HC Deb 12 June 1973 vol 857 cc1189-92
12. Mr. Rost

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is the ratio of people registered as unemployed to notified unfilled vacancies in each region; and how this position compares with the same period a year ago.

Mr. Dudley Smith

The figures show a considerable improvement in all regions.

As the reply contains a table of figures I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Rost

The latest figures show the dramatic success of the Government's economic policy. But should they not also be read as a serious warning that rapid and sustained growth in our economy will be maintained only if we get more mobility of labour? Will my hon. Friend tell us what he will do to ensure that more people are encouraged to move to jobs as well as providing more jobs where they are needed?

Mr. Smith

My hon. Friend has made a valuable point. As he knows, the Government provide assistance towards the expenses of those living away from home and towards the costs of household removal under the Employment Transfer Scheme. The rates of grants and allowances are currently under review and we hope to make an announcement when the review is complete. We are also considering what more can be done to encourage the mobility of labour. It is not always easy, because some people are reluctant to move to different areas. However, we pay constant attention to this matter in an endeavour to try to ease the situation. I am glad that there has been this uniform fall in unemployment throughout the various regions, and there are signs that mobility is improving.

Mr. Loughlin

When the hon. Gentleman circulates his figures in the OFFICIAL REPORT, may I ask him to include the ratios for 1970? Will he also stop congratulating the Government on having produced 1 million unemployed and on having gradually reduced that number?

Mr. Smith

We are a long way from the 1 million unemployed. In a large number of regions, including the one I mentioned in a previous answer, there are now more vacancies available than during the time of the Labour Government. The ratio of numbers unemployed to unfilled vacancies has moved from 4.5:1 a year ago to 1.5:1 at the present time. That is a considerable achievement and improvement by anybody's standards.

Dame Irene Ward

May I ask my hon. Friend to repeat the very good figures for the Northern Region so that we can then, I hope, impress on the Opposition the improvements that we are making, because they do not seem to have the brains to understand what is happening?

Mr. Smith

One would wish that there were a little more enthusiasm from the Opposition for the improvements that are taking place, particularly in difficult areas like the North. The May ratio of people unemployed to unfilled vacancies in the North now 3.5:1 compared with 10.2:1 a year ago.

Mr. Heffer

Will the hon. Gentleman, during his period of self-congratulation, admit that the so-called increased prosperity appears to have left Liverpool behind, because the level of unemployment on Merseyside at the moment is running at 7 per cent., which means that male unemployment is even higher? Precisely what do the Government intend to do to help an area like Merseyside? Are they prepared to make it a special development area to help it to overcome its serious problems?

Hon. Members

Stop striking.

Mr. Smith

The hon. Gentleman knows that the question of development area status is not for me, but I take note of what he said. We have never disguised the fact that there are particular black spots where unemployment is high. The overall picture for the regions—this is one of the guides by which we have to judge the situation—is extremely good. I mention this because it includes the hon. Gentleman's area. For the first time in three years there are more vacancies than unemployed boys and girls in every region of the country. Progress is being made overall. Unemployment is coming down and attention is being given to the difficult black spots which admittedly exist in certain areas.

Mr. John Page

Does my hon. Friend agree that the published figures of notified unfilled vacancies are probably far lower than the actual numbers? Will he consider carrying out a small piece of research in different regions to investigate the genuineness of the figures which are presented?

Mr. Smith

I will certainly consider that suggestion. We are always anxious to do anything we can to improve the accuracy of the information that we provide. My hon. Friend is right. I am referring only to notified vacancies to employment exchanges throughout the country. We all know that there are many other jobs which, alas, are not notified to us but are available for unemployed people.

Mr. Prentice

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the kind of smug statements that we have been hearing from the Conservative benches on this serious social problem do not reflect any credit on them at all? Is not the position that, whereas there is a welcome improvement compared with the appalling totals of 12 or 18 months ago, the figure of over 620,000 unemployed is higher than at any time in the 25 years from the end of the war until 1970? This is a disgraceful position. The figure is still intolerably high and requires a totally new policy from the Government.

Mr. Smith

There is no smugness and no complacency on these benches concerning unemployment. However, we are entitled to ask for credit for what we have done during the past three years to help to cure a difficult unemployment situation which was growing very strongly during the time of the Labour Government. The figures are still coming down. They have come down dramatically this year and are beginning to compare favourably with the position in the early part of 1970.

Following are the figures:—

May 1973 (provisional) May 1972
South East 0.7:1 1.9:1
East Anglia 0.9:1 3.1:1
South West 1.1:1 2.9:1
West Midlands 1.5:1 6.9:1
East Midlands 1.2:1 3.7:1
Yorkshire and Humberside 1.9:1 6.0:1
North West 3.2:1 9.3:1
North 3.5:1 10.2:1
Wales 2.8:1 6.6:1
Scotland 4.1:1 13.9:1

The statistics relate only to notified vacancies remaining unfilled and do not measure the total unsatisfied demand for labour.