HC Deb 29 July 1975 vol 896 cc1488-90
11. Mr. Carter

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what are the latest unemployment figures for the Birmingham travel-to-work areas.

Mr. John Fraser

On 14th July, 37,354 people were unemployed in the Birmingham travel-to-work area and the rate of unemployment was 5.5 per cent.

Mr. Carter

Is my hon. Friend aware that that rate of 5½per cent. is a record in Birmingham and cannot be explained by the simple addition of school leavers and university students to the unemployed register? In view of the worsening industrial situation in Birmingham and the West Midlands in general, may I ask whether the recently-announced employment subsidy will he made available to companies in Birmingham and the West Midlands to prevent further redundancies?

Mr. Fraser

I cannot make any statement about that. I hope that my hon. Friend will await the statement of my right hon. Friend, which I hope will be made very shortly, about the temporary employment subsidy.

Mr. Eyre

Does the Minister realise that these figures have caused general apprehension in the area? Will he confirm that the number of jobs vacancies has also fallen? Will he bear in mind two areas of special importance: first, school leavers, for whom training schemes must be extended to the greatest degree possible, and, secondly, the construction industry, in which both unions and employers believe that a disproportionate share of the brunt of unemployment has fallen upon them?

Mr. Fraser

Concerning the school leavers, the Manpower Services Commission has announced unprecedented steps to increase the number of training places. A total of 36,500 has recently been announced. I hope that this is welcome, including its public expenditure implications.

I am well aware that the construction industry has taken the brunt of unemployment. There are no restrictions at the present time on local authority house-building, and I hope that local authorities and others will respond to the possibility of building houses and creating employment in that manner.

Mr. Eyre

And the number of vacancies?

Mr. Fraser

The number of jobs vacant has dropped fairly dramatically over the past year.

Mrs. Renée Short

Does not my hon. Friend think that there is something extraordinary about his Department being urged to find more jobs for school leavers and to start work schemes under the Manpower Services Commission when at the same time the Secretary of State for Industry appears to be presiding over the decline of some of the major industries in the West Midlands? Is my hon. Friend aware that Norton Villiers is still awaiting a decision by his right hon. Friend about future jobs prospects in that firm, which employs about 20,000 people? Will he see to it that we get a decision from the Secretary of State as soon as possible?

Mr. Fraser

I understand that these matters are under discussion. I hope, however, that my hon. Friend will give credit to what has been done by the Department of Industry. It has, after all, intervened to save the largest motor manufacturer in the country. Due credit must be given to the Department for that step.

Mr. Bulmer

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that jobs are being lost in my constituency because of the operations of the Price Commission, because of the 25 per cent. rate of VAT and because of the capital transfer tax? What estimate has the hon. Gentleman's Department made of the effect of these policies? Is he arguing for their reversal?

Mr. Fraser

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman an estimate of the effect on unemployment of the increased rate of VAT. It is part of a large number of measures taken by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to deal with the total economic situation.