HC Deb 02 March 1972 vol 832 cc729-30
14. Mr. Normanton

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what most recent estimate he has made of the effect entry into the European Economic Community will have on employment prospects in the United Kingdom.

Mr. R. Carr

It is not possible to make a quantitative estimate; but I am convinced that unlimited access for British goods and services to the much larger market of Europe will give a substantial stimulus to output and employment.

Mr. Normanton

I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer, but does he not agree that one of the main prerequisites for resolving unemployment in Great Britain is for Europe as a whole, including Britain, to enjoy a continuous period of economic growth? Does he also agree that the attitude of the trade union movement on the Continent shows up markedly the way in which it is in tune with modern industrial society and the way in which many trade unionists in this country are blinding themselves and their members to the facts of life?

Mr. Carr

I certainly agree with my hon. Friend that growth, which is the basic strategy of the Government, is the answer to the problem of unemployment and that that policy will be powerfully assisted by our membership of Europe. I certainly hope that members of the trade union movement in this country will work ever more closely with their trade union colleagues in Europe and learn from their belief that the Common Market has helped to improve the standard of living and to give full employment.

Mr. Lamond

Is the Minister aware that many of us do not share his optimism about the future within the Common Market and that in any case, even if his forecasts were correct, workers in this country are not prepared to wait until we enter the Common Market for some relief of unemployment? This applies particularly in the North-West Region where the position continues to deteriorate sharply and is far worse than in any other region. During the last two years the North West has had the second highest number of redundancies in any of the regions. Will not the Government extend development area status to the whole of the North West and revise their development area programme to provide a real incentive to industries to come to development areas?

Mr. Carr

I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows that questions about regional policy are for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. I did not say that people must wait for our membership of Europe. The solution of unemployment must come through growth. Our main problem now arises from five or six years of virtually no growth. Our gross national product is today probably growing at at least twice the rate at which it was growing when the Labour Government left office.