HC Deb 01 August 1978 vol 955 cc238-9
4. Mr. Hal Miller

asked the Secretary of State for Employment by what percentages he estimates a shorter working week in manufacturing industry would increase employment and also costs per unit of output.

Mr. Booth

Calculations of the effect on employment and costs per unit of output of any reduction in the working week are sensitive to variations in assumptions about overtime, productivity, competitiveness and other factors. However. I would refer the hon. Member to the article on work-sharing which appeared in the April edition of the Department of Employment Gazette and which illustrates the range of effects which might result from work-sharing.

Mr. Miller

I thank the Secretary of State for his reply, but does he agree that it is very important to increase this country's utilisation of installed capacity and the efficiency of production? Can he point to a single measure taken by his Department that is aimed in that direction?

Mr. Booth

Certainly. A whole series of measures were introduced by my Department to do that. The special temporary employment programme and the temporary employment subsidy have enabled a number of firms to use and adapt capacity for better utilisation. On the specific question of work-sharing, I entirely agree that if work-sharing arrangements can lead to a better utilisation of capacity they are to be encouraged. Double-shift working in place of single-shift working would be a classic example of something that both shared work and led to a greater utilisation of capacity. But I believe that it is better to negotiate changes of that kind plant by plant than to lay them down as a matter of national policy.

Mr. Flannery

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, despite the grand melodrama of the right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior), every endeavour of the Labour Government to create more employment has been opposed by the Tory Party? Does he agree that if the Tory Party had been in power and had had its way on more and more massive public expenditure cuts, unemployment in this country would have been massively higher?

Mr. Booth

Had we followed the advice of many spokesmen in the Tory Party, we should have seen a massive under-utilisation of capacity to the extent that a number of firms which are now open and working would have had to close down.

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