LAST week I asked David Cameron a question at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs).
PMQs is the centrepiece of the Parliamentary week and asking a question to the person who runs the Government of the day is not something to be taken lightly.
There is an opportunity to ask the head of the Government something that you consider to be of huge importance. You don’t want to waste the question to the Prime Minister.
That is why I asked my question on unemployment in Hartlepool and the North-East.
I have said before, and I will continue to say until the Government recognises the scale of the problem and adopts policies to do something about it, this is the single biggest social and economic issue affecting the town.
Being unemployed scars individual lives, families and whole communities.
The longer a person is out of work, the greater the toll and the more difficult it is to find work.
Young people are faced with a particular Catch 22 dilemma. They are not able to get a job because they lack experience in the workplace – especially when more people who have just left employment are trying to find work – they cannot get experience because they can’t find work.
My question was simple and straightforward because I wanted an honest answer: “Unemployment in Hartlepool and the North-East is higher now than in May 2010. How much of that increase is down to the Prime Minister’s Government’s policies?”
I had expected the Prime Minister to at least acknowledge the scale of the problem and pledge that his policies were going to do something about it.
Instead, he went on a somewhat bizarre train of thought, not mentioning Hartlepool or the North-East at all.
“I have reproduced the PM’s actual answer, so people can judge for themselves:
“The last Government excluded from the unemployment numbers people who were on temporary employment schemes. We include those people.
“People on the work programme are included in the unemployment figures. We measure these things accurately, and comparing like for like, youth unemployment has fallen since the election.”
The fact is the Prime Minister is simply wrong.
He stated that youth unemployment is down since the General Election – this is incorrect.
He seemed to suggest in his answer that there is no real problem with unemployment because the Government has simply tweaked the manner in which the figures are collated.
This does suggest a Prime Minister who is out of touch with reality and has no awareness of the problems that people in Hartlepool and the wider North-East are facing.
The Prime Minister wanted to use statistics to say there was nothing wrong with unemployment in Hartlepool, but let me use some facts.
In the month that the Government came to power in May 2010, the number of unemployed people in Hartlepool was 3,791 and had actually been falling for the previous six month.
Now, the number of people out of work is 4,671. That’s a rise of almost 25 per cent in two years. I’m sorry, Prime Minister, but that’s got nothing to do with changes to statistics.
You can tweak unemployment figures up or down all you like, but the plain truth is that unemployment in the town is getting worse.
The Government can’t provide all the answers, but their determination to cut public spending so fast has put this country back into recession.
They could put economic growth and job creation at the heart of their strategy and help the people of this town get back into work.