§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. John Lee)
In October 1988, the latest available date, there were 15,626 men and 2,433 women in Merseyside who had been unemployed for more than five years.
§ Mr. Alton
In the light of those damning figures and the 98,419 people on Merseyside who are currently out of work, will the Minister promise that even if tomorrow's figures show some overall reduction in unemployment, there will be no question of complacency in areas such as Liverpool, where the Allerton road jobcentre in my constituency is advertising just 92 jobs in a city where about 24 people are chasing every vacancy? Does the Minister agree that it is vital to remove every possible barrier which might prevent people from seeking skills and training? Does he further agree that we should abolish the national insurance surcharge, which is too often a tax on jobs in areas of high unemployment? Does he also agree that it is quite wrong—
§ Mr. Lee
I will attempt to answer two of them. Of course the Government are not complacent about unemployment on Merseyside. Indeed, substantial amounts of Government money have been poured into Merseyside through a whole range of Government programmes. The hon. Gentleman should acknowledge that there has been a significant reduction in unemployment in his constituency, which has fallen by just over 21 per cent. in the past two years, and that unemployment is falling steadily in the Merseyside area. The hon. Gentleman may also recall that Liverpool city council's original attitude in not exactly welcoming employment training has not helped.
§ Mr. Wareing
Is that not a ridiculous end to the Minister's answer, when he knows full well that his right hon. and hon. Friends at the Department of the Environment have cut Liverpool's rate support grant so 132 often in the past? Instead of coming up with Mickey Mouse employment training schemes which do not even cover all the young people unemployed in my constituency, he should talk to people who really know the area and then get together with his right hon. and hon. Friends to do something about the infrastructure, such as the road and rail network. Is it not time that the Government paid as much attention to the social and economic infrastructure of Merseyside as they do to the Channel tunnel?