HC Deb 01 May 1973 vol 855 cc966-9
3. Mr. Strang

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is the latest estimate of the ratio of registered unemployed adult males to notified vacancies for adult males in Scotland; and what is the corresponding figure for Great Britain.

The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Dudley Smith)

Based on the provisional figures for April, the ratio for Scotland was 91:1 and for Great Britain, 3.3:1. As the hon. Member will know, notified vacancies do not measure the total unsatisfied demand for labour.

Mr. Strand

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that those statistics highlight the tragic inequality which exists between Scotland and some of the more prosperous parts of England in terms of jobs and employment? Further, does he agree as regards Scotland that he should ignore the prophets who are advocating that we should now deflate the economy? Does he agree that instead of having discussions about phasing out the regional employment premium, he should be thinking of new and more radical and direct measures to try to give Scotland and other deprived regions a greater share of the present industrial expansion?

Mr. Smith

The Industry Act is a direct measure to help difficult areas such as Scotland. We must remember that the trend of unemployment was upward during Labour's period of office. In March 1966 the seasonally-adjusted figure for Scotland was 53,500 and the rate was 2.4 per cent. In June 1970 the seasonally-adjusted figure was 87,500 and the rate was 4 per cent. The seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate in Scotland has fallen from 6.6 per cent. a year ago to 4.9 per cent. this month. That is a decrease of 26 per cent. The trend is very much in the right direction.

Mr. Marten

What has been the actual increase in the number of unfilled vacancies over the last year?

Mr. Smith

Again, there is a very good position. The number of vacancies for men remaining unfilled in April was up by almost 300 per cent. compared with over a year ago.

24. Mr. Cormack

asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether he will give the latest figures for unemployment and unfilled vacancies, respectively, in England and Wales.

Mr. Dudley Smith

Based on the provisional figures for 9th April there were 576,327 people unemployed in England and Wales and 324,595 unfilled vacancies. The vacancy figure relates only to notified vacancies remaining unfilled and, as my hon. Friend will know, does not measure the total unsatisfied demand for labour.

Mr. Cormack

I thank my hon. Friend for that very encouraging reply, which is indicative of the success of the Government's policies. What were the comparable figures a year ago?

Mr. Smith

The rapid fall in unemployment during the past year and the continued rise in the level of unfilled notified vacancies over an even longer period are clear indications of the success of the Government's measures to stimulate demand. There has been a substantial reduction in unemployment over the past year. A sustained and continuing drop in unemployment has been achieved this year, despite many predictions made by Labour Members.

Mr. McBride

The unemployment rate in Wales is much higher than the national average. What steps are being taken to provide alternative employment speedily for the people who will be made redundant in the steel industry, bearing in mind the paltry number of jobs which have been realised under the Industry Act?

Mr. Smith

There will obviously be regional imbalances in employment for some time, but the general trend has been and continues to be very encouraging. There are problems in Wales, but the Industry Act has helped. We have set up various task forces to help deal with the problem of steel redundancies. The trend continues to be in the right direction and I hope that it will be maintained.

Mr. Waddington

Is it not a fact that in some parts of the country, including assisted areas like North-East Lancashire, far from unemployment being the problem, the problem is of some firms being starved for labour and crying out for it? Many Labour Members have talked today about unemployment in Scotland. Has my hon. Friend any useful suggestions on how we can get some of the Scotsmen concerned to come down to North-East Lancashire? We will give them a reasonable welcome.

Mr. Smith

The Department of Employment has done a great deal in the past three years to encourage mobility of labour to different parts of the country. This is increasing all the time. It is a matter of individual choice. It is a little premature to talk about overall shortages of labour, but the Government's expanded training scheme and improved employment facilities are helping towards the proper redeployment of Labour.

Mr. Harold Walker

The Minister boasts of the Government's success in having brought the unemployment figures for England and Wales down from what they were a year ago to 576,000-odd. Is he aware that that total is 50,000 higher than it was for the whole of Great Britain when his Government took office?

Mr. Smith

Yes, Sir, but what the hon. Gentleman does not tell the House is that the graph shows a consistent rise from the time the Labour Government were in power. Certainly it continued upwards when we took office, but now it is coming down dramatically, something which did not happen during the hon. Gentleman's time in office.