HC Deb 09 July 1958 vol 591 cc367-8
1. Mr. Dodds

asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware of the widespread anxiety arising from the continuing trend of increasing unemployment, the reduction in overtime and the increase of short-time working; and if he will make a statement on the present position and future prospects.

The Minister of Labour and National Service (Mr. Iain Macleod)

I am aware that anxiety has been expressed about the employment situation in recent months.

In the week ended 24th May the number of operatives working overtime in manufacturing industries was 180,000 less than three months earlier. Overtime was, however, still being worked by nearly 1,300,000 operatives or 22 per cent. of those covered by the returns. The seasonal fall in unemployment, which I told the House in February might be less than usual, was delayed until last month, when a fall of 18,000 occurred. While there was a fall of 25,000 in the number wholly unemployed between February and June, there has been an increase in short-time working which was reflected in a rise of 30,000 between these two months in the numbers registered as temporarily stopped. The number in civil employment is still high.

The usual seasonal increase in unemployment in the second half of the year must be expected to begin after July, but it is too early to say whether or not it is likely to be more than usual this year.

Mr. Dodds

Is the Minister aware that, in view of the upward trend of unemployment for so many months, the information he has just given is very welcome? Whilst the difficulty of forecasting the future can be appreciated, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether this fall is likely to continue, or does he feel that the 2 per cent. may be increased in the next few months?

Mr. Macleod

I think that the unemployment figure may go beyond 2 per cent. as the seasonal factors continue to move against us, as they will in a few weeks' time. The latest figures, as the House will have seen from the newspapers this morning, are a little more encouraging. They show a little improvement in the adverse trend of the last few months.

Mr. Lee

Would not the Minister agree that, although we are all happy to see the reduction of 18,000 in the number of unemployed, there are now about 44,000 more unemployed than at the same period last year and that the number on short-time work increased by 50,000 during May? For those reasons, would the right hon. Gentleman impress upon his colleagues in the economic Departments the need for widening the scope of industrial activity?

Mr. Macleod

We are conscious of that, and the statement of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor on 3rd July showed that.

Mr. C. R. Hobson

Does not the Minister think, in view of the information he has given us, that the time has now come to limit immigration into the country?