HC Deb 15 July 1982 vol 27 cc1160-1
9. Mr. Sheerman

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the assumption of 2.9 million unemployed in 1982–83 contained in his White Paper, Cmnd. 8494-II is still valid.

Mr. Brittan

The assumption, which relates to the unemployed in Great Britain excluding school leavers, is still valid.

Mr. Sheerman

Will the Minister confirm that, in re-examining his estimates and assumptions, the Chancellor will talk not only to Sir Terence Beckett, director general of the CBI, but to Mr. Denny, chairman of the Yorkshire and Humberside CBI, who said last week that the economy is as dead as the dodo and that we are into another recession before we are out of the last? Will he do that before he revises his estimates?

Mr. Brittan

Before any revision of the estimates, there will be a trawl of discussions far wider than the hon. Gentleman suggests.

Mr. Ian Lloyd

As almost all the questions today involve problems of fundamental structural readjustment of the Western economies, all of which were predicted in an OECD report before the election of most of the present Administrations of major Western democracies, is it not time that we addressed our questions and concern to those fundamental structural readjustments and tried to deal with them rather than constantly seeking to apportion blame as between this Administration and the last?

Mr. Brittan

I could not agree more. The fact that under successive Governments there has been a steady upward trend in unemployment that is matched in many other countries shows that fundamental structural problems are involved and that no useful purpose is served by the apportionment of blame, which is a substitute for serious thought about serious issues.

Mr. Robert Sheldon

As all serious commentators agree that unemployment will be higher than the forecasts and assumptions in the White Paper, and as we know that the figures used in the White Paper are provided by the Treasury, is it not clear that the position, disastrous though it is, has been understated, with consequent understatement of Government economic policies generally?

Mr. Brittan

As the right hon. Gentleman well knows, the assumptions to which he refers are working assumptions and not forecasts. Therefore, it is far more useful to ask what can be done about levels of unemployment which, whatever forecast or assumption one takes, are far too high. The answer to that has been given by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor. Unemployment will not be reduced in any substantial, serious or lasting way by reflation of demand, which would merely lead to a short-term boost, an increase in inflation and lack of confidence, resulting in levels of unemployment higher than they would otherwise be.