HC Deb 01 May 1984 vol 59 cc177-9
7. Mr. James Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Employment when he next intends to discuss methods of reducing unemployment with European Economic Community Employment Ministers.

The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. Peter Morrison)

We shall be discussing employment matters of mutual concern at the Standing Employment Committee on 10 May and the Labour and Social Affairs Council on 7 June.

Mr. Hamilton

What is the Government's reaction to the proposals of the European Trade Union Confederation for co-ordinated increases of 1 per cent. of GNP in non-wage public expenditure by the EEC and other Western industrial countries, which is calculated to create 5 million new jobs? If so, will the Minister now make a statement?

Mr. Morrison

As the hon. Gentleman will appreciate, all our consultations with our European colleagues are geared to an improvement in employment. For employment in the United Kingdom to be improved, as the hon. Gentleman will understand perfectly well, cost-competitiveness is extremely important.

Mr. Forth

Does my hon. Friend agree that the answer to unemployment across the European Community lies not in further ill-conceived methods on yet another level of public expenditure but in trying to do away with the non-tariff barriers to trade that still exist in the Community, thereby allowing a freer flow of goods and competition, which will result in increased employment?

Mr. Morrison

I agree with my hon. Friend. As he will know from his personal experience in Europe, many of our European colleagues will be interested to hear about the containment of public expenditure in the United Kingdom and its effect on employment.

Mr. Boyes

Is the Minister aware that, tragically, 1,000 youngsters in my constituency have not had a job since leaving school, yet when the Foreign Secretary has reported on recent Council meetings he has never mentioned unemployment? Will the Minister ask his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to have an urgent meeting with the Foreign Secretary and tell him that unemployment should be discussed at any future Council meetings?

Mr. Morrison

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and myself, when in Europe, are concerned about employment prospects. I am just as concerned as the hon. Gentleman about the 1,000 youngsters in his constituency, but he will be aware that the youth training scheme—a major programme—is to a great extent supported by the European social fund.

Mr. Dykes

Does my hon. Friend expect the ESPRIT programme to have a beneficial effect on employment over the next few years—if so, what will the figures be—or is the programme too small to have that effect?

Mr. Morrison

On balance, we expect it to have a beneficial effect.

Mr. John Smith

Does the Minister appreciate that the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell, North (Mr. Hamilton) was that the European Trade Union Confederation has put forward a specific proposal for an increase of 1 per cent. in non-wage public expenditure by each EEC country as a way of stimulating growth within the EEC? Is that not the sort of sensible proposal that the Government ought to support instead of trying to back down at the Dispatch Box?

Mr. Morrison

The right hon. and learned Gentleman will, I am sure, appreciate that that is precisely what his Socialist counterparts in France did, and the results have not been good for the French economy or employment prospects. I therefore hope that he will understand my reservations.

Mr. Needham

Does my hon. Friend agree that in discussing these matters with his European colleagues his task is not made easier when the Scottish miners are not delivering sufficient coal to keep the Ravenscraig steelworks going?

Mr. Morrison

My hon. Friend makes an important point. I am sure that those who work at the Ravenscraig plant, as well as those who work at other steelworks throughout the country, will carefully bear in mind what he has said.