Long-term Unemployment

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 31st March 2014.

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Photo of Karl Turner Karl Turner Opposition Assistant Whip (Commons) 2:30 pm, 31st March 2014

What steps he plans to take to tackle long-term unemployment.

Photo of Ben Gummer Ben Gummer Conservative, Ipswich

What steps he plans to take to tackle long-term unemployment.

Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

Those at risk of long-term unemployment are given personalised support through the Work programme. Industry figures show that it has moved half a million people into work. Jobseekers returning from the Work programme will get extra support through our new help to work scheme.

Photo of Karl Turner Karl Turner Opposition Assistant Whip (Commons)

Through the hard work of the Labour-led council and the three Hull MPs, Siemens has now said, “Hull, yes,” to a joint investment, with Associated British Ports, of £310 million, which will create 1,000 jobs, but this is not a silver bullet. We have a long-term unemployment crisis in my city. Will the Minister now support Labour’s job guarantee for the long-term unemployed?

Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

I am glad to see that the hon. Gentleman is taking full credit for the Siemens move, but I would like to think that the long-term economic plan and everything this Government have done for the last year should take some credit too. Equally, long-term unemployment in his constituency is down 20% on the year, while long-term youth unemployment in his constituency is down 34%, so I would say that what we are doing is right. Our long-term economic plan is right and I am glad that Siemens is in his constituency.

Photo of Ben Gummer Ben Gummer Conservative, Ipswich

It is a fact that every Labour Government since the war have left office with unemployment higher than when they came in. That is why I am particularly proud that unemployment, both youth and total, is lower than when we came into office in 2010. We have a particular issue with long-term unemployment in Ipswich. What will my hon. Friend do to ensure that when we leave office—in the long distant future, I hope—long-term unemployment will be lower than when we took office?

Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

My hon. Friend is correct, and he is meticulous in his homework and his figures and in everything he does. I would also like to explain to the House that long-term unemployment in the UK is half that of the eurozone—the figure is 2.7%—so what we are doing is right. Let us not get out of office, because when we are in office we run the country a lot better.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

Ben Gummer is absolutely right. Last year, the number of people who had been unemployed for more than two years reached a higher level than at any time since 1997. It then started to fall, but last week—contrary to what the Minister said a minute ago—it went up again. Does she accept that long-term unemployment is a terrible waste of human and economic potential, and will she now introduce a compulsory job guarantee for those who have been receiving jobseeker’s allowance for more than two years?

Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

It seems that the Opposition never really learnt anything. They want to introduce the future jobs fund and traineeships, for instance, because they enable them to manipulate the figures. They can take people off long-term unemployment and start the clock ticking again, but the figures that they give are unreal and untrue. We are ensuring that we measure the levels correctly, and that there is an honest assessment of what is happening to unemployment, including long-term unemployment. I can tell the Opposition, without fiddling any figures, that it is coming down.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

The corollary of long-term unemployment is the problem of hard-to-fill job vacancies. Can my right hon. Friend give me the most recent figures for the Thirsk, Malton and Filey travel-to-work area, and can she tell me what the Government are doing to place people in the care jobs which are so important to the community but so difficult to fill?

Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that we are introducing sector-based work academies. When people are nearly job ready, and when businesses in the care sector have jobs to provide, we bring young people together and give them work experience and training, and a guarantee of a job interview at the end of that. Forty per cent. of those young people are being given jobs in the care industry.