HC Deb 16 November 1976 vol 919 cc1090-1
5. Mr. Peter Morrison

asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many working days have been lost during the last 12 months which would not otherwise have been lost but for unemployment.

The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. John Grant)

Multiplying the number of unemployed by the estimated number of days worked per year by those in employment gives very approximately 300 million days.

Mr. Morrison

Does the Minister agree that that is a rather alarming figure? Will he tell the House what he expects the future trend to be with regard to unemployment and whether he expects more or fewer working days to be lost during the next 12 months as a result of unemployment?

Mr. Grant

First, I agree that it is an alarming figure—I think that the whole House would accept that—but I do not think that the hon. Gentleman would expect me to speculate on the level of unemployment ahead of us beyond what has already been said by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment and, indeed, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr. Lawson

Is the Minister aware that academic studies have shown that the higher the level of unemployment benefit, the higher the level of unemployment? Therefore, will the Government give further consideration to the bringing of unemployment benefit into tax as a means, among other things, of reducing the level of unemployment?

Mr. Grant

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has listened with care to what has been said on this subject by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services. I think that the Opposition should get the whole thing into perspective before they go out on a limb like that.

Mr. Newens

Is it not a fact that if the cries by the Opposition for cuts in public expenditure were implemented this would greatly increase the present levels of unemployment and make the whole situation even more intolerable?

Mr. Grant

I do not think there is any doubt that my hon. Friend is right and that this is really the most distinctive difference between the two sides of the House.