[un-allotted half day] — Unemployment

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 3:27 pm on 14th December 2011.

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Photo of Albert Owen Albert Owen Labour, Ynys Môn 3:27 pm, 14th December 2011

I shall tell the hon. Gentleman my background in a moment—I certainly know what unemployment is like and have worked with unemployed people—but month on month, people are losing their jobs. Saying that there is hope in future of a scheme—he says it is well thought out, but nobody has seen it implemented—is a disgrace when the Government are doing away with schemes that were working and helping people. I met people who went on those schemes. They had the opportunity in a major global recession to gain work experience and skills. That is what the Government should be doing; they should not be talking about some generous scheme of the future that we do not know about.

The Government’s record is one of increasing unemployment, which compares with the Government of the 1980s and 1990s. The centre for the unemployed where I worked was established in the 1930s, and was re-established in the 1980s because of mass unemployment and mass depopulation. People left my area to look for jobs in the 1980s and ’90s as they did in the 1930s. The county of Anglesey, which I represent, was the only county in Wales that had a declining population in two consecutive censuses, because people went looking for work. Yes, they got on their bikes, but it harmed our community. Unemployment is not a statistic to bandy around in the Chamber; it involves real lives and real people. It affects individuals, families and communities. I have seen communities scarred by mass unemployment, which is why I am passionate about standing up here today to say that this Government’s policies are not working. We need to work together to find policies that work. When the Government scrap policies that have been successful in my community, I will stand up and say so—that is the reality of the situation not only in my constituency but in many parts of the country.

In 1992, unemployment in my constituency stood at 3,912—nearly 4,000. By October 2002 it was down to 1,516, and by October 2007 it was down to 1,093, because schemes that targeted the hardcore unemployed to help them back to work were introduced.

I remember that there was no plan to help in the 1980s. In 1992, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that unemployment was “a price worth paying”—it was an economic tool. The Minister shakes his head, but those were the Chancellor’s words, and he cannot contradict that because they are on the record. The Chancellor said that there were shoots of growth, but people were losing their jobs and livelihoods, and communities were being destroyed.

The buzzwords of the ’80s and ’90s were “downsizing” and “redundancy”. We needed a scheme, and when the Labour Government came to power in 1997, we introduced the new deal for the unemployed. A levy from the excess profits of utility companies was used and targeted to help young people. Between 1999 and 2004, it was hugely successful. I think it should have continued, but after 2004 the scheme was targeted at other sections of society that needed help. With hindsight, perhaps we should have continued to concentrate on young people.

Youth unemployment has gone up in the past 12 months, whatever statistics we use. Young people are losing their jobs or are not able to enter the employment market. My daughter’s peers, who are in their 20s, have taken extra university courses because they cannot get jobs. They are coming out highly qualified and cannot get jobs. That is the reality of the situation today. It is incumbent on us all, whichever party we represent, to get the number down. Although bandying statistics does not help, we must, none the less, use the records of different Governments to paint a picture. The record of this Government is to do away with schemes that were successful and to say, “We’ll replace them with something in the future.” The reality is that unemployment is going up.