HC Deb 22 January 1980 vol 977 cc191-2
10. Mr. John Evans

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on employment prospects in the North-West region of England.

Mr. Jim Lester

Future levels of employment depend upon a number of factors which we cannot predict with any degree of certainty. The Government's policies, however, are aimed at creating the economic conditions in which employers will be encouraged to invest in industrial and commercial enterprise thereby creating new jobs. The success of our policy depends upon the cooperation of both sides of industry, and not least upon the matching of pay increases with higher productivity.

Mr. Evans

Is it is not time that the Minister stopped giving rubbish answers such as that to the House? Is not the real answer that employment prospects in the North-West are the same as those in every other region which has had its regional assistance slashed by this Right-wing, monetarist Government? Are not the employment prospects in the North-West appalling?

Mr. Lester

The hon. Gentleman knows that suggestions for changes in regional aid have yet to take place, so they can hardly be seen to have had any effect yet. Clearly the policies of the previous Government were no help to the North-West region. As the hon. Gentleman knows, unemployment increased by 106 per cent. in the North-West region.

The hon. Gentleman talks about "rubbish answers". Surely it is time that we got down to addressing ourselves to the question seriously instead of trading figures every Question Time. The serious answer is that the future of the North-West depends upon the future of the British economy. The regions do well when the British economy does well. Until we get the British economy right all the measures that we take in the regions can help only marginally.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

In view of the serious situation facing the textile industry and its effect on employment in the North-West, will my hon. Friend consider urging his ministerial colleagues to press Signor Giolitti, the Regional Commissioner for the regional fund in the European Parliament, to include textiles in the second tranche of the non-quota section of the regional fund, which he is now considering and which Ministers will then have to sanction?

Mr. Lester

I am delighted to take my hon. Friend's advice.

Mr. Marks

Is the Minister aware that if we are to get back to full employment one of the investments that will be needed will be in the training of skilled workers? Why is the Minister preventing that by cutting down on the training of apprentices and the retraining of people changing their jobs in the North-West?

Mr. Lester

The number entering apprenticeship training has not changed. The hon. Gentleman referred to skill-centres. The problem in the North-West is that there are far more places at skill-centres than there are people to fill them.