[un-allotted half day] — Unemployment

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 4:59 pm on 14th December 2011.

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Photo of Fiona O'Donnell Fiona O'Donnell Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 4:59 pm, 14th December 2011

I want to begin by answering some of the accusations made by Alec Shelbrooke. I do not think that it is a price worth paying to see the failure of this Government just so that we can get any kind of political advantage. He should have withdrawn his remarks—Members were not laughing, we were saying that the Government’s plan is not working.

Jobs and employment are the biggest issue in my constituency and the latest figures now show that just under 2,000 people are claiming jobseeker’s allowance and chasing 191 vacancies in East Lothian. That means that if every Member sitting on the Government Benches went for a job, only one would stand a chance of getting one.

I also want to address the comments made by Jenny Willott. She spoke about the voluntary sector and her contribution contained a lot of sense and value. I concede that Government Members care about unemployment. I have no doubt that when the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions went to Glasgow East and saw what poverty and deprivation did that he was genuinely moved, but I think there is a real gap when it comes to introducing policies and systems that help and support people in getting out of poverty and long-term unemployment. The Government talk about the voluntary sector playing a role when they are cutting the public sector, but the voluntary sector, which played such an important role in the future jobs fund, is now less able to respond to people’s needs.

Mrs Main made the most unhelpful remark in the entire debate when she said that the Prime Minister went to Europe to stand up for London. I remind her—even the Prime Minister knew this—that there are financial services sector jobs across the United Kingdom, not only in London.