HC Deb 25 July 1966 vol 732 cc1212-3
54. Mr. Higgins

asked the Minister of Labour what the unemployment figures were in absolute and percentage terms in what are each of the present development areas, the average for the development areas as a whole and the corresponding figures for the United Kingdom at the latest convenient date, and at the same date in each of the 10 preceding years, respectively.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mrs. Shirley Williams)

I regret that this information about unemployment in the new wider development areas is not readily available and preparation of it would entail an undue expenditure of staff time.

Mr. Higgins

In view of the Prime Minister's recent statement about the fact that the differentials between the areas and the rest of the country are likely to be narrow, surely this information is absolutely essential to the House? Will the hon. Lady consider it a matter of the utmost priority?

Mrs. Williams

The hon. Member will be aware that there is another Question which he has put down to be answered in detail which will give the information he needs. What he is asking is retrospective information about areas which did not exist at that time.

55. Mr. Higgins

asked the Minister of Labour if he will estimate the unemployment figures in absolute and percentage terms in each of the development districts and development areas, the average for the development districts and areas and the United Kingdom six months, one year, eighteen months and two years, respectively, from the most recent convenient date.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

No, Sir.

Mr. Higgins

We have no information, again. Surely it is totally intolerable when we have the Prime Minister making a statement with no statistical information to back it up.

Mrs. Williams

The hon. Member is asking for estimates about a future case. He will be well aware, unless he is making a purely political point, that no Government: of any colour have ever made forecasts of this kind.

Sir K. Joseph

The hon. Lady must know the answer to this Question and the previous one since the Prime Minister told the House last week categorically that the relationship between unemployed in the development areas and the rest of the country was lower at this time than ever before. Where did he get his facts if the hon. Lady cannot answer these Questions?

Mrs. Williams

The hon. Lady can answer these Questions and would like to make absolutely clear what the situation is. The Question put down refers to development districts which under the Industrial Development Bill were the operative way of defining areas of high unemployment and show a continual narrowing of differential between those districts and the national figure. What the hon. Member is asking for is estimates for the development areas which, as he knows as well as we lo, have only just come into being. Therefore, he is asking about an entirely hypothetical situation.