[un-allotted half day] — Unemployment

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 4:09 pm on 14th December 2011.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Conservative, North East Hertfordshire 4:09 pm, 14th December 2011

The hon. Lady makes the very important point that we need growth in our economy, and that to achieve that we need a range of measures to stimulate growth. I agree, and that is what the Government announced in the autumn statement. She should not, however, treat the whole country as though it were the same. We have much lower unemployment in my constituency—indeed, it has fallen this month—and there is no doubt that jobs can be found, but that is not true everywhere. The picture is different in different parts of the country, but if one looks at the overall picture one can say, month on month, that we have more people in the work force than we had last month. We have seen an improvement in some parts of the country, such as the part I represent, so the picture is not hopeless. The Government have a difficult task and are tackling it seriously, but sometimes we should look a little more widely at the labour market and the trends within it. We are asking people to work to an older age and to take on jobs that they might not previously have done because they were on incapacity benefit or were otherwise out of the labour market. So, we are asking more people to try to find work against a background in which that is not easy, but I believe—certainly the research shows this—that it is possible for us to see our GDP rise and our people go into work. What the Government are doing is along the right lines.

Sir John Rose said in a speech about a year ago that in Britain we train people to be hairdressers when we need engineers and IT specialists. One of the good things about the Government’s apprenticeships and skills programme is that it is targeted on areas in which we have found it difficult to create skills and on areas that are hard to fill, so there is a better match between skills and vacancies. The number of vacancies runs at between 400,000 and 500,000 each month, about 40% of which are in areas with skills shortages or areas that are hard to fill. If we can better match the skills to the vacancies, that could help. Overall, I think the Government are on the right lines.