobless? There are clear signs that the advertisements seem rather more clearly directed at those seeking jobs in manufacturing industry, whereas the fastest rise in unemployment is in evidence in the service sector, not least in London and the south-east.
I regret that my hon. Friend has got that impression. We have tried to take great care to ensure that advertising by the Department covers the full spread of activities. The answer to my hon. Friend's reasonable request is that the network of training and enterprise councils is almost complete throughout the land and that we are giving TECs the flexibility to identify local training needs in their communities and to tailor training programmes appropriately. Both the Secretary of State and the Department give that aspect great emphasis and my recent contact with TECs has given me enormous confidence that they can deliver a sensitively tailored local package of training for each area. I hope that the TEC in my hon. Friend's area is doing the same—I am sure that it is.
Why do young people continue to bear the brunt of the Government's incompetence and mismanagement of the economy? Will the Minister tell the House why in the rest of Europe unemployment among the under-25s has been rising at 1 per cent. over the past year, whereas in Britain there has been a spectacular 32 per cent. increase? Will the party of mass unemployment tell us now when it will take that issue seriously, or does it once again agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who said that unemployment was a price well worth paying?
Let us take as an agreed starting point the figure that I gave in my original answer, which was that unemployment among the under-25s in this country is 12·3 per cent. I must tell the hon. Gentleman that, so far from having 12·3 per cent., socialist Spain—a country with which he will no doubt feel an affinity—has 29·9 per cent. unemployment among the under-25s. In Italy, which was run by a coalition Government when I last looked, the figure is 29·4 per cent. In France, a country often cited by the Opposition—at least when it suits them—the figure is 18·7 per cent. Our record may not be perfect, but the record of the continental countries is a jolly sight worse.
My hon. Friend makes a very good point. I am glad that he reminded me of what happened under the last Labour Government—although I shall have to take his word for it, for reasons that he gave. The Labour Government abandoned young people to the dole queue, whereas this Government have introduced positive and imaginative schemes to ensure that no 16, 17 and 18-year-old need be unemployed except from his own choice. That shows more clearly than anything the difference between this Government and the Opposition in terms of attitudes and policies.