HC Deb 23 October 1973 vol 861 cc953-5
3. Mr. Adam Butler

, asked the Secretary of State for Employment what were the numbers of registered unemployed and of notified vacancies in England at the latest available date.

Mr. Maurice Macmillan

Based on the provisional figures for October, there were 396,185 people registered unemployed and 443,941 notified vacancies.

Mr. Butler

I welcome the continuing drop in the unemployment figure, but does my right hon. Friend agree that the labour shortage in England, particularly in the South, may well prove a threat to the Government's growth policy? Therefore, does he think that the productivity pay arrangements in phase 3 are adequate? In particular, can he arrange that any settlements made under the three-month delay clause will be back-dated to the original agreement?

Mr. Macmillan

On the latter point, that is the case. Under any new efficiency payment scheme which may be introduced from 1st January, if approved by the Pay Board, the payment will be backdated to 1st January if after three months' operation it has achieved its objective.

On the question of the constraint to growth, the Director-General of the National Economic Development Office, after consultation with industry, told the National Economic Development Council on 8th October that, while the pace of expansion after a period of recession was causing recruitment difficulties in some skills and areas, there was every reason to believe that our labour resources, if fully and effectively utilised, were adequate to sustain a strong rate of expansion. I see no reason to dissent from that view.

Mr. Dell

Has the right hon. Gentleman noticed the grave deterioration in the unemployment position on Merseyside compared with the national position and that in other development areas? What action does he propose to take about that, and when will the Government decide to create a special development area in Merseyside?

Mr. Macmillan

The question of special development areas, and so on, is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. The situation on Merseyside distorts, among other things, the figures for the North-West generally, and my Department is doing all that it can to see what can be done about employment and training on Merseyside. I accept that there is a difficulty there.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that, while it is difficult to get the balance right between taking jobs to areas where there is high unemployment and bringing workers to places where there is work, the situation in the South-East and in London is becoming serious? One ought now to be thinking in terms of getting workers to come here to work rather than merely creating jobs in other places. Will my right hon. Friend therefore ask the Government, under phase 3, to look at the London allowance, which is too low?

Mr. Macmillan

We have referred the question of the London allowance and its methodology to the Pay Board. To assist the mobility of labour further we have made improvements to the transfer scheme administered in my Department, and I gave details of these to the House on 18th October last.

Mr. Ashton

Is the Minister aware that during the next few weeks there are likely to be more [...]dle machines and empty jobs because of the decision of Sir John Donaldson yesterday? Will the Minister tell us whether he intends to take any action to prevent industrial unrest because of that decision?

Mr. Macmillan

I do not think that it is for me to comment on a decision of the court, other than to say that the National Industrial Relations Court made it clear that the issue involved—which was a recognition issue—had been referred to the proper channels, namely, the Commission on Industrial Relations, and that both the employer and the employees had been under compulsion to refrain from taking industrial action meanwhile.