HC Deb 04 December 1979 vol 975 cc223-5
14. Mr. Park

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what are the future employment prospects in the West Midlands during the next 12 months.

Mr. Jim Lester

There is no doubt that the region's industrial base has been badly hit over the last five years. However, I would not accept that the area is suffering from inevitable permanent decline. If we can create the right climate for industry, then I am certain that the West Midlands will reap the benefits.

Mr. Park

Does the Minister agree that we have heard that answer on about five or six different occasions? Does he agree that, as the Government are aware that thousands more people are to be made redundant in the West Midlands as a result of the Edwardes plan, they should reconsider their policy of nonintervention?

Mr. Lester

Unemployment has fallen in the hon. Gentleman's constituency by 452 since April 1979. That is a great contrast between February 1974 and 1979, when it rose by 9,086, with the interventionist policies of the Labour Government.

Mr. Bulmer

Does my hon. Friend agree that job prospects in the West Midlands would be much improved if the trade unions at British Leyland put the long-term commercial interests of that company before any other consideration?

Mr. Lester

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. It is true that there is a new feeling in the West Midlands, as in other parts of the country, that the only way in which we shall solve our industrial and economic problems is by working together. I hope that that will come through in the coming months.

Mr. Haynes

Does the Minister agree that he is painting a pretty picture of the West Midlands? Bearing in mind the promises made before the election by the Conservative Party, whose members have not carried out their promises, and the fact that the employment situation is a dismal failure, will the Government put the Secretary of State for Industry into hibernation until the next general election, because there will be more people out of work than in work?

Mr. Lester

I am delighted to answer the question. We have kept our promises. We have removed the restrictions on industry. We have restored to companies the ability to manage and to work with their work force. We have restored to workers incentives to use their skills. Those policies must have resulted in the figures I gave to the hon. Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Park).

Mr. Farr

Will my hon. Friend look into certain interesting experiments which have taken place between industry and schools in parts of the West Midlands whereby would-be school leavers are able to do a day or half a day at work in their chosen jobs? Will he look at the results of that scheme to determine whether it is worth applying nationally?

Mr. Lester

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science is chairing a Committee to consider schemes of this kind. We recognise that if this country is to succeed we must have a much better understanding at a much earlier stage of our industrial processes, where the wealth is really created. I am happy to say that there are many other schemes of a similar nature helping to educate young children, before they are 11, into the realities of our economic life. All these schemes must be helpful in the long run.