HC Deb 04 November 1980 vol 991 cc1083-5
6. Mr. Barry Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Employment by how much unemployment has risen since May 1979.

Mr. Prior

Between May 1979 and October 1980 the number of people registered as unemployed in the United Kingdom, seasonally adjusted and excluding school leavers, increased by 586,600.

Mr. Jones

Does the right hon. Gentleman understand that we in the regions are terrified at the prospect of another massive rise in unemployment? Does he realise that in Wales the steel, textiles and paper-making industries are pitifully vulnerable under this Government's policies? When will the Government change their policies and give some hope and some aid to our communities?

Mr. Prior

I fully understand the hon. Gentleman's concern. It is shared by many hon. Friends on both sides of the House.

Mr. Cryer

Do something about it.

Mr. Prior

There has not been any alternative but to take the measures on steel that have been taken. The hon. Gentleman will know that we have pumped into the steel industry this year, at enormous cost, getting on for £1,000 million and that, until we achieve a steel industry that is as efficient as that of our competitors, we shall be in trouble. It is not a question of a Government turning a blind eye to the steel industry. We have put in a great deal of money.

Mr. Alton

Is the Secretary of State aware that unemployment in my constituency is now in the region of 34 per cent. and that in the city of Liverpool over 100,000 people are out of work? Is he also aware that people in the city of Liverpool and on Merseyside are angry at the sort of prevarications of the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister in suggesting that we should create a nation of Dick Whittingtons in which people go off to seek their fortune? Will the Secretary of State tell the House where the people of Liverpool are supposed to go to find these jobs?

Mr. Prior

I have never said that people can move as easily as that from one part of the country to another. I recognise the difficulties. I recently had a very good meeting—a very understanding meeting—with members of the Liverpool council. It put important matters to me which I am considering. I was only sorry that on that occasion we were not joined by the Labour group.

Sir Anthony Meyer

Will my right hon. Friend exert his great influence in Cabinet to ensure that the cuts in Government expenditure, which are certainly necessary in order to release resources for the private sector, fall none the less on current consumption rather than on future investment wherein lies the hope of jobs for the future?

Mr. Prior

I am certain that my hon. Friend is right. One of the problems of the last 10 years was that too often capital expenditure was cut and current expenditure was left intact.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Does the Secretary of State accept that any further cuts in housing, education and health are bound to increase unemployment? Does he support further cuts?

Mr. Prior

It is most important for the Government to bring their own expenditure under control. That means taking tight control of public sector salaries and wages this winter. If we can then bring down the public sector borrowing requirement that will enable interest rates to fall and employment to expand.

Mr. Forman

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the deliberate creation of unemployment is no part of the Government's policy and that hundreds of thousands of people, including young people, are being helped under the Government's programmes and being kept off the unemployment register?

Mr. Prior

A total of 470,000 people are being helped through Government programmes, including the youth opportunities programme. It is no part of the Government's policy to create unemployment. It is a part of the Government's policy to bring down the rate of inflation. Without bringing down the rate of inflation we stand no long-term chance of curing the unemployment problem. Our efforts are designed in the long term to achieve soundly based full employment.

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