HC Deb 15 November 1977 vol 939 cc269-71
6. Mr. Mike Thomas

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what steps he is taking to deal with the level of unemployment in the Northern Region.

Mr. Golding

The region will continue to benefit from the Government's special employment measures, which have so far benefited over 52,000 persons in the Northern Region. This total includes 20,465 benefiting from temporary employment subsidy, 17,795 from the job creation programme, 4,656 under the work experience programme, 3,443 under the scheme of recruitment subsidy for school leavers, 2,393 under the job release scheme, and 524 under the small firms employment subsidy scheme.

Mr. Thomas

Is my hon. Friend aware that the unemployment level throughout the region now approaches 10 per cent. and that that figure in itself camouflages pockets where unemployment is between 12 per cent. and 15 per cent.? Can he offer some assurance about what the Government are doing to insert a regional dimension in these nationally applied policies?

Mr. Golding

The Government are very concerned at these high levels of unemployment in the Northern Region. They have agreed to new NEB initiatives to assist industrial development in the North, and workers at C. A. Parsons will benefit from the advancement of the order for Drax B. The Government have also offered Newcastle and Gateshead local authorities a partnership scheme to help to deal with their inner city problem, and northern shipyards have already benefited from the Government's £65 million intervention fund.

Sir W. Elliott

I received with considerable interest the Minister's array of figures, but can he give an indication of how many permanent jobs have arisen from the so-called emergency measures? Second, can he give an indication of the advice given to officers of his Department in the area of the Northern Region in dealing with young men and women who are offered jobs and make no effort to take them up?

Mr. Golding

We cannot quantify the exact number of jobs which have been created, for the reason previously given by the Secretary of State, but it is clear that the special measures have led to permanent employment for many young persons. Certainly, the new small firms employment subsidy is leading to an extension of employment in the Northern Region, specifically as a result of the subsidy.

Mr. Noble

Bearing in mind the point made by the Prime Minister last Thursday, that the temporary employment subsidy would have to be continued in some form or another, when does my hon. Friend expect to make an announcement on that matter? In formulating plans for the future of the subsidy, will he also take into account those firms whose entitlement has already been exhausted but who are desperately in need of its continuation?

Mr. Golding

My right hon. Friend will be reviewing these special urban temporary employment measures towards the end of the year, and he will make an announcement in good time before the ending of the period of the various schemes.

Mr. Budgen

Will the Minister reconsider the effect of the Employment Protection Act and also the effect of the legislation imposing minimum wages? Will he confirm that these interferences in the free market in labour are particularly disadvantageous to those who are weak, young, and untrained, and those who live in depressed areas, such as the Northern Region?

Mr. Golding

I think that there is some misunderstanding of the Employment Protection Act which leads employers to be more reluctant to employ in some circumstances than they would otherwise be, but I repeat the point, made by my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Madden), that the protection does not extend beyond those people who have been employed for 26 weeks or more.

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