HC Deb 19 October 1982 vol 29 cc221-2
15. Mr. Ioan Evans

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what are the latest figures of the number of people who are unemployed in the United Kingdom; and how many of these have been unemployed for more than two years and one year, respectively.

Mr. Tebbit

At 9 September the total number of people registered as unemployed in the United Kingdom was 3,343,075. The latest analysis by duration of unemployment is for 8 July when, out of a total of 3,190,621 unemployed people in the United Kingdom, 394,865 had been unemployed for more than 104 weeks and 675,641 had been unemployed for more than 52 weeks and up to 104 weeks.

Mr. Evans

Are not those scandalous figures an indictment of the Government's policies? The Government boast about reducing inflation, but has not that been at the expense of 4 million families who have had their living standards slashed through being put on the dole queue? Will the Minister think again about his policy of introducing voluntary registration? As people who are unemployed for more than 12 months lose benefit, does he agree that it is important to find out how many there are and that they should be encouraged to go to the jobcentres and register to show how bad the Government's employment policy really is?

Mr. Tebbit

The hon. Gentleman muddles a number of things. First, he muddles whether people should be encouraged to seek work through the jobcentres or whether they should be compelled to do so. The question of benefit is entirely different and there is no change in the rules with regard to benefits. Secondly, he should understand that many of the unemployed are paying the price, not for the present reduction in inflation, but for the inflation created by the Labour Government, whom the hon. Gentleman from time to time supported.

Mr. John Townend

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, in view of the high figures that he has just given the House, it would be wrong for the Government to take action in the near future that would result in an increase in the level of immigration?

Mr. Tebbit

Matters concerning the levels of immigration are for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I am sure that if my hon. Friend tables a question to him, he will receive a satisfactory reply.

Mr. James Hamilton

Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that we are all concerned about reducing inflation and interest rates, and that there is a general desire to do that? But does not the right hon. Gentleman also recognise that to reduce interest rates and inflation at the expense of moving towards 4 million unemployed is disastrous and an indictment of the Government's policies, which will be proved at the next general election?

Mr. Tebbit

The hon. Gentleman makes no more effort to understand the issues now than he did five years ago. I strongly recollect the time when a number of his hon. Friends below the Gangway had to be told by the Leader of the Opposition, in his own words, I think that my hon. Friend must face the fact that inflation helps to cause unemployment".—[Official Report, 10 Oct. 1975; Vol. 898, c.1269.]

It is only by destroying inflation that we can help to build a better foundation on which to create jobs.

Mr. John Grant

Is it not the case that Britain has lost a job for every minute that the Government have been in office? When the Secretary of State examines the forecast of the Manpower Services Commission for the long-term unemployed, will he think that special measures will make more than a small dent in the total?

Mr. Tebbit

The hon. Gentleman may call helping about half a million people and reducing the number of registered unemployed by more than one-third of a million a small dent, but when it comes to interest and compassion in these matters, I notice that not a single question on employment affairs has been tabled today by any Liberal or SDP Member. That must spring from their embarrassment at having three different policies between them—one for the Liberals and two for the SDP.

Mr. Madel

Will my right hon. Friend ask the Manpower Services Commission to consider diverting some of the cash available to help the unemployed towards expanding further education by local education authorities, which will provide rapid help for unemployed school leavers?

Mr. Tebbit

The best way to provide rapid help for unemployed school leavers is to follow the path on which we are set, and that is through the youth training scheme. I hope that local authorities will continue to improve the facilities that they offer to youngsters at schools. I am sure that that can be done, not least by looking for more efficient and effective ways to use the manpower and financial resources already at their command.

Mr. Varley

Why does the Secretary of State give the impression of being so brutal and callous when dealing with the question of unemployment? Will he say something about the Treasury report—not yet published, but of which I am sure he is aware—which predicts that registered unemployment next year will be 3½ million? Does he agree that unchanged policies, to which he appears to be wedded, mean greater unemployment, greater waste of precious resources and greater social devastation? Does he not have an ounce of compassion in that body of his?

Mr. Tebbit

The right hon. Gentleman must not confuse my callousness and brutality towards him and his colleagues, who caused so many of the problems, with the compassion that the Government feel towards those suffering from the policies adopted by the Opposition when they were in office. I have spoken more than once of selective amnesia. The right hon. Gentleman is suffering from amnesia again today, because he has even forgotten that the Treasury does not make such forecasts.