HC Deb 13 December 1977 vol 941 cc256-7
7. Mr. George Rodgers

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is his estimate of the increase in the national work force that is anticipated over the next 15 years.

Mr. Booth

If present trends continue, there may be an increase of about 2.2 million in the labour force in Great Britain between 1977 and 1991, the latest year for which I have projections. The figure is subject to various uncertainties, in particular in respect of the number of married women likely to be seeking work; they are projected to increase by about 1.25 million over the period.

Mr. Rodgers

Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is a staggering figure and that over 2 million super-imposed on an unemployed labour force of 1½ million surely calls for a change of strategy? At this stage, should we not consider increased public spending, sabbatical years for ordinary working people, extended education opportunities and a whole range of options which should be introduced as soon as possible?

Mr. Booth

Certainly it is a very challenging figure, starting from the position of the present high level of unemployment. I agree that it carries with it an obligation to study all the factors which my hon. Friend mentioned. But I hope he agrees that this Government have not been reluctant to increase public expenditure as soon as we have the means of doing so. As soon as we have the income to enable us to do that successfully, I am certain that that will be one of the factors in the solution.

Mr. Bulmer

Will the Secretary of State confirm that he has asked sponsoring Departments to ensure that sector working parties provide projections of jobs that may be available by each activity, and that when he receives that information he will make it available to the House?

Mr. Booth

I can confirm that I have asked the sponsoring Ministers concerned to provide us with the information arising from sector working party studies. That will enable us to make an accurate manpower analysis of the outcome of carrying through the recommendations of those working parties. I shall certainly examine the hon. Gentleman's suggestion to see how the information can best be made available to the House.

Mr. John Garrett

Given these remarkable figures, on what side does my right hon. Friend find himself about the use of public revenue from North Sea oil and gas? Does he favour early repayment of debt and tax reliefs, or does he favour Government action directly to create new jobs in manufacturing industry?

Mr. Booth

Given these figures and the existing experience, I find myself only on one side of every argument about how to deploy available resources, and that is in favour of the way which will increase the number of jobs and reduce the number of unemployed.

Mr. Arnold

How are new jobs in manufacturing industry to be created?

Mr. Booth

In a number of ways. One is by supporting the investment programmes necessary to carry out the recommendations of the sector working parties. Another is an improvement in our own trade policies in the United Kingdom. Yet another is to use our influence as a country within the EEC and wider world forums to bring about an increase in the general level of world trade.