HC Deb 03 December 1958 vol 596 cc1186-7
37. Mr. Sparks

asked the Minister of Labour the causes which have resulted in the continuous rise in the numbers of registered unemployed.

Mr. Wood

The increase in unemployment during the past year has been due to a variety of causes both at home and abroad. My right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Trade explained them during the recent debate on the Address. In recent months a large part of the increase has been due to seasonal factors.

Mr. Sparks

Would it be correct to say that the continuous rise in unemployment in recent months is the direct result of deliberate Government policy?

Mr. Wood

No, Sir; it would be incorrect to say that. As the hon. Member knows, a number of factors has caused the rise in unemployment, one of them, probably the most important, being the falling off in demand both at home and abroad for our products.

Mr. Gower

Will my hon. Friend resist the implication in some of the supplementary questions put to him that there is not a real desire on the part of the Government to maintain a high level of employment? Will he also make it clear that it is in the interests of the Conservative Party to maintain full employment, as only social distress and unemployment on a high scale are likely to induce a large number of people to adopt the half-baked policies of Socialism?

Mr. Lee

Would the hon. Gentleman agree that his right hon. Friend has on more than one occasion agreed that the increase in unemployment is due to Government policies? Is he aware that for the last hour hon. Friends of mine from all over the country have been stressing the importance of this issue, that the answers which he has given show that unemployment is rising in all the areas, and that we should need yet another hour to get through all the Questions on the Order Paper dealing with this issue? What do the Government intend to do to reduce the unemployment figures?

Mr. Wood

My right hon. Friend has frequently stated that the measures which the Government have taken are directed to providing the highest amount of employment consistent with the avoidance of inflation. That has been our objective, and that remains our objective.

Mr. Dudley Williams

Does my hon. Friend agree that the present standard of unemployment is well within the limits set by Lord Beveridge in his Report when deciding what was full employment?

Mr. Jay

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that the Minister of Labour himself said at Blackpool last autumn that the rise in unemployment was due to the Government's policies?

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot have a debate on unemployment at Question Time.

Forward to