HC Deb 19 February 1963 vol 672 cc223-4
17. Mr. Grey

asked the President of the Board of Trade, having regard to the fact that unemployment in the Durham Employment Exchange area is now 4.7 per cent., he will add this area to the list under the Local Employment Act, 1960.

Mr. D. Price

Unemployment in the Durham Employment Exchange area in January was at a rate of 3.6 per cent. wholly unemployed, and during the past twelve months the rate has averaged 2.5 per cent. wholly unemployed. My right hon. Friend does not consider that he would be justified in adding this area to the list of development districts.

Mr. Grey

That is a completely ridiculous answer to the sincere request contained in my Question. Will the Minister look at it again? The figure of unemployment is 4.7 per cent. Is he aware that under the Local Employment Act the average is 4 per cent. and that, therefore, the figure is 7 points above the percentage which qualifies under the Act? Will he give consideration instead of making complete nonsense of the whole Act?

Mr. Price

There is no figure in the Act as to percentage of unemployment. The effect of the words is "when the President of the Board of Trade and the Board consider the unemployment to be high and persistent". No figure is given. My right hon. Friend has never committed himself to a figure in public. I point out to the hon. Member that projects sited in the Durham area which would be likely to provide employment for workers from the neighbouring development districts—and Durham is surrounded by development districts—would qualify for assistance under the Local Employment Act. Therefore, nearly any worthwhile project within the Durham Employment Exchange area would qualify under the Act.

Mr. W. Hamilton

Is the Minister saying that no specific figure is used by the Board of Trade as a yardstick? Is it not generally accepted that the figure is 4.5 per cent.?

Mr. Price

It may be generally accepted by the hon. Member and his Friends, but I assure him that there is no figure.

Mr. Hamilton

The hon. Gentleman had better do his homework.

Mr. Price

There is no question of doing homework. I am telling the hon. Member.

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