Youth Unemployment

Oral Answers to Questions — Treasury – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th July 2017.

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Photo of Luke Graham Luke Graham Conservative, Ochil and South Perthshire 12:00 am, 18th July 2017

What progress is being made on reducing youth unemployment.

Photo of Stephen Barclay Stephen Barclay The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

Youth unemployment is at a record low: 5.1% of 16 to 12-year-olds are unemployed or not in full-time education. That compares with 9.4% in 2009, under the previous Labour Government.

Photo of Luke Graham Luke Graham Conservative, Ochil and South Perthshire

Although I welcome the record unemployment figures that the Minister has given this morning, youth unemployment is still higher in my constituency and in Scotland than the UK average, so I ask him to work with me and others across the House to encourage more investment in my constituency and in Scotland as a whole.

Photo of Stephen Barclay Stephen Barclay The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

I will be very happy to work with my hon. Friend, because we recognise that work is the best route out of poverty. Indeed, unemployed households are 13 times more likely to be in relative poverty than those with people in full-time work.

Photo of Fiona Onasanya Fiona Onasanya Labour, Peterborough

I understand what the Minister says about less unemployment, but my concern is that this is not just about employment, but about retention. Does he agree that now is the time for hard-working, tax-paying public sector workers to get the pay rise that they have earned, and that he should scrap the cap?

Photo of Stephen Barclay Stephen Barclay The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

We can see the effects, were we to follow the hon. Lady’s policy, by looking at youth unemployment rates elsewhere in Europe. In Greece it is 45.9%, and even in France it is 22%. The best way of addressing poverty is by keeping young people in work.

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Conservative, Cheltenham

Government investment in Cheltenham’s cyber-accelerator since 2015 is now yielding results, with numerous cyber start-ups benefiting from local mentoring from experts at GCHQ. Does my hon. Friend agree that mobilising the UK’s sovereign expertise in areas such as cyber boosts jobs for young people and opportunity in places such as Cheltenham?

Photo of Andrew Jones Andrew Jones The Exchequer Secretary

The GCHQ cyber-accelerator in Cheltenham is part of the Government’s £1.9 billion cyber-security strategy. It allows business start-ups to gain access to GCHQ’s world-class personnel and expertise, and the accelerator helps these businesses to expand, contributing to jobs and opportunities, including in Cheltenham, and it makes the UK a safer place online. I know that my hon. Friend has worked very hard on this for a considerable period of time. He makes an important point as he speaks up for his constituency, and how it is leading in the UK and across the world.

Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham Labour, Coventry South

How does the Minister expect to reduce youth unemployment, given the further education budget cuts across the country, particularly in Coventry, where the budget has been cut by 27%?

Photo of Stephen Barclay Stephen Barclay The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

Actually, we are seeing record numbers of people, in particular disadvantaged students, going to university. The situation will not be helped if people are conned with the idea that student debts will be written off.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee

Well, that was a first in this place, certainly during my time in the Chair: I have never known a ministerial swap to take place mid-answer. I assume that it was inadvertent; the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury is nothing if not immaculate in his parliamentary manners. I put it down to error. But I hope that the Ministers know their own identities. I would be worried for them if they did not.