HC Deb 15 January 1976 vol 903 cc579-81
Q3. Mr. Canavan

asked the Prime Minister whether he is satisfied with the existing co-ordination between the Secretaries of State for Employment, Industry and Trade in implementing Government policy to create jobs.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Canavan

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the growing anger and resentment among working people all over the United Kingdom at the rising tide of unemployment and the Government's apparent inaction? Does he realise that in Scotland another 10,000 to 15,000 jobs are immediately at risk in steel, Scottish Aviation, Chrysler, Rolls-Royce and the Marathon and Govan Shipyards? Is it not about time the Government reverted to the promise of full employment in our manifesto and ensured the right to work for everyone? Can my right hon. Friend also give an assurance that if public money is spent to save jobs, there will be public ownership to ensure public accountability?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend's original Question related to unemployment and the House had a very full debate on this subject immediately before Christmas. Should the House, in accordance with its procedures, decide that another debate is necessary in the near future, that will be a matter for discussion through the usual channels. Like the rest of the country, Scotland has been faced with the world-wide recession and the world-wide increase in unemployment, but the rate of increase in Scotland has been less than that in the rest of Great Britain. Unemployment in Scotland, as a proportion of the Great Britain rate, has fallen from 162 per cent. when we came into office to 120 per cent. in December last year—in total contrast to what happened in Scotland under the regime of the party opposite.

Mr. Peter Walker

As unemployment in the West Midlands has trebled in the past two years and is now higher numerically than in the North-East or Wales, and almost as high as in Scotland, will the Prime Minister instruct his right hon. Friends to end the IDC discrimination and other forms of discrimination in the West Midlands?

The Prime Minister

Certain action has already been taken in relation to parts of the country which were previously areas of high employment but which now face grave structural problems. I cannot remember whether the right hon. Gentleman voted with the Government on Chrysler, which very much affects employment in the West Midlands.

Mr. John Mendelson

Does my right hon. Friend recall that the trade union movement accepted the £6 limit on wage increases on the clear assurance from him and the Chancellor of the Exchequer that unemployment would be brought down this year? Does he also recall that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, before going to the conference in Jamaica, said that he intended to bring forward investment programmes to create more jobs from next year to this year? In view of the increase in unemployment announced just before Christmas, can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that this policy will be implemented without delay?

The Prime Minister

Yes, it has already been started. Some of the particular measures of Government assistance, not only for maintaining employment, but for restructuring, were announced by my right hon. Friend in the debate immediately before Christmas. I fully endorse his assurances in that debate, what was done in Jamaica and what my right hon. Friend has said to the House since then. The TUC recognises, as do the Government and, I think, the whole House—or at least those of us who voted or abstained on these matters—that our best protection against continuing and worsening unemployment is to maintain the fight against inflation, and the TUC and the Government are fully co-operating in that matter.

Mr. Prior

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that the time has come when he should stop making excuses and comparisons with other countries and recognise that it is his Government's fault and that their failure to act against inflation in time has been largely responsible for the rising unemployment that we have now? What consultation is the Prime Minister having with trade unions where there are large displacements of people from jobs, such as at Chrysler and the British Steel Corporation, to see how other jobs and other special training for jobs can be introduced to help people in these areas?

The Prime Minister

I should be happy to make the statements suggested by the right hon. Gentleman if they were in accordance with the facts. They are not. Apart from the world-wide depression, the right hon. Gentleman knows that when he was a Minister he was party to a vast inflationary expansion of money, an expansion which is now being repudiated by the monetarist leaders of the Opposition. He will know that the depression was very far advanced before his party went to the country and gave up the responsibilities of Government.

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware of successive statements in the Budget and last autumn by my right hon. Friends about vastly increased provision for industrial training. This is far more than his Government ever contemplated, let alone announced.