HC Deb 20 April 1972 vol 835 cc746-8
Q6. Mr. Carter

asked the Prime Minister if he will make the Minister for Industrial Development a member of his Cabinet.

Mr. Maudling

I have been asked to reply.

No, Sir. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Industrial Development has been appointed to work under the broad direction of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, who is the member of the Cabinet responsible for industrial matters.

Mr. Carter

In view of the unemployment figures which, when seasonally adjusted, show an actual increase, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he does not feel that the new Minister should be given powers and status sufficient to deal with what is now very clearly a long-term problem?

Mr. Maudling

The unemployment figures show an absolute decline though a seasonal increase. However, the hon. Gentleman did not mention that the number of unfilled vacancies, which is a most important figure, shows a better improvement than was seasonally to be expected. On the general question, responsibility within the Cabinet should rest on my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

Mr. Kaufman

Will the right hon. Gentleman draw to the attention of the Minister for Industrial Development the fact that in greater Manchester this month, despite a small fall in the national unemployment figures, there has been a further rise of over 1,000 in the number of wholly unemployed, bringing the total to a new disastrous post-war record? Will he ask the Minister for Industrial Development to help by giving us the 10 per cent. plant and machinery grant and by extending the period for house improvement grants so that we have the full 24-month period?

Mr. Maudling

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will pay close attention to the developments in the Manchester area which have been mentioned today.

Mr. Awdry

Will my right hon. Friend once more try to explain to hon. Gentlemen opposite that one of the main reasons for the high unemployment total is the unreasonable level of wage demands made by the unions? [Hon. Members: "Shocking."]

Mr. Maudling

I will certainly try, but I doubt whether I will succeed.

Mr. Heffer

Will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear to his hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Awdry) that the areas with the lowest incomes are precisely the areas with the highest levels of unemployment? Although there may be some jobs in areas like Norfolk, in urban areas such as Liverpool and Glasgow the unemploy- ment rates continue to increase. Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that drastic and urgent action by the Government is needed?

Mr. Maudling

The unemployment rate certainly continues to be too high in industrial areas, but the massive effects of the Budget have yet to be seen in full.

Mr. Douglas

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the Scottish unemployment figure today is abysmally high? How does he intend to obtain the co-ordination between the Minister for Industrial Development and the other Cabinet overlords which will be needed to reduce that figure?

Mr. Maudling

I agree that unemployment in Scotland, as in many parts of the United Kingdom, is too high. But in the last 12 months my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has put no less than £2,000 million of additional demand into the economy.

Mr. Callaghan

If the Home Secretary accepts that high wages and high wage claims cause unemployment, can he say why the areas with the highest wages have the lowest unemployment and why other areas, like Scotland, the North-East and Wales, where wages tend to be lower, have the highest unemployment?

Mr. Maudling

I have always said that the effects of cost inflation fall most heavily on those least able to defend themselves.