"Britain is showing the rest of EU the way when it comes to job creation," Conservative MEP Anthea McIntyre said today.

She spoke out following the publication of figures showing the unemployment rate at 4.6 per cent, its lowest in 42 years.

The employment rate - the proportion of 16 to 64-year-olds in work - is 74.8%, the highest since records began in 1971.

Miss McIntyre, West Midlands MEP and Conservative employment spokesman in the European Parliament, said:

"Employment rates have stalled in northern Europe and, tragically, in countries such as Greece and Spain youth employment is at  50 per cent and more. Over-regulation and social engineering have played a large part in creating that malaise.

"In the UK by contrast, a business-friendly environment with flexible labour laws and light-touch regulation is encouraging businesses to create jobs and allowing new enterprises to flourish.

"Our economy is heading in the right direction and it is vital that we don't change course now and let the progress slip."

"The last time unemployment was so low was back when Agatha Christie published her last Poirot novel and Vauxhall launched the Cavalier. It is a truly remarkable achievement."