HC Deb 29 July 1971 vol 822 cc765-8
12. Mr. J. H. Osborn

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what improvements in employment exchanges he has made since June, 1970.

Mr. R. Carr

Forty-eight exchanges have been rehoused in better premises and major improvements to another 59 offices completed. The Occupational Guidance Service has been strengthened and six more units established. The number of exchanges offering self-service facilities has been doubled and computerised job banks have been set up for the London area and nationally for certain occupations.

Mr. Osborn

To what extent has there been progress in separating the benefits side from the employment arrangements? Can my right hon. Friend say to what extent job banks are filling the vacancies in any of the service industries, where there is still under-employment?

Mr. Carr

To answer my hon. Friend's first question, this matter is still under consideration although I would add that we regard it as one of the most important questions to settle. We are in no doubt that the job banks are of great assistance in speeding up the matching of jobs with the available people. Although this does not of itself create more jobs, it is of importance, socially and economically. In operating the system, I am following what was started by the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), and I am very glad to be able to say so.

Mrs. Castle

Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that the real improvement in our employment services depends on a fundamental reorganisation, outlined in the consultative document on the future of the employment service which I issued as long ago as May, 1970? Is he aware that the House has been waiting impatiently for the outcome of the consultations? Fifteen months have elapsed and we still have no date for the appearance of the right hon. Gentleman's proposals. Does he not think that this should have had a higher priority than the Industrial Relations Bill?

Mr. Carr

The two have not been competing. As I made clear to the House, while I accept the importance of the review of the employment services, set in hand by the right hon. Lady, it is also important to look at the whole employment policy, including trainng—all in one—and to set our course for the future looking at it all in one.

17. Mr. Dempsey

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if, in view of the increase in persons registering for employment at Coatbridge Employment Exchange, he will make arrangements to provide additional accommodation, as existing facilities are inadequate.

Mr. David Howell

It is proposed to rehouse the exchange, together with other Government Departments, in a new office development in the town centre. Meanwhile, improvements are to be made to existing premises.

Mr. Dempsey

Is it not ironical that we should be providing money for new employment exchange buildings instead of providing money for jobs which will give work to the unemployed? Is the hon. Member aware that since the General Election unemployment has soared so high that we have now the second largest rate of unemployment on the mainland of Scotland? Would he not be more usefully occupied in persuading his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to get cracking on providing more jobs for the unemployed?

Mr. Howell

Both are necessary. The hon. Member will realise that employment services, retraining, and finding job opportunities for people are continuing needs, high unemployment or not. We are doing everything we can to reduce the high rate of unemployment, and the Government's new measures will help considerably.

Mr. Buchan

Is the hon. Member aware that the construction of employment exchanges is now virtually Scotland's only remaining growth industry, and that at some employment exchanges there are now 200 men looking for each vacancy? Will not he persuade his Department to get its finger out and do something about it? If the decision goes wrong at Upper Clyde today, is the hon. Member aware that men are saying that enough is enough, and that they will fight in the yards? Will he make his right hon. Friend aware of the situation?

Mr. Howell

The hon. Member takes an absurdly gloomy view of the future situation, when new expansionary measures are being introduced. As for the Upper Clyde situation, my right hon. Friend will be making a statement later today.