HC Deb 24 October 1972 vol 843 cc986-7
Q4. Mr. Redmond

asked the Prime Minister if he is satisfied with the co-operation between the Departments of Trade and Industry, Environment and Employment in increasing prospects for new jobs in Lancashire; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. Our regional industrial policy is designed to assist the creation and maintenance of employment particularly in assisted areas.

Mr. Redmond

While no one other than people completely blinded by prejudice would fail to recognise the remarkable job which the Prime Minister did in Paris for the people of Lancashire, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he agrees that the unemployment figures are totally misleading in that they overstate the problem nationally and understate it in certain areas? Does it not lead to difficulty in other Departments by devising a policy which can create local shortages of labour which are inflationary yet still leaving high unemployment in places like Bolton?

The Prime Minister

We are anxious that the employment figures should be as accurate as possible and a fresh examination has been made of them to see whether there are any difficulties of the kind mentioned by my hon. Friend. However, last month there was a reduction in unemployment in Bolton from 5.4 per cent. in September to 4.7 per cent. in October. I am sure that my hon. Friend and the House are gratified by that.

Mr. Charles Morris

Is the Prime Minister aware that there is considerable concern among Lancashire cotton workers at the continued contraction of the British textile industry? Can he give them an assurance that the commitment which he accepted at the summit conference in Paris of a 15 per cent. increase in imported manufactured products from the developing world will not mean new and additional burdens for the British textile industry?

The Prime Minister

I fully realise the importance of that point. Those at the summit did not commit themselves to the 15 per cent., although we were prepared to accept it, had other countries been prepared to accept it. However, within that 15 per cent. it would have been open to us to apportion it between particular commodities which are traded with the developing word. The Community accepted a substantial increase, but we are able to govern the particular commodities which come in.