HC Deb 27 May 1971 vol 818 cc554-9
5. Mr. Molloy

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will hold discussions with the Trades Union Congress and the Confederation of British Industry to examine means of halting the increase in unemployment.

Mr. Bryan

My right hon. Friend is always ready to discuss employment and manpower matters with the Trades Union Congress and the Confederation of British Industry.

Mr. Molloy

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the scourge of unemployment is one of the most terrible things that can hit an ordinary family, and that it is because of the reversals of the previous Government's policies by his Government that we have ever-escalating unemployment? Will he ask the T.U.C. and the C.B.I. to meet him because of this grave emergency, and drop silly things like talking about entering the Common Market, so that ordinary folk will not be able to say, "Why are you talking about industrial training boards to train my boy so that when he finishes training he will be unemployed?"? That is the absurd situation about which people are concerned.

Mr. Bryan

I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Government share his concern about the high level of unemployment. However, it is due not to present policies but to policies that were in force at this time last year, and we have yet to recover from them.

Dame Irene Ward

Would not a conference such as the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) suggested be quite useful if the T.U.C. told the C.B.I. that it was prepared to accept the terms of the Industrial Relations Bill for the purpose of ending unofficial strikes, which create a great deal of unemployment? Let us get on with that kind of conference.

Mr. Bryan

The C.B.I., Ministers and the T.U.C. have an opportunity to meet once a month at "Neddy", so that conversation may take place.

Mrs. Castle

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that we are all extremely fascinated by the speeches which the Secretary of State is making in the United States, and particularly his statements in Washington yesterday that what he found so encouraging about the employment position was the growing number of identifiable redundancies, because this showed that a shake-out was taking place? Is he aware that what we find significant and extremely discouraging is the fall in the number of unfilled vacancies, which are 46,000 fewer than they were last November, thus showing that there are no jobs for the shaken-out workers to go into? So that we may be absolutely clear about those statements, will the hon. Gentleman arrange for a copy of his right hon. Friend's statements in Washington yesterday to be placed in the Library?

Mr. Bryan

If that can be arranged, I will certainly arrange it. "Shake-out" was a word invented by the Leader of the Opposition some time ago. On the general question of unemployment, which is what the right hon. Lady is raising, it is acknowledged from this side of the House that the steps taken in the Budget cannot possibly have quick results. Such measures as the increased child allowance and the cut in S.E.T., which will help the expansion of the economy, cannot possibly have an effect before July. It is a gradual process, but we believe that we are on our way to success.

Mrs. Castle

May I have an answer to my request for a copy of the Secretary of State's statements to be placed in the Library?

Hon. Members

The Minister gave it.

10. Mr. Thomas Cox

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what further action he intends to take to reduce the number of young people who are now unemployed in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Dudley Smith

Careers officers will continue to make every effort to help unemployed young people find suitable employment. I am pleased to tell the House that my right hon. Friend has now made arrangements to pay grants for additional posts for careers officers in areas where unemployment is highest.

Mr. Cox

Does the hon. Member not realise that that will give no help to the 40,000 young people below the age of 18 who are unemployed and are fast losing any hope of entering into apprenticeships? Is he aware that as a result they could spend much of their adult life drifting from job to job because they have no basic skill? Is it not possible for the Government to realise that the young people of our country do not want the dole queues or the street corners—they want the right to work, and they look to the Government for indications that they will give them that right?

Mr. Smith

They can look for that with confidence from this Government. The hon. Gentleman overstates his case, because although it is true that there are over 40,000 unemployed, there are also over 50,000 vacancies for young people throughout the country. This is a problem and something is being done about it, as I have announced.

Mr. John Page

Will my hon. Friend hold discussions with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science with a view to improving careers counselling in schools and the status of careers teachers? Is he aware that that will help to improve this difficult situation?

Mr. Smith

That is a valuable suggestion, but the main problem for careers officers is not so much the school leaver as the less-able 16 and 17-year-old who has drifted around and had several jobs already and has fallen out of employment.

Mr. Heffer

Does not the hon. Gentleman accept that, while there is a serious problem throughout the country in relation to young people, the most serious problem is in the so-called development areas, where young people have almost no opportunity of getting skilled or any other training? Apart from the increase in the number of careers officers, what are the Government prepared to do to assist young people, particularly in these areas? Let us not have a quick statement, but a serious answer about what the Government intend to do.

Mr. Smith

The Government are already taking measures, through providing careers officers and through our other services, to deal with unemployment where young people are affected. We give all the help we can. The question of development areas is for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, but the extra business confidence which will be generated from the Budget, and which has not yet had time to work through into the economy, will eventually reap dividends, as the hon. Gentleman will see.

14. Mr. Raison

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what research his Department is conducting into the extent to which unemployment is caused by falling production as opposed to improved productivity or shake-out.

Mr. David Howell

Analysis of this kind is undertaken by the Treasury as part of the regular assessment of trends in the economy. The evidence available so far is that unemployment over recent months may have risen faster than the movement of demand by itself would have indicated. But the causes of unemployment are complex and it will not be possible to make a clearer assessment for some time yet.

Mr. Raison

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply, but will he give us, perhaps in the OFFICIAL REPORT, more specific details of the research studies that are being undertaken, in view of the enormous importance for future policy of knowing exactly what is the pattern of unemployment?

Mr. Howell

I will consider what can be produced for my hon. Friend. He is right in saying that this is important. Particularly important is the realisation that unemployment levels are no longer mechanically related to the level of demand, as some hon. Members seem to think.

Mr. Ronald King Murray

In the light of that reply, will the Government repudiate their fallacious theory that the cause of unemployment is excessive wage demands?

Mr. Howell

There is nothing fallacious about that theory. One absolute certainty is that excessive wage settlements put men out of good jobs.

18. Mr. John Fraser

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement about the latest unemployment statistics published by his Department.

Mr. Bryan

Between April and May the provisional total number of persons registered as unemployed in Great Britain fell by 18,736 to 755,091 and the percentage rate was down from 3.4 to 33 per cent. of all employees.

Mr. Fraser

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there are now four people unemployed for every three people who were unemployed at the time when the Prime Minister said that he would cut unemployment at a stroke? If the Prime Minister is not to be accused of a combination of mendacity and cynicism, would the hon. Gentleman say when he expects unemployment to be at a lower level than it was when the Prime Minister made his statement on 16th June last—will it be before the next Budget, by the Budget after that, or by the Budget after that?

Mr. Bryan

The words attributed to my right hon. Friend were, in fact, never said in that context.

Mrs. Castle

Yes they were.

Mr. Bryan

No wise Government would ever make forecasts in this field.

Captain W. Elliot

Would my hon. Friend agree that between 1964 and 1970 under the Labour Government unemployment doubled, and could he explain why they are so proud of the fact?

Mr. Bryan

As I said in answer to an earlier Question, we are still suffering from the policies of a year ago.

Mr. Concannon

Could the hon. Gentleman say what was the average wage of those unemployed, and does the hon. Gentleman think that they were being excessively paid when they became unemployed?

Mr. Bryan

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will give me notice of that question.