In my constituency, 997 people are unemployed, which represents 2.3% of those who are economically active. I recognise that that is a modest number compared with many constituencies, but it is an absolute tragedy for every single one of those individuals, particularly the 85 who have been unemployed for more than 12 months.
I agree with much of what Julie Hilling said about the tragedy of unemployment. It means a loss of self-esteem, poor mental health, losing the pattern and discipline of work and losing hope. Listening to the debate this afternoon, I have found it very difficult to take the charge that all Government Members believe that unemployment is a price worth paying. I do not, but I do believe that it is a very sad economic reality.
The question is how the Government should respond. Should they act as though they have all the solutions and can essentially buy a load of jobs to relieve the misery overnight? Would that be a sustainable solution for the affected individuals in six, nine or 12 months’ time? I do not think so.
Looking back to before the general election, I am certain that elements of the future jobs fund were worth while. However, when the Government are constructing a national scheme for getting people into work, there comes a point when they have to consider whether such a programme is the most cost-effective way of delivering sustainable skills and jobs that will lead people to full-time employment for many years.