HC Deb 19 June 1979 vol 968 cc1102-7
10. Mr. Rooker

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what are the latest unemployment figures for the West Midlands; and if he will make a statement.

18. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will study the problems of structural unemployment in the West Midlands.

Mr. Jim Lester

At 10 May, 117,689 people were registered as unemployed in the West Midlands region. My right hon. Friend will keep all aspects of unemployment in the region under review, but the Government are confident that employment in the West Midlands will benefit from our policies of restoring incentives, encouraging efficiency and creating a climate in which commerce and industry can flourish and skills can be rewarded.

Mr. Rooker

Can the Minister offer an estimate of the increase in unemployment in the West Midlands, and in the country as a whole for that matter, by the policy, announced on 12 June in a written answer, to remove all job protection measures regarding unfair dismissal for people aged 16 to 18 years? Secondly, will he point out to those in the West Midlands, the skilled, semi-skilled and all others, how the Government's estimate of a decline in manufacturing output of 2½ per cent., given in the Red Book from the Treasury, is compatible with decreasing unemployment in an area dependent on manufacturing anyway?

Mr. Skinner

The Minister cannot understand that.

Mr. Lester

The people of the West Midlands have always shown their resilence in the past, and I am sure that they will show it in the future.

Mr. Roberts

Will the Minister look at details of some 1,000 additional redundancies in private enterprise firms in the Cannock Chase area, details of which I have sent him? Does he agree that if we are to revitalise the British economy it is essential for the Government to introduce growth industries into the West Midlands?

Mr. Lester

I shall certainly look at the papers that the hon. Gentleman has sent me. They have not arrived yet. We want to look at all aspects of employment because we are most interested to make sure that all the regions of Britain make their contribution, particularly those such as the West Midlands.

Mr. Lawrence

I welcome the Government's measures to reduce the high level of unemployment in the West Midlands. Is it not, nevertheless, a fact that in areas of the West Midlands such as Burton on Trent, where the trade unions are less powerfully spread and, where they are spread, are very responsible, coupled with the fact that there are larger groups of private industries and private businesses at work, the level of unemployment is lower?

Mr. Lester

The level of unemployment in the West Midlands is 5 per cent., which is below the national average.

Miss Boothroyd

In reviewing the job support programme, will the Minister bear in mind that although the Government had a mandate to create more jobs they did not have a mandate to destroy existing jobs until new ones were created? Will he indicate clearly to the people of the West Midlands, thousands of whose jobs depend on the job support programme, when they will cease to be resilient and when the Tory axe will fall on their livelihood?

Mr. Lester

There is no direct relationship between Government assisted jobs and unemployment rates. We shall see that coming through in the next six to nine months.

Mrs. Knight

Is my hon. Friend aware that many people in the West Midlands have watched with interest and approval the effect of tax cuts on employment in California? Many people in the West Midlands are looking for a similar result from the Budget.

Mr. Lester

What is clear is that all the hon. Members from the West Midlands certainly do their job in the House

Mr. Rooker

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the totally unknowledgeable answer to my original question and the refusal of the Minister to answer the first part of it, I give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

Mr. Speaker

Order. For the sake of new hon. Members, 1 point out that there is a formula— In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply"— that covers everything that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) is indicating.

11. Mr. Sainsbury

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what percentage of the labour force aged under 25 years in the Brighton area was unemployed at the latest date for which information is available.

Mr. Patrick Mayhew

I regret that unemployment rates for separate age ranges are not available for local areas, but at April 1979, 1,715 people under 25 years of age were registered as unemployed in the Brighton and Hove area.

Mr. Sainsbury

Will my hon. and learned Friend accept that unemployment in that age range, as in others in the Brighton and Hove area, is well above the national average? In those circumstances, is it not reasonable to continue the special temporary employment programme, particularly as it has been said that it will sensibly be concentrated in those areas where there is above average unemployment?

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

The epitome of private enterprise.

Mr. Mayhew

Unemployment is too high in my hon. Friend's constituency. The best remedy for unemployment is to restore incentives, encourage efficiency and, in particular, reduce the burden on small businesses imposed by the previous Government.

12. Mr. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many people were registered as unemployed at the most recent count; and what was the figure in the same month in 1974.

Mr. Prior

At May 1979, 1,238,468 people were registered as unemployed in Great Britain compared with 535,368 in May 1974.

Mr. Knox

Does my right hon. Friend agree that those figures clearly show the failure of the Labour Government to deal with unemployment? There is a time lag of 12 to 18 months between the introduction of Government measures and their effect on the level of unemployment. Will he say how much he expects unemployment to rise in the next 12 months as a direct result of the policies of the Labour Party.

Mr. Prior

Looking at the figures, one is amazed at the hypocrisy of Labour Members and surprised that they are even able to open their mouths. I suspect that unemployment will rise in the next 12 to 18 months through a combination of factors. [Hon. Members: "By how much?"] The chief factor will be the legacy that we have been left by the previous Government. The second will be the rise in oil prices and the lack of trade throughout the world. As with the previous Government, it might be unwise for me to state a figure.

Mr. Cryer

Will the Minister confirm that he has received the Treasury forecast that by the end of this year 2 million people will be unemployed? Will he state within that forecast how many people he expects to be unemployed because of the withdrawal of the small firms employment subsidy from manufacturing firms outside the development and special development areas?

Mr. Prior

I receive many forecasts from the Treasury and other people. The forecasts are not published. There is no way in which they can be precise, any more than, for example, can the forecast of 4 million unemployed produced recently by Mr. Clive Jenkins and his union. As for the small firms employment subsidy, I believe that the number of jobs created through that subsidy is practically nil.

Mr. Adley

Are not the figures given in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Knox) a clear indictment of what happens after five years of Labour Government, compared with what happened after four years of Conservative Government? Does my right hon. Friend agree that the British people understand what has happened and recognise that it will take 12 to 18 months, or even two years, to put things right? Therefore, my right hon. Friend is perfectly correct in not trying to pretend that we can reduce unemployment immediately. The undoing of the damage caused by the previous Government's policy will take some time.

Mr. Prior

The country certainly recognises that the previous Government's policies are unlikely to have a lasting or beneficial effect on the economy or employment. It is right, and the country supports this, that we should be pursuing fresh policies and making a fresh initiative. Reductions in public expenditure and the incentives that we offer to those on the shop floor through to managing directors are part of that new approach. That approach stands much more chance of success than the policies pursued by the previous Government.

Mr. Buchan

Since the only policy that the Government appear to be adopting on unemployment is to create climates, will not the only growth industry left be the met offices and the employment exchanges?

Mr. Prior

Everything that has been said from the Opposition Benches this afternoon shows the utter barrenness and poverty of Labour policies and the Opposition's total inability to create jobs themselves without taxing everyone to the hilt to create non-jobs. In the long run, that is no way to make Britain prosperous again.

Mr. Varley

I understand the right hon. Gentleman's reluctance to be precise, but will he be bold enough to say whether in 12 months' time the unemployment figure will be higher or lower than it is today?

Mr. Prior

In view of what I have said, I suspect that it is likely to be higher in 12 months' time than today. When I listen to what is said by Labour Members, I am not surprised.

13. Mr. John Fraser

asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many persons are registered as unemployed at Brixton employment office; and what percentage of that figure is constituted by ethnic minorities.

Mr. Jim Lester

At 10 May, 6,218 people were registered as unemployed in the Brixton employment office area and, of these, 19 per cent. were known to be ethnic minority group workers.

Mr. Fraser

Does the Under-Secretary agree that, for an inner city area, figures of those dimensions are not only bad but represent a threat to peace and stability in the community? To what extent will the Chancellor's public expenditure cuts increase those figures in the next year? Will the hon. Gentleman assure us that the employment aspect of the inner city partnership will not be cut?

Mr. Lester

Those figures are serious and must be looked at with care over the next six months. It is encouraging to see that the young blacks continue to make good use of the opportunities offered under these schemes.

Mr. Christopher Price

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the unemployment rate in pockets of the Greater London area, particularly South and South-East London, is as high as, and in some cases higher than, in many of the development areas? In those circumstances, will he reconsider the phasing out of schemes for the non-development areas in these inner city pockets of serious unemployment?

Mr. Lester

The question of reconsidering areas is not a matter for my Department. One of the problems of the policy of the previous Administration was that they gave aid in a broad sense to a vast area of the country and we still had pockets of high unemployment within those areas. We need to examine that, and we must revise our policy to meet the needs.

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