HC Deb 01 May 1984 vol 59 cc179-80
8. Mr. Baldry

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is the estimated increase in the work force between the present time and 1989.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Alan Clark)

The civilian labour force, which includes people seeking work as well as those in work, is projected to increase by 458,000 in Great Britain between mid-1984 and mid-1989.

Mr. Baldry

As there was an increase of 200,000 people in work between March and December last year—the biggest increase during the past five years—does my hon. Friend agree that taking the unemployment figures in isolation does not do justice to the efficacy of the Government's strategy in tackling unemployment, especially as Britain's work force, for demographic reasons, is rising rapidly?

Mr. Clark

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. We need not be apprehensive about the increase in the work force. There is no doubt that rising real incomes and changing consumer tastes will generate jobs in new sectors that could not have been predicted two or three years ago. It is from those sectors that, in the fullness of time, the impact on unemployment figures will be seen.

Mr. Haynes

Is the Minister aware that over the years every Government have looked at the work force and the way in which it grows and provided for that? Are not this Government sitting on their backside? They could not care less about the unemployment of those coming on stream for work. When will the Minister and the Department of Employment do something about jobs for youngsters and others in this nation?

Mr. Clark

I find it extraordinary that the hon. Gentleman, who attends every employment Question Time, should make such entirely unfounded accusations. He knows perfectly well that the youth training scheme is available for every youngster leaving school who wishes to take advantage of it. A wide variety of special employment measures take —2 billion of taxpayers' money each year.

Mr. Budgen

Is my hon. Friend aware that, according to the west midlands low pay unit, so-called sweatshops have now become major new employers of labour in the west midlands? Does he agree that if the terms and conditions of employment are forced to be more advantageous to the workers, there will be a reduction in opportunities for employment?

Mr. Clark

Yes. The fixing of wages is a matter for employers and their work forces. Any attempt to interfere with that will put up costs and reduce employment prospects.

Mr. Barron

The estimated increase in the work force will not help to reduce the high unemployment levels. How does the Minister justify spending millions of pounds to keep people in work in the midlands coalfields when he is not prepared to spend the same amount on trying to get people back to work?

Mr. Clark

The hon. Gentleman knows that spending money to get people back to work has been attempted with varying degrees of failure by all the OECD countries during the past 20 years. The most recent example is that of the French, who tried it on an enormous scale but had to call off their experiment after 12 months.

Mr. Evans

What is the projected increase in unemployment between now and 1989, especially in manufacturing industry, if there is no change in the Government's policies?

Mr. Clark

The hon. Gentleman knows that there are never any projections for such figures. As I said earlier, there is every reason to believe that the generating of jobs in new high technology sectors and sectors brought about by changes in consumer tastes and the rise in real incomes will have the greatest impact on reducing unemployment.