Jobs and Social Security

Part of Opposition Day — [11th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 6:30 pm on 28th November 2012.

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Photo of Ian Lavery Ian Lavery Labour, Wansbeck 6:30 pm, 28th November 2012

I will obviously be very brief, Madam Deputy Speaker—I have no choice now.

Yesterday’s report on the Work programme was very revealing, and my constituents are absolutely horrified by the statistics on Wansbeck. The coalition’s flagship Work programme has created fewer jobs than would have been created had no programme been in place at all. Members across the House have scorned that finding, but it is an absolute reality. Only two people in every 100 who have been referred to the programme have actually gained employment. That is absolutely astonishing—astounding, in fact.

Yet the Secretary of State said yesterday and today that the results are excellent and that the scheme is on track. The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions, Mr Hoban, said yesterday that we should not worry because the information used in the report gave only a snapshot and that it is against the backdrop of growth that was much weaker than expected. Well, whose fault is that? It is the Government’s fault. We need a plan B, or C or D, whatever we want to call it.

In Northumberland, one of the biggest counties in the country, only 80 of the 4,570 people in the Work programme have found a job. That is 1.75%. And the Government say we are on track. Goodness me, what would happen if we were not on track? Perhaps the Minister will answer that simple question. In Wansbeck we have very few job opportunities, a lack of new business start-ups and increased levels of bankruptcy. In fact, the constituency has the highest rate of bankruptcies in the country. Many businesses are doing what they can and working very hard indeed, and I say well done to them, but we have huge problems. We are still reeling from the job losses at Rio Tinto Alcan and seeing 26 jobseekers apply for every job at the jobcentre. That means that 25 are absolutely disappointed because the jobs are not there.

My heart goes out to the unemployed, those who are searching for jobs; searching for dignity. The Deputy Prime Minister and the Prime Minister have talked time and again about “alarm clock Britain”. There are those in alarm clock Britain who peek from behind their curtains every morning to watch their neighbours getting into their cars and going to work, wishing that they had the same employment opportunities. The problem is that there are no jobs in the region. There are not many jobs for young people either, with 15.9% of 18 to 24-year-olds in Wansbeck unemployed.

I do not have much time left but I want to say something about social security, which is also mentioned in the motion. A huge problem up and down the country is the way the Government are casting disabled people aside and on to the scrap heap through their vicious work capability assessment. It is absolutely outdated and needs to be cast aside. We need to look at the situation and look after the elderly and disabled people who are suffering so much as a result of the Government’s attacks on benefits. Nothing short of getting rid of the WCA will do.

We need to look at enterprise zones and be more imaginative and creative on job creations. Why not invest the £435 million that has already been spent on the Work programme and the £725 million for the next five years on people who have a stake in their communities and who want to create employment for the right reasons, not for mass profit?