HC Deb 25 January 1983 vol 35 cc784-6
Q3. Mr. Wigley

asked the Prime Minister what new proposals she has for reducing unemployment levels.

The Prime Minister

There are no new answers, as the hon. Gentleman well knows, only the right products and services at the right prices. The way to reduce unemployment is for British firms to win markets and create jobs, and some are doing so. Last week, for instance, I visited a small firm that started only three years ago and now employs almost 200 people, made a £1 million profit last year, and is a market leader. The best way to help the unemployed is to keep down wage settlements, keep down inflation, and let industry be profitable and competitive.

In the meantime, we have allocated nearly £1½ billion to special employment and training measures this financial year and about £2 billion next year.

Mr. Wigley

Does the Prime Minister accept that in every community in these islands there is work that needs to be done, houses that need to be built, roads that need to be improved, home helps needed for the elderly and clinics for the disabled? Does she not realise also that there are people who are capable of doing this work who want to do it? In these circumstances, is it not crazy to pay £15 billion to keep people idle rather than pay them to do this work?

The Prime Minister

There is always work to be done. The pay for that work ultimately has to be found from profitable industry and commerce. If we put too heavy a burden on them they will no longer find themselves competitive, and instead of supplying wealth may well become consumers of it by way of subsidies. That is the dilemma. With regard to certain work in local authorities, that is exactly why we have programmes such as the community enterprise programme. That is why the £150 million was announced by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the last Budget—to help ensure that such work is done and that people can take the opportunity to do it.

Mr. Marlow

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one way, perhaps a small way, of reducing the numbers of unemployed would be to improve yet further our relationships with the Arab world? With that in mind, does she know yet when the delegation from the Arab League is coming to the United Kingdom and who will be in it?

The Prime Minister

No, not yet, Sir. We are continuing discussions through King Hassan of Morocco.

We are working hard to find a solution. I hope that soon we will be able to receive a delegation from the Arab League.

Mr. Stoddart

Did the Prime Minister read in this morning's Hansard the figures given to the House by her Minister for Trade, which show that, in non-oil goods, our exports were £2 billion in deficit and, with the EC, nearly £5 billion in deficit? Does that not show that, under this Government, British manufacturing industry is being destroyed underneath our feet, and that North Sea oil, under her Administration, is proving a curse rather than a boon?

The Prime Minister

Economies do change, and the amount produced by manufacturing industry changes. The numbers employed in certain industries change as new technology comes in and new products are produced. We have problems, as in the world over, in steel, engineering and shipbuilding. I find it a mystery that the hon. Gentleman should cut out things such as oil and gas products, which are a significant part of our economy.