HC Deb 25 March 1968 vol 761 cc904-5
42. Sir J. Gilmour

asked the Minister of Labour the total reduction in numbers employed in manufacturing industry during 1967.

Mr. Hattersley

It is provisionally estimated that between December, 1966, and December, 1967, the numbers decreased by 220,000.

Sir J. Gilmour

Do not those figures illustrate that there is very much more scope for replacing manpower in manufacturing industry than in service industries and that, therefore the Selective Employment Tax would be more suitable for an Alice-in-Wonderland economy than our own in present circumstances?

Mr. Hattersley

As I understand the hon. Gentleman's question, it implies that the intention of S.E.T. to move employees from the service trades is, in fact, operating. I know that it is operating. I am sure that it is right that it should operate and that it will be for the benefit of the economy that it is operating.

Mr. R. Carr

If it is operating, why did the Government remove the premium to manufacturing industry, which was supposed to be the mechanism to make it operate?

Mr. Hattersley

There are two reasons. First, it is operating irrespective of premium and it looks like continuing to operate, simply consisting of refund and the payments. The second reason is that outlined, as I told the right hon. Gentleman five weeks ago, by the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, who explained to the House that in some ways the premium was operating too well.

Mr. Maudling

Has the Minister any evidence to show the results of the process, which he claims, that gross domestic product is rising?

Mr. Hattersley

I do not think that the answer to that question is necessarily relevant to the effects of the S.E.T. I certainly think that if the right hon. Gentleman looks at the gross domestic product and its improvement over the next three years, he will see that the improvements therein are the result of the general restructuring of industry, of which S.E.T. is a part.

Mr. J. T. Price

Is my right hon. Friend aware, however, that when he Maims that S.E.T. has encouraged the transfer of labour from the distributive trades to manufacturing industry, there is no evidence in my possession or in the possession of my trade union, which is the principal union in the distributive trades, that any such thing has taken place?

Mr. Hattersley

I can only ask my hon. Friend, and, indeed, the House, to read what will now be the Written Answer to Question No. 37, which goes into some detail about how that process can be seen to have come about over the last 18 months.