§ 3. Mr. Strang
asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he has any plans for further changes in the method of counting the unemployed further to improve the accuracy of the unemployment figures.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. David Waddington)
I have no specific proposals in mind, but it would be foolish for us to ignore any opportunity that might arise for further improving the accuracy of the count.
§ Mr. Strang
Does the Minister admit that the Government have now ceased to publish unemployment statistics, since the new count relates not to the number of unemployed but to those claiming benefit at any point in time? Is he aware that there are now well over 4 million unemployed in Britain and that no amount of sharp practice will conceal the reality of mass unemployment from the British people?
§ Mr. Waddington
The Opposition's indignation at the change in the basis for the count to those claiming benefit is a silly sham. The change is not an invention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. The Government's intention to change to voluntary registration was announced in July 1981 following the Rayner recommendation in March 1981. If we had wanted to cheat, why change to the fortnightly signing, which increased the count? Why include the disabled unemployed, which increased the count? Why is the headline figure now invariably that for the United Kingdom and not for Great Britain?
§ Mr. Mike Thomas
Nevertheless, does the fact that the Government have now ceased to record approximately 70,000 people in the Newcastle upon Tyne area who are out of work as being out of work make them any the less unemployed?
§ Mr. Waddington
The hon. Gentleman knows that on the old basis there was no count of those who did not register, yet were unemployed. On the old basis a substantial proportion of those who did register were not seriously looking for work. The new system is much more accurate than the old one, because it gives a far more up-to-date figure of those who are back in work at the date of the count.