The hon. Gentleman will find that the headline figures on employment levels that the Government and Ministers have been bandying around in recent weeks do not tell the whole story, and I shall return to his remarks shortly.
People up and down the country are worried about their jobs and businesses, and they are worried about the future. The worry is that this Government have been complacent about unemployment. Again and again, as the economic storm clouds gathered, Ministers have sheltered behind optimistic claims about their record on employment as a justification for their belief that Britain is somehow better placed to deal with the economic challenges that we face. They have claimed that Britain had "record employment" and that long-term unemployment has been "virtually eradicated". Only four weeks ago, the then Minister for Employment and Welfare Reform said:
"And we have grasped the opportunity to lift the rate of employment to a historically high level, with more people in work in Britain today than ever before in our history, and to reduce unemployment to levels not seen since the 1970s."
That remark does not entirely reflect the reality behind the scenes in the small print.
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