HC Deb 06 June 1972 vol 838 cc228-9
21. Mr. Meacher

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is the current unemployment rate in the Oldham area.

Mr. Dudley Smith

At 8th May the rate of unemployment in the Oldham and Chadderton, Failsworth and Saddleworth travel-to-work area was 4.7 per cent.

Mr. Meacher

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that job losses in the North-West over the last year have averaged about 1,250 a week and have been at a higher level than that of any other part of the United Kingdom? Is he also aware that public investment has been running at a very much lower level than is justified by the unemployment figures and that there is a desperate need to decentralise office employment in particular to the North-West? What is the hon. Gentleman doing to secure this objective?

Mr. Smith

As the hon. Gentleman knows, his last point is not a matter for me, but I will certainly call the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to the point. The numbers of wholly unemployed in that travel-to-work area have fallen over the past months and, indeed, Oldham is included, as the hon. Gentleman knows, in the recent major expansion of the intermediate areas. The position is far brighter for Oldham than perhaps the hon. Gentleman makes out.

Mr. James Lamond

Is the Minister aware that once again a very serious position faces the textile industry because of the Government's action regarding entry to the EEC? Many employers who welcomed this move have changed their minds since they have found that 30,000 jobs in the textile industry are in jeopardy in the North-West because cotton yarn is regarded as a raw material? Will the Minister have discussions with his right hon. Friend about this matter and try to give some protection to the textile industry and to the jobs in the Oldham area?

Mr. Smith

I will certainly draw my right hon. Friend's attention to what the hon. Gentleman said. I do not accept his premise about entry to the EEC. I believe that for the country as a whole this will do enormous good.