Unemployment (East Lothian)

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 18th March 2009.

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Photo of Anne Moffat Anne Moffat Labour, East Lothian 11:30 am, 18th March 2009

What assessment he has made of the level of support to long-term and recently unemployed people in East Lothian constituency.

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Photo of Ann McKechin Ann McKechin The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland

We are giving people across Scotland real help now by offering greater support to help them to move back into employment. We have invested £1.3 billion in Jobcentre Plus services to ensure that those looking for work receive individual support, and an additional £0.5 billion to guarantee more help for people who are unemployed for six months or more.

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Photo of Anne Moffat Anne Moffat Labour, East Lothian

I am sure that the whole House will now want to hear my supplementary question.

We currently have quite a good level of employment in East Lothian—over 80 per cent.—but I am concerned about the possibility that unemployment will rise both in East Lothian and in Scotland more widely. The position could be greatly improved if the banks adopted measures allowing them to enable small businesses to recover by lending them money. Constituent after constituent has said to me recently that they will have to make people unemployed because the banks will not lend to them. The arrogance of the banks beggars belief.

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Photo of Ann McKechin Ann McKechin The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland

My hon. Friend has raised an important point to which the Secretary of State has already referred this morning: the need for banks to start lending in order to enable businesses to survive and to invest. We have introduced the necessary measures to make that possible. I am sure that she welcomed the recent announcement by the Royal Bank of Scotland of the provision of additional funds focused particularly on small and medium-sized enterprises, many of which are based in her constituency.

It is important to note that the United Kingdom still has the second lowest unemployment in the G7 area, but we are not complacent. That is why, from April, we will be providing additional help for those who are unemployed for more than six months, in the form of a £1,000 recruitment subsidy. [Interruption.]

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Photo of David Hamilton David Hamilton Labour, Midlothian

My constituency is next to East Lothian, and it is in the same position. The problem is not just unemployment, but the fact that companies are reorganising themselves. Would my hon. Friend and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State consider bringing the banks to Dover House, so that Members of Parliament can have a discussion with them, and put our cases to them? Why are the banks still not lending to companies that are reorganising themselves to try to get through their present difficulties?

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Photo of Ann McKechin Ann McKechin The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland

I should be more than happy to speak to any of my colleagues about constituency issues, and about how we can help Members to ensure that local banks respond to the needs of companies in their areas. I welcome the fact that East Lothian council recently joined a local employment partnership, enabling us to work with employers in trying to deal with some of the problems.

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