HC Deb 11 November 1971 vol 825 cc1218-20
25. Mr. Cormack

asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether he will institute an independent inquiry into the reasons for the growth in unemployment over the past five years, and the long-term problems which the changing patterns of employment will cause.

Mr. R. Carr

I have no present plans to institute an independent inquiry. But I have already set in train within my Department a programme of study relating to changing trends in employment and the problems to which they may give rise.

Mr. Cormack

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I urge him to think again on the first part of the Question, because such an inquiry would be bound to throw interesting and revealing light on the underlying causes of a situation which is causing grave concern throughout the country?

Mr. Carr

I, of course, agree with my hon. Friend that it is extremely important to study the problem and to look ahead, but I am not yet convinced either that an independent inquiry is necessary or that it would be beneficial. I am keeping the matter very mach in mind.

Mr. Bagier

Would the right hon. Gentleman ask his Department to ask what have been the effects of the change from industrial grants to allowances? Is he aware that in the North-East, in the period from January to October this year, there have been industrial development certificates providing some 4,172 jobs but that this must be compared with the same period in previous years in which there were well over 10,000? Will he ask his Department to inquire how seriously this policy affects employment in development areas?

Mr. Carr

As I said in reply to an earlier Question, when we have a package of measures, as we have, in employment policy, it is impossible to isolate the effects of any one of them. Our development area policy includes, for example, new encouragement to service industries. which are the most labour-intensive industries and will, as a package, be more effective than what has existed previously.

Mr. Heffer

Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that, while technological developments have led to a certain increase in unemployment, the basic reason for the increase in unemployment over the last year has been the failure of his Government to introduce measures to deal with the problem, and that this Government are responsible because of their change from investment grants to investment allowances, and because of their policies in relation to I.D.Cs? In fact, their whole policy has failed, and they cannot dodge behind the argument that it was the workers or the previous Government who were responsible.

Mr. Carr

I do not agree with the hon. Member in any of that analysis. What is true is that we are suffering as a result of six years of stagnation. We are busy putting that stagnation to an end. We have introduced into the economy a bigger boost than has ever been introduced in a single year. If that were too late in our first year then it ought to have been introduced under the previous Government.

Mrs. Castle

Then will the right hon. Gentleman admit that it was always untrue to say that unemployment could be dealt with "at a stroke"?

Mr. Carr

We said we would take measures quickly—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ah"]—and that is what we have done. and will do.