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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention; I wholeheartedly agree with his comments. It is all very well to have the theory of getting lone parents back to work, but if the jobs are not there, that theory is undermined. The Government must consider that.
In Northern Ireland, some 60% of jobs are in the public sector or public sector-dependent. I said this in my maiden speech a fortnight or so ago, but I will say it again because it is very important. I understand that the Government's pledge is to increase private sector jobs and build up that area. However, before anything changes in the public sector, there has to be a private sector that fills the gap, so that those opportunities are there.
I turn to the 2.5% rise in VAT. In the area that I represent, there are a great many small and medium-sized businesses, which by their very nature create a lot of jobs collectively. Individually, that may amount to three, four or five jobs in a family business, but collectively they run into many hundreds, probably thousands. Although the rise is not going to kick in until January 2011, it causes great concern for the area that I represent, and specifically for businesses. Some small businesses may be hanging on by the skin of their teeth, and finding it very hard to get through difficult times, while looking ahead to perhaps another two, three or four years of austerity and the associated difficulties. Many businesses will try to absorb the VAT increase rather than pass on the extra prices, which they cannot do-not because they do not want to, but because they cannot do it in the competitive market that they are in. They have to try to take on large multinational businesses that have a bigger market and can therefore absorb such costs.
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