Employment Levels

Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at on 13 May 2024.

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Photo of James Morris James Morris Assistant Whip

What plans he has to increase levels of employment.

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Chair, Treasury Committee, The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

We have a near record level of employment and very low levels of unemployment, but we are not stopping there. The Chancellor announced our back to work plan in the previous statement.

Photo of James Morris James Morris Assistant Whip

The latest Office for National Statistics figures show that the number of claimants in my constituency fell over the past year. That is good news, but more needs to be done. Does the Secretary of State agree that we always need to make work pay, that we need to create incentives for people to get back into work and that local action such as my annual jobs fair, which I held recently in partnership with the DWP, Halesowen College and the Halesowen business improvement district, can make a practical difference on the ground by getting opportunities to people?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Chair, Treasury Committee, The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the reduction in the number of claimants in his constituency, which I know is at least in part due to the excellent jobs fairs he assists in organising. He is right that work should pay; that is why I am very proud that mine is the party that brought in universal credit, making sure that that is exactly the case.

Photo of Tim Farron Tim Farron Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government)

May I add to the tribute paid by Mrs Murray to my friend Colin Breed, who served South East Cornwall with great dignity before her? I thank her for paying tribute to Colin and offering condolences to his friends and family.

In our part of the world, the issue is less unemployment and more the lack of a workforce. The Lake district has 20 million visitors every year and a relatively small working-age population, 80% of whom are already employed in hospitality and tourism. Can the Secretary of State help us out by saying yes at least to discussions with the European Commission, which has offered a youth mobility visa programme between the UK and Europe? Only one youth mobility visa scheme exists with Europe already, and it is with Andorra, which is quite small.

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Chair, Treasury Committee, The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I think the Government have already said they are not minded to pursue the scheme to which the hon. Gentleman refers, but that is not the same thing as saying that we do not take the issue extremely seriously. That is why we have extensive training provision such as SWAPs—the sector-based work academy programmes—and the WorkWell provision that we are rolling out, to which my hon. Friend the Minister for Employment has just referred.