UK Politics

Leaders clash in Commons over jobless rise

Ed Miliband has accused the government of "standing aside" in the face of rising unemployment as he clashed with David Cameron in the Commons.

The Labour leader said the number of young people out of work for over six months had doubled in the last year and things were getting "worse not better".

The PM told MPs that the increase was "disappointing" but work schemes were starting to have an effect.

He accused Labour of "flip-flopping" over their economic strategy.

'Embarrassed'

The weekly Commons session was dominated by the economy after official figures showed unemployment rose by 118,000 to 2.68 million in the last three months, the sixth quarterly rise in a row.

Mr Miliband said the government should be "embarrassed by its own record" as overall unemployment was at its highest level since the last time the Conservatives were in power, as were the number of women and young people without work.

The number of 16-24 year olds out of work for a year had risen by 102% over the last year, he argued, and forecasts suggested this was likely to rise further.

He blamed the government for "cutting too far and too fast" and suggested it was "back to the 1980s".

"The defining characteristic of this government is it stands aside and does nothing as thousands of people find themselves unemployed," he said.

Mr Cameron said the rise in unemployment was "hugely unwelcome" but that the government was not complacent and that it was doing everything it could to help people back into work.

He told MPs that the number of young people out of work for more than a year had fallen by 7% in the last quarter but "further and faster" steps were needed to help people find jobs.

He said that there was an increase in the number of people employed - and the government had to move "further and faster" on boosting private sector jobs.

"It is also noteworthy to note that there is a small decrease in long-term unemployment, and I hope that shows that schemes like the work programme we are introducing are beginning to have an effect. "

Amid criticism of Mr Miliband by unions for his decision to support the government's 1% pay cap on public sector pay rises, Mr Cameron said his Labour counterpart had "marched against" cuts last year but now "accepted" them and was "changing course" on a daily basis.

"Today he's telling us he wants to spend more and borrow more - he's so incompetent he can't even do a U-turn properly."

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