HC Deb 02 March 1972 vol 832 cc715-8
1. Mr. Skinner

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what are the latest unemployment figures nationally, and by regions of the United Kingdom.

The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Robert Carr)

At 14th February the provisional number of people registered as wholly unemployed in the United Kingdom was 968,927. In addi- tion 649,017 temporarily stopped workers were registered as unemployed. I will, with permission, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT similar information for regions.

Mr. Skinner

Is the Secretary of State aware that when these figures were announced last week, we read in all the newspapers that the outlook was improving? Is he also aware that three months earlier one of his ministerial colleagues in the Department of Trade and Industry said that the unemployment figures would not double during the lifetime of the present Government? Now that that has happened, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can answer a more realistic question. Will he now give a guarantee that at the end of the Government's term of office the wholly unemployed will be less than half the present total?

Mr. Carr

I will not give any guarantee of that kind, any more than any Minister in my position has ever given any guarantee, or any more than Ministers in the previous Government undertook to double unemployment, which they succeeded in doing in their four years of office. I point out to the hon. Gentleman and the House that the seasonally adjusted number of wholly unemployed last month rose by only 1,000, which was the smallest increase in that number for well over a year. That is some cause for a belief that the recent upward trend is now levelling off, particularly when coupled with the fact that the seasonally adjusted number of vacancies also rose.

Mr. William Hamilton

On a point of order. I apologise for raising the point now, Mr. Speaker, but it is rather urgent. Many hon. Members have been to the Vote Office and found that there are no Order Papers available to us, so we do not know what Questions are being asked. Still less do we understand the answers.

Mr. Speaker

I do not think there is very much I can do about that. I have noted the point.

Mr. Hamilton

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. This has put some of us in an impossible situation. I do not know whether it will be in order—[An HON. MEMBER: "They are there now."] If they are now in the Vote Office, I shall be gratified. But when hon. Members from both sides of the House were at the Vote Office two minutes ago, no copies were available. If it is in order, Mr. Speaker, I suggest that the House should adjourn for 10 minutes until supplies are available to us.

Mr. Speaker

That would not be appropriate in my view.

Mr. Scott

Will my right hon. Friend add emphasis to his last remark by quantifying for us the improvement in the vacancies position? Looking at the figures, it seemed to me that this was one of the first hopeful signs that the basic employment situation was now improving.

Mr. Carr

I can tell my hon. Friend and the House that the number of unfilled vacancies increased last month by 10,494 and that this represented, on a seasonally adjusted basis, a rise of 7,300.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

On a point of order. I confess, Mr. Speaker, that I find some difficulty in this situation. What surprises me is that you have not been informed that apparently no Order Papers are available. It is extremely difficult to follow the Questions without them. Some hon. Members have them, but what they have is the full Order Book. They are not the usual Order Papers. We do not have a list of Questions and apparently the Vote Office has run out of them, perhaps because of a strike, because they have not been printed or have not arrived. I am surprised, Mr. Speaker, that you had not been informed of this difficulty before Question Time.

Mr. Hamilton

May I advise you, Mr. Speaker, that not only is the Order Paper not available but that the Order Book also is not available? I inquired a minute ago and I was told that the Stationery Office is sending supplies but cannot guarantee when they will arrive. Hon. Members are sitting here virtually defenceless in the face of this situation.

Mr. Speaker

I think we must get on. I share the hon. Member's surprise and I should have been told about this. I will certainly go into the matter. Perhaps as we move from Question to Question, as each hon. Member asks his Question he will say what the Question is.

Mr. Hamilton

Further to the point of order. May I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that each hon. Member reads out his Question?

Mr. Speaker

That is exactly what I have just said.

Following is the information:

Wholly unemployed Temporarily stopped
South East 185,887 28,074
East Anglia 22,982 3,025
South West 56,022 11,760
West Midlands 88,171 218,464
East Midlands 47,901 78,621
Yorkshire and Humberside 91,405 103,101
North West 141,389 76,480
North 88,372 34,407
Wales 54,846 22,264
Scotland 148,823 69,229
Northern Ireland 43,129 3,592