HC Deb 16 November 1976 vol 919 cc1091-2
6. Mr. Tebbit

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he has yet received a copy of the Manpower Services Commission's document "Towards a Comprehensive Manpower Policy".

The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Albert Booth)

Yes, Sir. The report reflects the importance that the Government attach to the development of longer-term manpower policies which support our economic and industrial strategies.

Mr. Tebbit

Is the Secretary of State aware that on page 13 of the report there is a reference to the Government's target of 700,000 unemployed in 1979? Does that remain the Government's target? If so, will the right hon. Gentle- man tell us what the targets are for 1977 and 1978 on the way to that target?

Mr. Booth

The target remains, and, without seeking to be precise as to estimates, we would attempt to reach that target as quickly as possible. We shall rejoice if we can reach it much earlier, but I believe that the indications in the report by the MSC are that that will be a considerable achievement.

Mr. Corbett

Does my right hon. Friend accept that it is not principally a matter of getting people back to work, because many of those jobs have disappeared? What new efforts is my right hon. Friend contemplating to help to create new jobs?

Mr. Booth

I agree with my hon. Friend that the MSC's report indicates that there is a very important structural element in the total unemployment picture. To that extent, I think that the report validates much of the importance that the Government attach to an industrial strategy that will create many more new jobs in manufacturing.

Mr. Prior

Will the Secretary of State now have the courage to admit that there is no chance whatsoever of reaching the optimistic target for unemployment that both the Government and the Manpower Services Commission have set themselves? Would it not be better if he were honest with the country and said that, however regrettable it may be, these targets are not now possible of attainment, and if he then started to take the right sort of action to help to reduce structural unemployment, particularly among the young?

Mr. Booth

To say that the target is not being attained would take neither courage nor honesty. It would be a demonstration of a lack of will to achieve the target.