HC Deb 27 April 1960 vol 622 cc188-91
12. Mr. Pentland

asked the Minister of Labour if he will state the total numbers of persons unemployed in the Northern Region residing in areas not included in the districts listed under the Local Employment Bill, listing young people and disabled persons separately.

Mr. Heath

There were 21,628 on 11th April, of whom 1,970 were young persons under 18 years of age, and 3,059 were registered disabled persons.

Mr. Pentland

These are really serious figures. Is the Minister aware that we on this side are thoroughly fed up with the Government's complacent approach to the problem facing our unemployed people in the North? Will not he consult his right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the President of the Board of Trade in order to bring forward a strategic industrial plan to meet the requirements of the North of England?

Mr. Heath

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that these figures cover a very large area, indeed. The Northern Region includes Northumberland, Durham, Westmorland, Cumberland and the North Riding of Yorkshire. Further, there is absolutely no complacency at all in the Government about this problem. The first place that I visited after becoming Minister of Labour was the North East Coast. Since then, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade and my right hon. Friend himself have both been there. Furthermore, four major new projects have been announced for the area: Pressed Steel at Jarrow, The Metal Box Company at Newburn, Ransome and Maries at Anfield Plain, and Paton and Baldwin at Jarrow, amounting to 3,100 jobs altogether. That, I think, is encouraging.

Mr. Elliot

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the statement made yesterday in Newcastle by the regional controller, Board of Trade, that there have probably been 7,000 new jobs brought to our area since the beginning of the year, is highly encouraging? In conjunction with his right hon. and hon. Friends concerned, will he continue those very successful efforts to bring more employment to the North East?

Mr. Randall

Does the Minister of Labour think it encouraging that from 14th March the number of boys under 18 years of age who are unemployed has increased by about 300? That does not seem to be very encouraging. Is it not the fact that the President of the Board of Trade has left out about 75 per cent. of this area from the assistance provided by the Local Employment Act? So it is little wonder that unemployment amongst our youth continues.

Mr. Heath

If the hon. Gentleman refers to figures—which I shall have to check—which include those who have left school since the end of the Easter term, I must tell him that it must take some little time to fit them into employment. One has to take a certain time after the end of a school term to do this.

18. Mr. Short

asked the Minister of Labour what is the total of unemployed persons in the Northern Region; and how many of these, and what percentage, are in areas listed under the Local Employment Act.

Mr. Heath

On 11th April, 39,596, of whom 17,968 or 45.4 per cent. were in areas listed as development districts under the Local Employment Act.

Mr. Short

That answer means that 55 per cent. of the unemployed in the North-East are not even covered by the Government's Measure. Does not that reveal the Measure as a colossal trick on the part of the Government who. at the election, held out the proposed Bill as the first Measure of the new Parliament to relieve local unemployment? We now find that 55 per cent. of our unemployed are not even touched by it. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we are sick of the complacent nonsense poured out about the North-East by himself and his hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North (Mr. R. W. Elliot) when, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, we have 4,000 unemployed, of whom 55 per cent. are not affected by the Local Employment Act?

Mr. Heath

As I have already said, the area covered by the Northern Region is a very large one, consisting, I think, of 4½ counties. Therefore, although the percentage of the number of unemployed not covered by the Act is greater than those covered, it is spread over a very much greater area. It is because the percentage of unemployment in these areas does not come up to the level envisaged in the Act that they are not on the list of development districts.

As I have said, it is right to concentrate our resources on the areas that need it most. There is absolutely no complacency. If hon. Members want additional measures to be adopted they must specify those measures. In addition to inducements, there remains only one thing, and that is compulsion, and we are not prepared to compel firms to go there.

Mr. Jay

But will the Minister note the very serious concern expressed today by my hon. Friends from Scotland and the North-East Coast about the unemployment situation in those areas? Since the position there has worsened relatively to the rest of the country in the last six months and as the shipbuilding prospect is far from promising, will he not today undertake that the Government will take more strenuous and vigorous measures than they have yet done under the Act?

Mr. Heath

The assurance I can give to the House is that my right hon. Friends and myself will continue our very determined efforts to persuade industry to go to these areas. I am afraid that on one matter the right hon. Gentleman is not correct. The position in Scotland and the North-East has improved more than it has in the rest of the country, because the percentage decrease in unemployment is much greater than it is for the country as a whole.

Mr. Jay

Will not the right hon. Gentleman agree with what all my hon. Friends know to be the truth; that, as compared with a year ago, the position in Scotland has certainly deteriorated?

Forward to