HC Deb 06 June 1972 vol 838 cc224-6
18. Mr. Greville Janner

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what are the latest available figures for unemployment in the Leicester area and by what percentage these exceed the figures for June, 1970.

Mr. Dudley Smith

On 8th May, 5,308 people were registered as unemployed in the area covered by the Leicester Employment Exchange. This was 68.5 per cent. more than in June, 1970.

Mr. Janner

Is the Minister unaware that even if there has been a reduction—if there has, it is long overdue—in the level of unemployment in this area, the figure which he has given is shocking? Does he recognise that this level of unemployment is causing especial concern in an area which, until now, has enjoyed a low level of unemployment?

Mr. Smith

The position is not satisfactory. On the other hand, the current rate of 2.6 per cent. is well below the 3.1per cent. for the East Midlands and 3.8 per cent. for the country as a whole. The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that there is a feeling of cautious optimism among employers in the area that the economy is now on the upturn and that Leicester will benefit from this.

Mr. Redmond

While the whole country is thoroughly dissatisfied with te levels of unemployment in certain areas, may I ask my hon. Friend to see whether we can have more realistic monthly figures showing where the beginnings of a shortage of labour are appearing, thus enabling the unemployed to be given guidance on where they may obtain employment or otherwise be retrained for the sort of vacancies that are likely to exist?

Mr. Smith

These matters are always under review and, with our new proposals to make the various services more efficient, we hope that the figures of unemployment will be even more realistic than they are at present. The important thing is that we are now beginning to make progress. I was chided a couple of months ago when I said that in terms of unemployment we were turning the corner. I still believe that we are turning the corner on unemployment.

Mr. Baxter

In view of the dissatisfaction which prevails throughout the country about the high levels of unemployment and the fact that industrial relations are at the very lowest ebb, may I ask the hon. Gentleman to consider recommending the Prime Minister to appoint a joint committee of this House to find ways and means of abating the problem of unemployment and overcoming the difficult industrial relations prob- lems that exist? Is he aware that the future of this nation could be in jeopardy if something drastic is not done before long?

Mr. Smith

I do not share the hon. Gentleman's pessimism. One does not necessarily solve problems by appointing committees. In any event, that suggestion is rather wide of the original Question, which was about Leicester. The important point to remember is that in Leicester and elsewhere things are improving.