HC Deb 17 March 1983 vol 39 cc344-5
Q1. Mr. Wigley

asked the Prime Minister whether she remains satisfied that Her Majesty's Government's financial measures will have a significant effect on reducing unemployment.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

Our financial policies are designed to continue to reduce inflation and to secure a lasting improvement in the performance of the British economy, so providing the foundations for sustainable growth in output and lasting jobs. Improvements in the employment position always lag behind other indicators when coming out of a recession. Last year almost 4 million people left the unemployed register.

Mr. Wigley

As the Budget assumes a continuing level of 3 million unemployed at a cost of £15,000 million to the Government, would it not make more sense, instead of paying those people to do nothing, to pay them a little more to do worthwhile work? If that needs a few more pence on the standard rate of income tax, is that not a price worth paying to ensure that the burden of unemployment is properly shared among the community, instead of putting on the 20 per cent. at the end of the jobs queue, with no economic benefit, and causing social cancer?

The Prime Minister

Last year my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer allocated some £150 million to a programme to help some of the long-term unemployed to do a certain amount of social work. It has not been easy to have that programme taken up. The hon. Gentleman will also know that we have extensive programmes on special employment measures and training programmes, which this year already amount to £2 billion.

Mr. Eggar

Was not this a Budget for more employment? Will my right hon. Friend give a particular welcome to the announcement by her right hon. and learned Friend about reductions in North sea oil taxation, as that will lead specifically to more jobs in the oil supply industry?

The Prime Minister

Yes. My right hon. and learned Friend's Budget was a Budget to lay the foundations for sustainable growth. It contained substantial measures to help industry. The last Government put £4 billion extra on employers in national insurance taxation, by loading the national insurance contributions to employers. This Government have taken off £3 billion from employers in an effort to help with jobs. I agree with my hon. Friend that the purpose of the reduction of tax on North sea oil was to try to get future exploration in North sea oil and therefore more jobs in that industry and its associated support industries.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

Is not the Prime Minister ashamed that there are still 100,000 unemployed 19-year-olds—14,500 in the north-west—all of whom left school in the year in which she came to office, and not one of whom has ever had a proper full-time job?

The Prime Minister

Yes, there are a considerable number of young people who are unemployed, and that is precisely why we are introducing a special training programme to take effect from September, because there are still shortages of some skills, even in the present state of unemployment. We are introducing that programme at a cost of about £1 billion, so that young people can either stay on in education, or find a job, or have training. Unemployment will then not be an option for them.

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