Town MP issues jobs challenge to minister

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright.

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright.

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HARTLEPOOL MP Iain Wright has challenged a Government minister to come and see the town’s unemployment plight for himself after a Parliamentary row.

He issued the challenge to Tory MP, Sir George Young, after the minister dismissed calls by Mr Wright for an urgent debate in Parliament on unemployment in the North-East.

But the Leader of the House of Commons accused Mr Wright of making the situation appear worse than it is and refused his request for a debate.

Hartlepool has the second highest rate of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in the country with 4,633 people claiming the benefit, accounting for eight per cent of the working population in the town.

It comes after the Hartlepool Mail launched its Work in Progress campaign, which highlights the plight of the unemployed and aims to help people find work.

Mr Wright said: “I asked for an urgent debate on unemployment in the North-East on the back of the latest unemployment figures which showed 4,633 Hartlepool people were out of work in January.

“Without a shadow of a doubt, this is the single biggest issue affecting the town.

“He basically didn’t accept that Government policy was having a negative impact on the rate of unemployment, which if you look at the evidence is just nonsense.

“Even at the height of the recession, unemployment was lower in Hartlepool than it is now.

“The minister needs to come and see himself because it will show that the policies aren’t working.”

Figures released last month revealed another 700 people signed on for Jobseeker’s Allowance in the previous month in the four constituency areas covered by the Mail.

They included another 182 people in Hartlepool to claimed the benefit.

And five Hartlepool wards were revealed as having some of the worst youth unemployment rates in the region.

Writing in his column in today’s Mail, Mr Wright said a young man had contacted him to say he had to move 100 miles away from his family in Hartlepool to look for a minimum wage job.

Responding to Mr Wright, Mr Young said that nationally 60,000 people found work in the three months and the number of long-term unemployed had fallen, while job vacancies had started to increase.

The Eton and Oxford educated minister said: “I am not sure that the picture is quite as dismal as he painted it.”

As Leader of the House, Mr Young is responsible for arranging Government business in the House of Commons.

Mr Wright added: “We know from the 1980s that if people are unemployed for a long period of time they are likely to stay unemployed or get the lowest paid jobs and don’t fulfil their potential.

“We need to stop that from happening again.

“I fear the Government has not listened to the lessons of history.”