HC Deb 08 March 1983 vol 38 cc700-1
11. Mr. Dormand

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is the number and percentage of people unemployed in the northern region and the United Kingdom, respectively.

Mr. Gummer

At 10 February the number of unemployed claimants in the northern region was 231,074 and the rate was 17.8 per cent. The figures for the United Kingdom were 3,199,412 and 13.7 per cent.

Mr. Dormand

Is the Minister aware that the disgraceful figures that he has just announced for the northern region will be made even worse if the replacement for the Sir Galahad is not built on Tyneside? Will he confirm that there is no question of the Sir Galahad replacement going to Australia? Does he agree that the record of the Tyneside shipyard workers in building many vessels of this type in the past shows that this is where the priority order should go? Will he, as a matter of urgency, consult his colleagues in the Department of Industry to see that the order is placed on Tyneside?

Mr. Gummer

I shall see that my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Department know of the hon. Gentleman's proper concern.

Mr. McQuarrie

The figure that my hon. Friend gives in respect of the United Kingdom is 9 per cent. lower than that for my constituency of Aberdeenshire, East, which is suffering many redundancies every day. Will my hon. Friend try to take some steps to ensure that work can be created in my area, which has not benefited from the golden age enjoyed by Aberdeen city?

Mr. Gummer

I understand the careful concern that my hon. Friend has for unemployment in his constituency, but I am sure he will agree that in the end—one always comes back to it, I afraid—the only way that jobs are created is if those jobs are wanted in the sense that the goods and services that they produce can be sold at the price that people are able to pay.

Mr. Beith

What hope will the unemployed get from the hon. Gentleman's Department if he persists with his plans to close or cut down the hours of jobcentres in some of the smaller communities where unemployment is highest? Does the Minister realise that some of the jobcentre closures afford savings of only £200 or £300 a year, and that many local authorities in the area would be happy to help with those minimal costs to ensure that a service of job finding is still available to people in places such as Amble?

Mr. Gummer

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will accept that we are seeking to make the system as efficient as possible, and it is only sensible to look at some of the jobcentres that are of small use and to which a small number of people go, and make them as economic as possible. If the hon. Gentleman has a particular case in mind we shall look at it carefully. In the end, what we want is not the jobcentres that find the work, but the work itself.

Mr. Radice

Has the Minister noted that despite the Prime Minister's commitment to real jobs, made in Darlington during the 1979 general election campaign, unemployment in the Darlington travel-to-work area has risen from 6 per cent. then to over 15 per cent. now?

Mr. Gummer

The hon. Gentleman must accept that had we continued with the policies of the Labour Government unemployment would be much higher. For the first time a Government are taking the steps that will bring back to this country the economic basis that has been frittered away by years of under-productivity.