HC Deb 21 December 1982 vol 34 cc817-8
10. Miss Wright

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what are the latest available unemployment figures for (a) adults and (b) young persons in (i) Birmingham and (ii) the West Midlands.

Mr. Waddington

At 14 October there were 115,163 people aged 18 years and over and 10,625 people aged under 18 years registered as unemployed, the old basis of the unemployment count, in the Birmingham travel-to-work area. The corresponding figures for the West Midlands region were 350,593 and 29,643 respectively.

Miss Wright

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that, according to recently published national census figures, in April 1981 there was an unemployment rate of 25 per cent. in my constituency of Handsworth against a Birmingham rate of 12 per cent.? Does he agree that it is a reasonable assumption that the present Birmingham rate of approximately 18 per cent. probably reflects a 35 or 36 per cent. unemployment figure in my constituency? What concrete proposals does his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State have to improve the position in such inner city areas as Handsworth, other than to tell unemployed people to become more competitive or go on their travels?

Mr. Waddington

One has to be careful about surveys that purport to show the rate of unemployment in a particular area. As the hon. Lady knows, the unemployment figures, and now the claimant figures, are based on travel-to-work areas. The only reasonable basis on which to present the figures is in respect of self-contained labour markets, which represent the work opportunities for those who are able to travel from one part of the city to another.

Mr. Dudley Smith

While no one underestimates the seriousness of unemployment in the West Midlands, is the Minister aware that Leamington Spa, one of the largest shopping centres, is having its best ever Christmas, so much so that the main local store is extending its premises and in so doing will provide much needed local jobs?

Mr. Waddington

My hon. Friend is right to present the good news. Some hon. Members have heard reference on the BBC news last Friday night to a Christmas spending spree. The news highlighted the fact that the electrical industry in this country seems to be doing very well in the spending spree.

Mr. Snape

Will the Minister concede that the figures he has given represent the worst unemployment in the history of the West Midlands? Is he aware that the decline in manufacturing industry and the tripling of unemployment since 1979 show the urgent need for the region to be granted assisted area status? Whatever is happening in the comparatively well-heeled suburbs of Leamington Spa, is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that this will be the worst Christmas ever for most of my constituents?

Mr. Waddington

The hon. Gentleman knows that questions about intermediate area status are not for me. I shall see that his remarks are passed on to my right hon. Friend. The hon. Gentleman fails to pay sufficient regard to the extensive support already being given to the West Midlands. There has been considerable support for BL. Through national schemes, we have encouraged investment in high technology industries. We also have the small firms engineering scheme. Birmingham is to receive £22.7 million this year through the urban programme. That is a 33 per cent. increase on last year.