Page last updated at 13:34 GMT, Wednesday, 18 January 2012

PM defends 'unwelcome' unemployment figures

The latest unemployment figures are "disappointing" and "hugely unwelcome", but the government is doing all it can to help people back into work, David Cameron has told MPs.

Speaking at prime minister's questions on 18 January 2012, Mr Cameron promised he would go "further and faster" to tackle unemployment.

Unemployment rose by 118,000 to 2.68m in the three months to November - the highest figure since 1994.

Opposition leader Ed Miliband accused the government of "doing nothing as thousands of people find themselves unemployed".

But Mr Cameron stressed that there were some positives in the most recent figures.

"I think it's noteworthy that, while the increase in unemployment is hugely unwelcome, there is still an increase in the number employed - another 18,000 in work," he told MPs.

Mr Miliband said the prime minister's "boasts about rising employment" show "how out of touch he is".

The Labour leader claimed that in some parts of London, 100 people were chasing three vacancies.

Mr Cameron hit back, saying: "There is no boasting about anything".

"What we have here is growth in the private sector, contraction in the public sector, but we need to get our economy moving, and the key to that is having low interest rates, which your plans would put at risk," he told MPs.

Later in the session, Mr Cameron said he would be "delighted" to appear before the Leveson inquiry into press standards.

His declaration came in response to a question from veteran Labour MP Denis Skinner, who said: "The British people deserve an answer as to why you appointed one of Murdoch's top lieutenants - Andy Coulson - to the heart of the British government."

The prime minister said he would "answer all the questions" asked of him if he was called to give evidence.

Mr Cameron finished with a dig at Mr Skinner, telling the chamber he often told his children there was "no need to go to the Natural History Museum to see a dinosaur" when they could watch the Bolsover MP in action.

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