HC Deb 08 March 1983 vol 38 cc690-1
2. Mr. Jim Marshall

asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many people have been out of work for over a year; and what was the comparable figure in May 1979.

The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Selwyn Gummer)

At January 1983 the number of unemployed claimants in the United Kingdom who had been unemployed for more than 52 weeks was 1,106,800, while the latest figure for employees in employment is 21 million. In April 1979 the number of registered unemployed who had been unemployed for over 52 weeks was 366,700.

Mr. Marshall

Does the Minister accept that those figures show beyond any shadow of doubt the total failure of the Government's economic policy? If it is his intention to blame the world recession for the high levels of unemployment, will he tell the House what contribution the world recession has made to the overall reduction in inflation in the United Kingdom?

Mr. Gummer

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the world recession. His original question concerned the reasons for unemployment. Unemployment is partly due to the world recession and largely due to the fact that this country allowed itself to become uncompetitive in world markets after years of Socialist Governments.

Mr. Dorrell

Does my hon. Friend agree that the position of those long-term unemployed people who have savings of more than £2,500 is particularly unenviable? Does it not amount to a means-tested benefit? Will he make representations to his right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to improve the position of those who suffer that disadvantage?

Mr. Gummer

The problem that my hon. Friend has highlighted has existed under successive Governments and is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services.

Mr. Allen McKay

The Prime Minister, the Minister and his colleagues seem to believe that wages have something to do with unemployment, but how does the hon. Gentleman account for the fact that in Yorkshire and Humberside the average wage is the lowest in Britain while unemployment is the highest?

Mr. Gummer

The hon. Gentleman must accept that employment levels have fallen because Britain has been uncompetitive across the board. No region can overcome that. If the nation as a whole is uncompetitive, we shall not create the weatlh that we should. One cannot draw a distinction between one part of the country and another. The fact that there are lower wages in Yorkshire and Humberside can be contrasted with other parts of the country.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

Will the Minister reconsider his disappointing answer to the question on unemployment benefit? Long-term supplementary benefit rates are not made available to the long-term unemployed, and the Government's advice that the unemployed should save their redundancy pay is made an ass of because those involved cannot draw benefit if they have saved their money. Therefore, will the hon. Gentleman reconsider his answer?

Mr. Gummer

The right hon. Lady is right to draw attention to an important issue. I am not being in any way unsympathetic when I say that it is a matter not for this Department but for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services, and I shall draw it to his attention.

Mr. Needham

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the reasons for the grave level of unemployment is action such as that taken by the president of the National Union of Mineworkers, who tries to call his members out on strike when he has the flimsiest of cases? Does my hon. Friend further agree that such action does little for miners' employment prospects?

Mr. Gummer

My hon. Friend is right to point to one of the many reasons for unemployment. The difficulty is that Opposition Members will accept only a party political reason. However, every strike in this country cuts out jobs. Those who want to keep their jobs should bear in mind that it is important not to strike.

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