Unemployment in the UK

Part of Opposition Day — [18th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 8:05 pm on 7th October 2008.

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Photo of Jennifer Willott Jennifer Willott Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Shadow Minister (Justice) 8:05 pm, 7th October 2008

Governments are known for changing figures to best suit themselves. No Government are immune from that criticism. As the hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell has said, this year, there is almost no point concerning welfare reform on which the Conservative party has disagreed with the Government. It agrees with the Government on the coercive approach that I have mentioned, and about which I have concerns. That approach is particularly worrying at a time of economic downturn. In fact, the Conservatives have been even harsher than the Government on those who face the greatest barriers to work. They have a three-strikes-and-out policy for those who refuse "reasonable" job offers.

The motion mentions helping businesses to

"secure existing jobs and to improve the back to work support available to those who do become unemployed."

My main concern with the motion is that it does not relate to those people who are already out of work. I am concerned that the motion does nothing to support the millions of people who are currently trying to find work, and who are particularly far from the job market. These are worrying times, and unemployment is rising—nobody disputes that. We do not know how long that will continue, or how bad things will get. I agree with the motion on the point that we need to improve back-to-work support. We need to look much more closely at support that is tailored to individuals. We need to look at what works and replicate it. That would be better than getting rid of programmes such as the new deal for lone parents, which seems to have had some success, and replacing them with much more coercive programmes.

I agree with everybody in the House on the need to make more imaginative use of voluntary and private-sector organisations when trying to support people back into work. A lot of things could be done to improve the situation, but we need to be realistic about the jobs market. I have concerns about the introduction of too much conditionality and about sanctions, given the current economic climate.

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