HC Deb 02 June 1981 vol 5 c764
5. Mr. Foster

asked the Secretary of State for Employment when he expects unemployment in the Northern region to fall.

The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Peter Morrison)

A substantial fall in unemployment in the Northern region, as elsewhere in the country, depends largely upon an upturn in world trade. The Government's policies are aimed at creating the economic conditions in which firms can take advantage of such an upturn and create the new jobs which are so much needed.

Mr. Foster

Is the Minister aware that 200,000 people in the Northern region are unemployed and that they are outraged at the Secretary of State disclaiming responsibility for unemployment? Is he further aware that nowhere in the developed world has unemployment increased so steeply? Does he accept that, if the Government were to invest now in British Rail, British Telecom and British Gas, not only would there be a negligible effect on the inflation rate but jobs would be created directly in Shildon and Newton Aycliffe in my constituency?

Mr. Morrison

I have visited the hon. Gentleman's constituency and the North-East twice in the last two months. My right hon. Friend and I are more than aware of the difficult position in the North-East. The hon. Gentleman will also be aware that, thanks to the Government's programmes, 21,861 people are benefiting from the temporary short-time working compensation scheme. Without that scheme they would be redundant.

Sir William Elliott

Is my hon. Friend aware that, because of Government policies, last year three times as many factories were opened in the Northern region's trading estates as were closed? Does he accept that, if Opposition Members looked at hard facts, they would discover, as I have, that as many jobs were created on the trading estates in the last 12 months as were lost? Is he aware that in addition many new inquiries have been made? Surely we need a bit of optimism, not pessimism.

Mr. Morrison

I agree with my hon. Friend. The attitude which I have discovered in the North-East is optimistic. I have discovered optimism amongst those who want to go out, make something and create jobs. Optimism is there. I am sure that Opposition Members do not want to rock their supporters. As my hon. Friend says, jobs come not out of mid-air but from new orders. Many new orders are going to firms in the North-East.

Mr. David Watkins

Is the Minister aware that at least one firm in the Consett area of the North-East is refusing to employ anyone except ex-BSC workers because it does not receive extra subsidies for employing workers who are not former steel workers? How can such discrimination be justified, especially since in my constituency, which is heavily hit by steel closures, only half of the total unemployed are ex-BSC workers? How can that discrimination be justified? Will the Minister investigate?

Mr. Morrison

I am not aware of the firm to which the hon. Gentleman refers. If he gets in touch with me I shall examine the position.