HC Deb 18 May 1976 vol 911 cc1204-6
15. Mr. Sillars

asked the Secretary of State for Employment how current unemployment levels compared with 1973.

Mr. Booth

The numbers unemployed in Great Britain at April 1973 and April 1976 were 647,770 and 1,231,218 respectively.

Mr. Sillars

Do not those figures and the reply to the previous Question illustrate the simple truth that centralised regional policies do not work and can best be described as failures? Does the Secretary of State agree that the best and most effective regional policy for Scotland, Wales, and the other regions of England would be economic self-management? Will he, the Prime Minister, and the rest of the Cabinet, bear that in mind when they reconsider the Government's devolution policy in terms of the powers to go to a Scottish Assembly?

Mr. Booth

I believe that the figures that I quoted in answer to the previous Question, which showed that unemployment in Scotland had risen less in relation to the rest of the United Kingdom than in previous slumps, indicate that the regional policies determined by this House have had a favourable effect in Scotland, as in a number of other development areas.

Mr. Evelyn King

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that in seaside resorts —I have Weymouth particularly in mind —for many years unemployment has been excessively high, wages have been excessively low, and no Labour Government have taken the slightest interest? Will he, for his own sake, try to reverse that policy and do something for us?

Mr. Booth

I certainly accept that in many seaside resorts unemployment has been high, particularly in winter, and wages have been low. However, I do not accept that the Government are not concerned about that matter. We have been concerned about it in the siting of jobs and in determining the relationship between support for tourism and support for industry, particularly in development areas.

Mr. Skinner

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that this should be a matter not only of concern but of general economic strategy? Does he agree that about this time last year the strategy was to cut back the consumer's purchasing power by developing the £6 pay limit in line with the union leadership, which resulted in unemployment becoming almost double what it was? What chance is there of a change in this strategy, as a result of the further reduction in the purchasing power of ordinary working people arising from the 4½ per cent. policy?

Mr. Booth

The concern and the strategy go hand in hand. In so far as employment has been dependent upon the purchasing power of the British people, the rate of inflation has cut back on that purchasing power. If our present overall strategy reduces the rate of inflation by another half in the coming year, ilt will increase the purchacing power of the British people and provide a basis on which to found firmer pay claims in future.

Mr. Prior

Is it not clear from every answer that we have had from the Secretary of State this afternoon that his Department and the Government have no answer to the unemployment problem? Is this not a positive indication of the dismal failure of Socialism and of Socialist policies in Britain?

Mr. Booth

The Government have not only introduced a wide range of measures to deal with the cyclical effects of unemployment; they are pursuing a strategy that holds better prospects for employment in future than was ever the case with the previous Government.

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