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Unemployment (UK and other European Countries)

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 9th March 2015.

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Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East 2:30 pm, 9th March 2015

What comparative assessment he has made of unemployment rates in the UK and other European countries.

Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Conservative, Macclesfield

What comparative assessment he has made of unemployment rates in the UK and other European countries.

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The UK currently has the 3rd lowest unemployment rate in the European Union, and it has fallen faster than that of any other G7 economy in the past year. Thanks to welfare reform and our long-term economic plan, businesses are creating jobs, and 1.85 million more people are in work than in 2010. For interest, that is more than the total population of Estonia.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

The Opposition like to ally themselves to France, so I would like my right hon. Friend to inform the House where we stand in comparison with our neighbours in France.

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I do recall that the Opposition extolled the virtues of the French Government and what they were doing. It is worth bearing in mind therefore what would have happened if they had followed the French example—which I think they still plan to do. If the UK had the same employment rate as France, employment would be 3.5 million lower in this country. If the UK had the same unemployment rate as France, unemployment would be nearly 1.5 million higher. But there you go—the truth is that every time a Labour Government leave office, they leave unemployment higher than when they arrived.

Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Conservative, Macclesfield

I welcome the steps my right hon. Friend is taking to create jobs and reduce unemployment, which has fallen by 40% in Macclesfield over the last year. I have recently been on a delegation to Spain where we discussed the challenges they are facing of 25% unemployment and 50% youth unemployment, so does my right hon. Friend agree that it is absolutely vital for the UK to stick to its current course for the years ahead?

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Yes, I do. This Government—under the Conservative party—with our long-term economic plan, will stick to those plans, so we would continue to see unemployment fall. Spain has taken huge strides in trying to make changes, but they still have more to do, as they said to me, to deregulate the ways in which they work, but none the less they are at least making real efforts to do so, and they look to us for some examples. Our unemployment and employment rates are better, but I would like to think they are trying very hard to get there.

Photo of Grahame Morris Grahame Morris Labour, Easington

May I remind the Secretary of State that the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, which was set up by Ministers, has pointed out that 40% of unemployed people in Britain are under 25? There are 550 unemployed young people in my constituency. Is not the Secretary of State missing an opportunity to rebalance the regional economy, to address the skills shortages and to target resources at those areas that need it the most?

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Absolutely, but the point I would make to the hon. Gentleman is that I would love for somebody on his side to get up and say, “The economy under Labour crashed with a 6% fall in GDP.” Does he honestly think that had no effect on his constituents? [Interruption.]Since then, we have got unemployment down below 2010 levels and got employment levels up, and we are doing our best to reskill people through work experience and so forth—[Interruption.]—and for all the shouting on the Opposition Benches, they blame everybody else for the crash but they do not give us the credit for the changes and improvements.

Photo of Kelvin Hopkins Kelvin Hopkins Labour, Luton North

Would the Secretary of State like to thank the former Labour Government[Interruption.]

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. Mr Hopkins is on his feet, seeking to ask a question in his normally robust but courteous manner, and being shouted down by a Member on his own Benches. That is not satisfactory. I want to hear Mr Hopkins; the people of Luton North want to hear Mr Hopkins, the nation wants to hear Mr Hopkins.

Photo of Kelvin Hopkins Kelvin Hopkins Labour, Luton North

I am most grateful to you, Mr Speaker, for that help. Would the Secretary of State like to thank the former Labour Government for keeping Britain out of the euro, which is the principal cause of the devastation of the southern European members of the eurozone?

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

It is a very good thing that we are out of the euro—I am very happy about that. As far as credit is to be given, as the hon. Gentleman knows, I have been opposed to entry into the euro and my party was, under my leadership, absolutely opposed and continues to be so, and I am very pleased about that. May I finish by reminding the House of what even those in Europe say when they look at us? The OECD said of the UK that

“the performance of the labour market has been remarkable!”

That is the point: the rest of Europe says the UK has done better on employment and unemployment than anybody else, and that is down to the Government, thanks to their long-term economic plan. We have got it right; they have got it wrong.