HC Deb 30 June 1981 vol 7 cc681-2
1. Mr. James Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Employment in view of the statement of the Under-Secretary of State for Employment, the hon. Member for City of Chester (Mr. Morrison), Official Report, 2 June, column 325, that there are signs of success in Government policies to deal with unemployment, whether he can say now when he expects unemployment substantially to decrease.

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

I agree with the comments of my hon. Friend. It is impossible to make accurate forecasts of the kind requested by the hon. Member.

Mr. Hamilton

Will the right hon. Gentleman concede that last week he stated that there was a distinct possibility that unemployment would pass the 3 million mark and that this was accepted, at least in silence, by the Prime Minister? Does he now recognise that, unless there is a change of policy, there will be a continual upward trend in unemployment?

Mr. Prior

I would not wish to go any further than what I said to the Select Committee about a month ago in relation to unemployment. It is impossible to forecast unemployment to any precise degree of accuracy. That is the position that both the Prime Minister and I have always maintained.

Mr. Stokes

Does my right hon. Friend agree that unemployment will decrease when the slump is over, when British firms are more competitive and when the British public buy more British goods?

Mr. Prior

Yes, Sir. When we buy more of the goods that we make for ourselves and when we become more competitive, we can stop importing other people's unemployment and get down to work ourselves.

Dr. Edmund Marshall

So that we may better understand the trends in unemployment, will the right hon.

Gentleman review his Department's practice of quoting only local unemployment rates for travel-to-work areas and not for employment office areas within those travel-to-work areas?

Mr. Prior

Following the hon. Gentleman's speech in the House last Wednesday, I am investigating more fully what he said then. I shall write to him about it.