Tories accuse Government over job losses

The Tories today attacked the Government over rising unemployment and demanded more action to get the banks lending again to businesses.

Shadow foreign secretary William Hague warned of "soaring unemployment, rocketing debt, good businesses going to the wall".

Standing in for Tory leader David Cameron at question time, he added: "If this is the Prime Minister saving the world, God help us when he moves onto the rest of the solar system.

"How many people are going to have to lose their job before the Prime Minister justifiably loses his own?"

With Mr Brown in Iraq, Commons Leader Harriet Harman told him: "We would rather have Superman leading our party than have a party led by a joker!"

She said the Government would be announcing a small business loan guarantee scheme in January.

Ministers were taking effective action to help families and businesses and would never, unlike the Tories, say that unemployment was a "price worth paying".

Mr Hague seized on the latest unemployment figures which showed the number of benefit claims had gone over a million for the first time in eight years after a huge increase in dole queues.

He branded Mr Brown's administration a "say anything, spin anything, achieve nothing Government" and urged ministers to adopt a loan guarantee scheme.

Consumers, he said, had given the Government's temporary VAT cut a "massive thumbs down" and ministers needed to get credit moving again.

Ms Harman accused the Tories of "talking down" confidence in the economy, insisting that a fiscal boost was vital to get retail sales rising again.

"We would take the action while all the Tories do is carp and criticise."

Mr Hague said today's unemployment figures showed a further rise of 137,000 - the highest level for 10 years and "obviously set to rise further".

He said: "We've been pointing out that the big problem is even viable businesses can't get the loans they need.

"Last week we asked the Government again to look at the bank rescue package and the Chancellor did announce on Monday one of the measures we have been calling for.

"But will the Government now accept the urgent need to get money into the hands of businesses of this country."

Ms Harman said: "Any time, anyone loses their job, that is a terrible blow for them.

"That is why we are stepping up Government action with a £1.3 billion package to protect people who become unemployed, to help them get the skills to get new jobs and also to make sure that if they become unemployed they don't lose their home.

"You're right that small businesses are the lifeblood of enterprise and employment in this country.

"That is why we recapitalised the banks to stabilise the banking system and that's why in January we will be setting up a new small business loan guarantee scheme.

"It's true to say that while lending figures are starting to show increasing lending to small businesses, there are still businesses having problems.

"That's why the national lending panel has been established."