HC Deb 04 February 1963 vol 671 cc9-12
13. Mr. Prentice

asked the Minister of Labour if he will state the approximate number of people unemployed at present, including both the registered unemployed, and those who do not register, such as married women, people prematurely retired, and young people staying in school but seeking to start work.

Mr. Hare

On 14th January, 814,632 people were registered as unemployed. No figures are available of the numbers of unemployed who do not register for employment.

Mr. Prentice

As we are to debate unemployment later today, is it not important that we should have realistic figures in front of the House? Does the Minister not appreciate that there are two things wrong with the figure he has quoted? One is that it is three weeks old. Will he say what has been happening in those three weeks? Are we right in assuming that unemployment has gone up, and can he give an estimate of how much? Secondly, is he not aware that the figure of registered unemployed conceals a figure of other people who are unemployed? Does he not agree that a more comprehensive way of arriving at the statistics might show that the total on that account would be 200,000 or 300,000 more than the figures indicate?

Mr. Hare

The hon. Gentleman knows that this and previous Governments, including the Labour Government, have always used monthly figures. This has been the tradition of the House and of the Ministry. I cannot indulge in speculation as to what the figure is today. The unemployment figures in February will be issued in due course. I think the hon. Gentleman has in mind a question that he has asked me before, when he suggested that we should adopt the methods used in the United States. I do not think he is right on that. I think that our system, on the whole, although it may not be perfect, gives as good figures as that of any other country. It is interesting to bear in mind, and he should note, that in the United States, in a recent report of a Presidential Committee, it was stated that in that country there was considerable room for improvement in the way the definition of unemployment was applied in the United States. We should not move towards a system which has been regarded not only as costly but extremely chancy, namely, that based on a sample. We should not move towards a system of that sort.

Mr. Prentice

May I press the Minister on a matter of more general interest? Since 14th January, three weeks ago, has the trend of unemployment been up, and, if so, roughly by how much? Can he give some indication?

Mr. Hare

Obviously, I cannot do this until I get the February figures. The hon. Gentleman knows that I cannot do this and that I can only speculate. In dealing with unemployment figures one must rely on accurate counts and not on speculation.

27 and 29. Mr. A. Lewis

asked the Minister of Labour (1) if he is aware that since 1951 the registered number of unemployed has risen by 83 per cent.; to what extent this percentage would have to be adjusted to take into account the increased number of registered unemployed on 24th January; and whether he will give the numbers on short-time on 24th January, 1963, compared with 24th January, 1951; and

(2) if he is aware that from 1951 until December, 1962, unemployment rose by 83 per cent.; what is the latest figure; whether he will give similar figures of unemployment for this period for the county borough of West Ham; and what are the figures in each case for those persons partially stopped and on short time.

Mr. Hare

It is true that in 1962 the average number of registered unemployed in Great Britain was 83 per cent. higher than in 1951, but it is also true that in December, 1962, there were 1,887,000, or 9.2 per cent., more people in employment than in December, 1951. On 14th January, 1963, there were 814,600 unemployed, of whom 186,100 were temporarily stopped. In the area covered by Canning Town and Stratford Employment Exchanges and West Ham Youth Employment Office, the corresponding figures were 2,942 and 401. Compared with January, 1951, they represent increases of 144 per cent. and 179 per cent. respectively. The information asked for about short-time working is not available. I must point out that the figure of unemployment for the Greater London Area is 1.9 per cent. compared with the national average of 3.6 per cent.

Mr. Lewis

In view of the figures and information given, is the Minister aware that the unemployed take a very dim view of and resent the fact that when the Minister for Science was appointed, within almost 24 hours of taking the job, he flew to America to make a speech there and thought it more important to go to America than to stay and do his job here? If Ministers are appointed to do a job here, will the Government ensure that they do it here and not go to America to make lecture tours?

Mr. Hare

The hon. Gentleman's intervention is irrelevant. He should know that the Minister for Science is in the North-East at this moment. He is spending the whole of this week touring there in order to acquaint himself in detail with the problems and to find solutions which will benefit the people who live there.

Dame Irene Ward

Will my right hon. Friend convey to the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis) that we on the North-East Coast prefer to look after ourselves and that we are thoroughly satisfied with the appointment of the Minister for Science?

Mr. Speaker

There is no Ministerial responsibility for conveying messages to members of the Opposition.