HC Deb 04 November 1980 vol 991 cc1077-8
1. Mr. Cryer

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the most recent unemployment figures.

The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. James Prior)

No member of the Government doubts the hardship caused by unemployment. We share the concern felt by everyone at the rapid increase. But the special measures like the youth opportunities programme are helping those hardest hit. It is only by making ourselves more competitive that real jobs will be created and unemployment will be brought down.

Mr. Cryer

Is it not hypocritical to express concern when the Government's policies of high interest rates and cutbacks in public expenditure are creating the unemployment? Is it not time that the Government abandoned their proposals for further massive public expenditure cuts, which will only add to the public sector borrowing requirement, and reversed their policies in order to give some people some hope? Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that even his Right wing Monday Club friends recognise the motorway madness of the Government?

Mr. Prior

The hon. Gentleman's economics are very poor. It is partly the high level of public expenditure, causing a high level of public sector borrowing, which creates the high interest rates which are at the root of our problem.

Mr. Thornton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many people are complaining about the unnecessary bureaucratic delays that are preventing the implementation of the youth opportunities programme to help young people?

Mr. Prior

The programme is going well. There have been a few complaints about the bureaucracy and filling in of forms. I have discussed the matter with the Manpower Services Commission which is examining whether it would be possible to simplify the form. We have to be careful to ensure that there is an element of training, and not an element of job substitution, in the programme.

Mr. Varley

When will the right hon. Gentleman be announcing the new measures to assist the unemployed that he trailed as long ago as July and has mentioned on previous occasions? Is it not a fact that he has been prevented from making an announcement until the Cabinet has conducted its review of public expenditure? Does he agree that my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) is correct in saying that if cuts arise from that review that will increase unemployment even further?

Mr. Prior

I hope very much that, as I said in the House on Wednesday, we shall announce our new proposals at the opening of the next Session. Generally speaking, measures are announced in the February or March of the year in which they come into operation. We shall be making an announcement soon.

Mr. Bulmer

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the percentage out of work in this country is in line with the figure in the United States, Canada, Australia, France and Italy and that the countries with the best record are those that have kept pay increases in line with output?

Mr. Prior

Yes, the figures quoted by my hon. Friend are correct. The important thing is not just pay, but productivity. Productivity and competitiveness. are at the root of our problems.

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