Brooks Newmark highlights the Government’s successes in helping young people back into work and especially the abolition of the jobs tax for under-21s.
Mr Brooks Newmark (Braintree) (Con): I am someone who looks at a glass of milk as being half full, not half empty, and I think that the Government have done much to help young people back into work. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Shabana Mahmood) may wish to mock the youth contract, but it has encouraged businesses to offer over 21,000 jobs to people at risk of long-term unemployment. Those 21,000 people appreciate the youth contract and want the job that it has enabled them to have.
We have over 1 million young people in apprenticeships, which are also getting young people back on to the jobs ladder. Indeed, the latest Office for National Statistics labour statistics indicate a significant rise—of about 50,000 in the past three months alone—in the number of young people in work. The number of young people seeking jobseeker’s allowance has fallen by 13,000—the 17th consecutive monthly fall. That is good news indeed. Many constituencies, of Members throughout the House, have benefited, as has Braintree, which has seen a fall in long-term unemployment, regular unemployment and youth unemployment.
On top of all that, I was absolutely delighted to hear the Chancellor supporting the Million Jobs campaign manifesto, which, I hasten to add, I helped to draft, by abolishing the jobs tax for under-21s. It is extremely important that if we are cutting taxes we do it to help those in society we really want to help. As a father of five children between the ages of 16 and 25, I am extremely sensitive to that age group. It is important that we get young people into work, and the new Government initiative does just that. It will enable even more young people to get a foothold on the employment ladder by providing a highly attractive incentive for businesses to hire a young person under 21. I thank Lottie Dexter, the director of the Million Jobs campaign, who has worked extremely hard not only in running it but ensuring that the draft manifesto that we put out only six weeks ago caught the Chancellor’s attention so much that he decided to support it in his autumn statement. I am delighted to support the new clause.
Other interventions in the same debate
Mr Brooks Newmark (Braintree) (Con): It is probably worth considering the fact that a lot of businesses, particularly retail businesses, work on very small margins. Does my hon. Friend agree that the extra money that they will receive through not having to pay this jobs tax will probably encourage them to hire a young person rather than someone who is over 21?
Mr Gauke: My hon. Friend makes an important point. We have to set this in the context of a range of Government measures, including the introduction of the employment allowance and the measures on business rates that we announced last week, which I am sure he will be the first to acknowledge will help retailers and small businesses in particular. All those measures will help to put in place the conditions that will encourage firms to take people on and to increase employment and wages. This is all about achieving sustainable growth in living standards. There is no short-cut to achieving that, but measures such as these will help us to ensure that the economy is on a strong footing and that we are in a position to improve the living standards of the British public.
Mr Newmark: Would the hon. Lady at least like to join me in welcoming the fact that youth unemployment in her constituency over the past year has dropped by 19.8%?
Sheila Gilmore: I believe that relates to the claimant count, which is not always the same as youth unemployment, because some people in the 18-to-25 age group will have run out of contributory benefits and fallen off the claimant count. I still see an issue when I look around me, even in a city that, in comparison with the rest of Scotland, has always done better with regard to employment.
Mr Newmark: I am sorry to hear that the hon. Lady’s approach to what the Government are doing is one of, “Bah, humbug!” Given that it is Christmas, will she at least acknowledge, first, that the Government are doing a good job by bringing youth unemployment down in her constituency and throughout the country and, secondly, that this particular initiative of abolishing the jobs tax for under-21s is a good one? It is Christmas.
Sheila Gilmore: It is indeed Christmas and, given that many families up and down this country will be struggling through Christmas, I do not think the Government will receive much thanks. For example, a rising number of people are having to resort to food banks this Christmas and, indeed, throughout the year. We could trade these issues backwards and forwards.