HC Deb 19 February 1958 vol 582 cc1210-1
46. Mr. Dodds

asked the Minister of Labour the employment prospects for the next few months.

Mr. Iain Macleod

The seasonal fall in unemployment in the next few months may not be as great as in recent years, but I expect the general level of employment to remain high.

Mr. Dodds

I am sure that most people hope that what the Minister has said will be in accordance with the prospects in the next few months. Is it not a fact that the unemployment figures are the highest for five years? In view of the economic policies of the Government, is there not a tendency of danger to the policy of full employment?

Mr. Macleod

No, I would not accept that. The figures, though higher, are in fact not very much up on a number of recent years. The unemployment percentage in January was about 1.8 per cent. Now, in general, though there are factors that cause anxiety—some of which are not within our control, as they are external factors—I am not despondent about the situation. As the Order Paper shows, there are some extremely tricky but more local problems that cause me a good deal of worry.

Mr. Robens

Has the Department had inquiry made into all the effects upon employment of the cuts in investment and the large cuts in the defence programme? In view of inquiries that may have been made, are any plans being prepared for taking up this unemployment into other industries or in some way not permitting large-scale unemployment to arise?

Mr. Macleod

I do not think it is possible to isolate particular causes of unemployment and try to attribute different sections of the register to them. In regard to defence, tens of thousands of people have been leaving the defence industries in the last few years, and we have been extremely successful in reabsorbing them. I hope that will go on. My Ministry, the Board of Trade, and other Ministries are in closest touch about these aspects of the matter all the time.