HC Deb 09 December 1971 vol 827 cc1479-82
5. Mr. Ashton

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will list the methods used by his Department to assess the level of unemployment.

Mr. Bryan

Monthly counts are made of persons who register as unemployed at all employment exchanges and youth employment service careers offices. These figures are analysed under various categories and after excluding school leavers and temporarily stopped are adjusted for seasonal factors. The seasonally adjusted figure for wholly unemployed is the best guide to the underlying trend of unemployment.

Mr. Ashton

Is the Minister satisfied with these methods? Is it not a fact that the unemployment figures come as a tremendous shock to him every month? Cannot he assess them better in the future? Is he ready for next week's figures or will these again come as a tremendous surprise?

Mr. Bryan

I do not see the point of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question. All Governments have, as a matter of policy, not put out forecasts. One reason is that they are not competent to do so under present techniques; and secondly, unreliable information is worrying to the people concerned.

Mr. Marten

Looking at the other side of the coin—that is, jobs vacant—is it not likely that my hon. Friend's Department underestimates the number of jobs vacant because firms do not place with the Department the actual number of vacancies they might have?

Mr. Bryan

Exactly what proportion of the vacancies are reported to our Department is the gap in our information. I think everyone would agree that in times of high unemployment fewer vacancies are reported for the simple reason that employers know that they can get their recruits without using the employment services.

Mr. Leadbitter

Will the Minister indicate whether by the definition of "wholly unemployed" he means the numbers out of work for more than eight weeks? If he accepts this as one of the tests in determining levels of unemployment, would he consider having another analysis on the basis of those who have been out of work for more than half a year, because this kind of unemployment is creating quite a problem in the development areas?

Mr. Bryan

Figures of that sort are given in the Gazette each month. I shall check to see whether the exact figures the hon. Gentleman is talking about are there and I will think about them.

23. Mr. Skinner

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what are the latest unemployment figures nationally and by regions.

Mr. David Howell

At 8th November 926,095 people were registered as unemployed in Great Britain, including 74,855 who were temporarily stopped. I will, with permission, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT the corresponding figures for regions.

Mr. Skinner

Is the Minister aware that those figures represent only about three-quarters of the story? There are literally thousands of unregistered workers who should be added to the figures he has given. Will the hon. Gentleman give a guarantee, similar to the one given by his hon. Friend in winding up the debate on Tuesday night, that the official unemployment figures for June, 1970, will not be doubled during the lifetime of this Parliament?

Mr. Howell

In reply to the first point, no one for a moment denies that the figures are very high and very serious. Enormous programmes and enormous efforts have been brought forward to reduce them. In reply to the second point, it is not the policy of the present Government to make predictions any more than it was the policy of the Labour Government to do so.

Mr. Edward Taylor

Does my hon. Friend agree that the problem is particularly serious in Scotland? When does he expect the reflationary and capital expenditure measures announced by the Government to have an impact on the Scottish unemployment figures?

Mr. Howell

I am aware of the particular seriousness of the situation in Scotland. A major reflationary programme is already in the pipeline and Scotland will share substantially in the benefits from the enormous tax concessions and extra expenditure amounting to £660 million.

Mr. Harold Walker

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, notwithstanding the extreme seriousness of the problem in development areas such as Scotland, in intermediate areas such as South Yorkshire the employment rate is far in excess of the average in the development areas? In the South Yorkshire area the average is between 6 and 7 per cent. Is it not clear that the Government's policy of cutting public expenditure and withdrawing investment grants has been disastrous and that 1 million families are likely to be confronted with a very bleak Christmas? Will not the Government accelerate what they are seeking to do, which is too little and too late, and try to relieve some of the misery, poverty and hardship they are causing?

Mr. Howell

The hon. Gentleman's feelings are thoroughly understandable but his diagnosis is wrong. If one sets out, as the Labour Government did, on a major shake-out in the mid-1960s, and if that is followed by enormous wage inflation, the end effect is considerable unemployment. That is what has happened and that is what we have to cure.

Dame Irene Ward

Will my hon. Friend insert in the OFFICIAL REPORT a list of the projects which have been undertaken as a result of the increased capital expenditure so rightly announced by the Government? My hon. Friend is continually referring, quite rightly, to what is being done but it would be much more helpful to everyone to know in detail what the projects are and where they are situated.

Mr. Howell

If my hon. Friend likes to put down a Question, I will seek to answer her request.

Dame Irene Ward

I have asked dozens of times. I am tired of asking.

Mrs. Renée Short

May I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the serious position in the West Midlands where practically every week—for example, in Wolverhampton—firms are closing down, thus creating redundancies? Is he further aware that men in their forties come to see me in my "surgery" because they have become redundant and have no chance of getting work in the West Midlands? Is not this a disgraceful comment on the Conservative Government's inability properly to run the economy? What is the hon. Gentleman doing to put the situation right?

Mr. Howell

I acknowledge the seriousness of the situation referred to by the hon. Lady, but I repeat that major programmes have been brought forward, major investment has been accelerated and, as newspaper reports today show, there are distinct signs of improvement in the fixed investment picture and this will produce jobs in the area.

Following is the information:

Total registered unemployed Temporarily stopped included in total
South East 174,546 3,769
East Anglia 21,122 30
South West 53,389 960
West Midlands 126,542 46,057
East Midlands 47,320 4,144
Yorkshire and Humberside 90,359 4,761
North West 136,443 7,407
North 84,785 1,905
Wales 50,206 472
Scotland 141,383 5,350
Great Britain 926,095 74,855