HC Deb 19 July 1983 vol 46 cc165-6
8. Mr. James Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what information is collected by his Department on the numbers unemployed in various sectors or by type of last employment.

Mr. Alan Clark

Regular analyses of the unemployed by industry and by occupation have been discontinued in the absence of relevant information at unemployment benefit offices, where the count is now made.

Estimates of unemployment by broad sectors of industry and occupational groups will be available, at least on a national basis, from the labour force survey, which is to become annual from next year.

Mr. Hamilton

Will the Minister concede that the system for collecting statistics is defective and does not give the true unemployment figures, for instance, in the construction industry where many more people are unemployed than we are told by the Department? Is he aware that the Chancellor of the Exchequer's latest statement of a cut in public expenditure will also have a serious effect on the unemployment figures? Is it not time that he told his right hon. Friend, who is a member of the Cabinet, that it is time to get away from this Government's monetarist policy?

Mr. Clark

The system that is employed to collect statistics is not necessarily defective. We have to consider the future needs of industry, and it is not so important to know where people used to work as to know whether they are willing and able for work in the future, and whether they are ready and willing to change their jobs.

Sir Dudley Smith

In view of that last answer, how are we to take all the unemployment figures seriously when every year thousands and thousands of foreign workers are imported into Britain to do jobs in the service, hotel and catering industries?

Mr. Clark

That is certainly a factor, but the question could be addressed just as well to the Home Office as to the Department of Employment.

Mr. Janner

As the Minister has now admitted that that method of collecting statistics has been discontinued because the Government have deliberately changed the method of collecting information at jobcentres, will he undertake to give the correct unemployment figures, by whatever method he may choose? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the figure now exceeds 4 million?

Mr. Clark

No, Sir.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

In assessing the various sectors of unemployment, will my hon. Friend bear in mind that this country's wealth is still created by the manufacturing sector? Will he therefore make representations, through his Department, to the Treasury so that those who merely move money from country to country, or from organisation to organisation in order to make more money, are taxed far more heavily than those who invest in manufacturing industry, which in turn creates employment?

Mr. Clark

My hon. Friend has raised an interesting point, but unfortunately I think that it is no longer true that the real wealth of this country lies predominantly in the manufacturing sector. The improvements in employment are weighted towards the service sectors, while the declines are in the manufacturing sector. I am not sure from the second part of his question whether my hon. Friend is arguing for a return to exchange controls, but I am sure that on reflection he will agree that they would be more harmful to the economy than otherwise.

Mr. Radice

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that since the Secretary of State took up his appointment he has managed to reduce unemployment by well over 200,000 by changing the basis of counting from registration to claimants, and by a further 120,000 by excluding men over the age of 60 in the last Budget? Given the Secretary of State's boast at a recent departmental cricket match that he "makes up the numbers", will the Minister give the House a guarantee that he has no plans to remove other categories of the unemployed from the count?

Mr. Clark

I am very doubtful about the hon. Gentleman's premise, but I am sure that the whole House will agree that unemployment will be solved by improving industry's competitive position and not by fiddling around with statistics.