HC Deb 13 March 1973 vol 852 cc1107-8
Q3. Mr. Wyn Roberts

asked the Prime Minister if he is satisfied with the co-ordination between the Department of Employment and the Department of Health and Social Security regarding benefits to the unemployed.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. There is close co-operation between the two Departments at both local office and headquarters levels.

Mr. Roberts

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the recent heartening downward trend in unemployment and the recent upward trend in unfilled vacancies show that we are rapidly approaching the condition of full employment? Does not my right hon. Friend think that this heartening trend could be encouraged further by the discouragement of strike action possibly by the non-payment of strike benefits to strikers, as I believe is the case in most EEC countries?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend that it is a heartening movement in unemployment to see a decrease of more than 200,000 in the past year. But my hon. Friend referred to strike pay. That is a matter for the unions concerned. If my hon. Friend was thinking of supplementary benefits and the European Community, very broadly none of the EEC countries which we have surveyed provides for the payment of social assistance to strikers' families comparable to that paid here.

Mr. Frank Allaun

What does the Prime Minister consider to be a reasonable level of unemployment? Is he aware that many of us think that it should not be more than 250,000, which was the figure up to July 1966 when the first economy cuts were introduced?

The Prime Minister

The House will be interested to know that for four years the hon. Gentleman's own Government broke his rule.