HC Deb 22 July 1980 vol 989 cc257-8
6. Dr. David Clark

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is the latest unemployment figure for the Northen region.

Mr. Jim Lester

At 10 July the provisional number of people registered as unemployed in the Northern region was 157,198.

Dr. Clark

Does the Minister appreciate that that means that for every two people out of work in the Northern region in May 1979 there are now three people out of work? Will the Government refrain from their Pontius Pilate act and start announcing new initiatives? If they cannot do that, will they move over and let someone else do the job?

Mr. Lester

I realise that the figures are bad. As the hon. Member knows, I answered his Adjournment debate on this matter, and I have visited the North-East frequently. Perhaps the hon. Member does not realise that the employment service department placed 92,447 people in jobs. The Northern region gets more regional aid, in both absolute and per capita terms, than either Scotland or Wales.

Sir William Elliott

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many people in the Northern region believe that the greatest hope for increasing employment is for the Government to adhere to their anti-inflationary policies?

Mr. Lester

I thank my hon. Friend for those remarks. There is no question but that inflation is the real job killer that puts the manufacturing sector in the Northern Region, as well as elsewhere, out of competition in world terms. That is why the jobs have gone from shipbuilding.

Mr. Robert C. Brown

Is the Minister aware that last Friday 3,000 boys and girls left school in the city of Newcastle upon Tyne? Is he also aware that 14 vacancies are recorded in the careers office? What crumb of comfort can he offer to the other 2,986 boys and girls? How can they increase their productivity?

Mr. Lester

The crumb of comfort is the expansion of the youth opportunities programme. One of the reasons why the numbers of vacancies are falling is that those employers who are taking part in the youth opportunities programme and offering work experience are no longer advertising vacancies.

Mr. Beith

Will the Minister tell his colleagues in the Department of Industry that these figures include big increases in rural areas of the North-East, from which development area status has been taken away? Will that removal of development area status be reviewed in the light of the high unemployment figures in areas such as rural Northumberland?

Mr. Lester

The regional changes are designed to concentrate aid in the very areas that the hon. Member has mentioned. Changes have always been subject to review before being finally implemented.

Mr. Lyell

Despite the well-known difficulties in the North-East, is there not a need for competitiveness? Is that not well illustrated by the efforts of British Shipbuilders in getting out and selling abroad and thereby managing to achieve orders equal to the hoped-for base load of 45 ships three months ahead of time?

Mr. Lester

We are talking about the Northern region, not just Newcastle. I could add to the record of the shipbuilders that of Carreras-Rothman, which is building a second factory and expanding in the Northern region, British Nuclear Fuels, Spillers in Cumbria and Findus in Newcastle. In spite of all the difficulties, things are moving.