HC Deb 14 June 1965 vol 714 cc19-20
21. Mr. Bence

asked the Minister of Labour what increase has taken place in the numbers in full-time employment from October to the latest available date; and what has been the decrease in the numbers unemployed.

Mr. Marsh

In the employment estimates it is not possible to distinguish full-time from other workers. According to the provisional estimates, which are subject to revision in due course, there has been, between October, 1964 and April, 1965, a drop of 250,000 in the numbers employed. During the same period the numbers registered as wholly unemployed have fallen by 14,000.

Mr. Bence

If I heard aright, my hon. Friend said that there had been a drop of a quarter of a million in the number of people employed. If this is so, is this a reflection of a severe shortage of skilled men and technicians and, if it is, is not this a serious handicap to the expansion of our industry and the overcoming of our balance of payment problem?

Mr. Marsh

There is undoubtedly a serious shortage of skilled men and, even more widely, there is a serious shortage of manpower in general. The reason is that there has been a relatively small inflow of school leavers and a reduction in the number of immigrants entering the country. These two have combined together to make the manpower situation rather tighter than it has been.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this figure is a drop which is continuing month by month? What is he going to do about this progressive contraction of civil employment under a Labour Government, and what is he going to do to stop his hon. Friends asking him such embarrassing questions?

Mr. Marsh

I am sure that no question on this side could be as embarrassing to my hon. Friends as the hon. Gentleman's question must be embarrassing to some of his hon. Friends behind him.

Sir D. Renton

Is the hon. Gentleman quite right in saying that there has been a reduction in the number of immigrants? The Home Secretary has told us that in the first four months of this year there was a net increase of immigrants from the new countries and the Commonwealth as compared with the first four months of last year.

Mr. Marsh

I do not want to get too closely involved with this question of immigrants. I am sorry to disappoint the racist instincts of hon. Gentlemen opposite, but this was primarily a question about the manpower position. One of the reasons for this reduction in the number of people in employment is the relatively small number of school leavers entering employment during that period, and the other reason is the reduction in the number of immigrants.