HC Deb 15 November 1977 vol 939 cc275-7
11. Mr. Wigley

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is the latest number of unemployed persons in the United Kingdom; how this compares with the number in October 1974; by how many the latest figures will be reduced as a result of the policies outlined recently by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and over what period this reduction will take place.

Mr. Booth

At 13th October, 1,518,336 people were registered as unemployed in the United Kingdom compared with 640,797 in October 1974. We would hope that the measures announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 26th October would, on the economic assumptions which he has spelt out, result in a welcome curtailment in unemployment over the next couple of years.

Mr. Wigley

Does the Secretary of State accept that those appalling figures are made even worse by the present lack of strategy to overcome unemployment, and particularly the lack of strategy in the recent Budget? Will he accept that in areas such as Wales, where last month the figures got worse—in the rest of the United Kingdom they got better—there is great despondency about the situation, particularly in view of the recent Manpower Services Commission report on the matter? When will the Government bring forward a coherent strategy that quantifies the jobs needed to be created and indicates how these jobs are to be created?

Mr. Booth

No, I do not accept that the figures have been made worse by a lack of strategy. I ask the hon. Gentleman and the House to realise that there are now 413,000 more jobs than there were five years ago. That is in part the result of pursuing an industrial strategy. On the special measures which we are pursuing to deal with a vast increase in unemployment, arising in no small measure from the increase in our working population, we have been able to provide through the temporary employment subsidy for the sustaining of over 340,000 jobs. We have provided over 100,000 jobs for young people through the job creation programme, and there are now in work experience about 37,000 youngsters. I do not think that those facts square with the hon. Gentleman's allegation that the appalling increase arises from a lack of strategy.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

Will my right hon. Friend accept that, welcome and important though the temporary measures are, particularly for dealing with unemployment among young people, they are no substitute either for proper training or a permanent job, particularly in regions such as Merseyside, where there is excessively high unemployment among school leavers? Will he therefore consider a scheme, such as is already voluntarily operated by Dunlop in the North-West, of imposing a quota of apprenticeships on employers analogous to the scheme already implemented for the disabled?

Mr. Booth

I accept that many of the special measures that we have run over the past year or two are not as well fitted to the requirements of young people as would be an apprenticeship or some other structured form of vocational training. That is one reason why we are substituting a youth opportunities programme for the job creation work experience programme. Within a youth opportunities programme there is scope, and there is a structure, to meet the needs of young people who require training as well as work experience.

On the wider issue of the requirement for training places in industry and service as a whole, I hope to lay before the House before Christmas proposals to deal with the longer-term problem of how we maintain the levels of intake into training in industry.

Mr. Silvester

Does the Secretary of State agree with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster that the Employment Protection Act is having a bad effect upon the necessary mopping up of unemployment, particularly in relation to small businesses?

Mr. Booth

I do not think that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has said that. If he has, I disagree with him.