HC Deb 09 July 1985 vol 82 cc883-7
3. Mr. Dormand

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is the total number of people unemployed, those who have been unemployed for more than one year, those who have been unemployed for more than than two years, respectively, at the latest available date.

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

On 11 April 1985 there were 3,273,000 unemployed claimants in the United Kingdom. Of those, 1,334,000 had been unemployed for more than one year and 790,000 for over two years. Since April the total number of unemployed claimants has fallen by 94,000.

Mr. Dormand

Is the Minister aware that if the recent welcome rate of reduction in the number of unemployed is maintained, it will take to the end of the century before the number of unemployed reaches the total when the Labour Government left office? In those circumstances, will he say whether he is one of those who believe that the presentation of policies is wrong, rather than the policies themselves?

Mr. Morrison

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman welcomes the fall of 94,000. However, I do not agree that it will take until the end of the century to achieve that level of unemployment with a reduction of 94,000 every two months.

Mr. Latham

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the community programme is a significant help to the long-term unemployed? What is being done to put in place the increase announced in the Budget?

Mr. Morrison

As my hon. Friend points out, we are increasing the community programme by 100,000 places. That process has already started. In June, 5,000 places were filled; by the end of the year 50,000 places will have been filled; and by next June the whole 100,000 places will have been filled.

Mr. Boyes

The Minister must not try to kid the people in my constituency about unemployment falling, because there are now 8,225 unemployed, which is 690 more than last year. A disappointing reply was given to my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) about the £20 million that has been thrown down the drain. How many people does the Minister think could have got jobs out of that money if it had been claimed and spent on job creation?

Mr. Morrison

I appreciate that the part of the country that the hon. Gentleman represents has a difficult unemployment problem. I was in that area yesterday and met many people involved in the job club in the Durham jobcentre, and 80 per cent. of those involved in it were finding jobs. Therefore, it is possible to find employment in the north-east.

Mr. Lyell

Will my hon. Friend confirm that there is a higher proportion of longer-term unemployed in the south than in the north? Can he explain this strange phenomenon and what can be done to prevent it from continuing?

Mr. Morrison

I can confirm that there is a higher number of long-term unemployed in the south than in the north.

Mr. Evans

Will the Minister acknowledge that mass unemployment, particularly mass long-term unemployment, was a significant factor in the defeat of the Tory candidate in the Brecon and Radnor by-election? Is it not time that the Government recognised that the people no longer accept their fairy stories about economic success and new jobs being just around the corner? Does he accept that a majority want positive Government action to reduce unemployment, through an increase in public investment rather than tax cuts?

Mr. Morrison

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman chose to remind the House of the Brecon and Radnor by-election, for which the Leader of the Opposition had claimed a great victory. What happened to the Labour candidate? He did not win.

4. Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what information he has as to the net change in employment in the European Economic Community and the United States of America, respectively, over the past 10 years.

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

Information for all countries is available only for years up to 1983. My latest estimate is that in the 10 years to 1983, employment in the European Community decreased by about 1 million, a fall of 1 per cent. In the same period, employment in the United States increased by nearly 16 million, a growth of 19 per cent.

Mr. Taylor

Is my hon. Friend aware of any place, apart from El Salvador and possibly Tibet, with a more dismal record of job creation than the EEC? Would it not be better for the unemployed if the Government were to encourage more trade contact with the growth areas of the world instead of with Europe, which is clearly in structural decline?

Mr. Clark

It is better if trade contacts develop naturally rather than in an artificial atmosphere of Government encouragement. The shift of emphasis from employment in manufacturing to employment in services cannot be reflected in our trading relations with the European Community until the Community relaxes some of its restrictions on the freedom of operation in the service sector.

Mr. Maclennan

Would the Common Market more effectively create jobs if the Government objective in completing the internal market, which the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) is resisting, were carried through?

Mr. Clark

In the last two years, jobs have increased at a faster rate in this country than in Italy, Germany or France.

Mr. Baldry

Does my hon. Friend agree that we would have a better chance of increasing the number of jobs in the European Community if we removed barriers to business in Europe and had an integrated market by 1992, because we wish to remove from business not only burdens but barriers?

Mr. Clark

My hon. Friend is right. The barriers exist principally in the service sector, which is the largest growth sector in the United Kingdom. The meeting of the European Council in Milan issued a statement on this subject, saying that it was looking at the position and was preparing a detailed report on current inadequacies as a result of the growth of employment in the Community compared with its major industrialised competitors. The report also covers new strategies that could be implemented to remedy the situation.

5. Mr. Haynes

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what are the current numbers unemployed; and what this is as a proportion of the work force.

Mr. Tom King

On 13 June 1985 the number of unemployed claimants in the United Kingdom was 3,179,000, representing an unemployment rate of 13.1 per cent.

Mr. Haynes

Is the Secretary of State aware that the figures that he has just produced are a disgrace to his Government? Is he also aware that he and his Government are massaging the figures by taking people off the register? When will he do a real job as Secretary of State for Employment and get more investment in industry to create the jobs which the unemployed need so desperately? Do something about it.

Mr. King

The hon. Gentleman calls for more investment in industry, but every hon. Member knows that part of the problem that we face results directly from increased investment in industry, which has created a significant proportion of the increase in unemployment. I wholly repudiate suggestions that the figures that I published last week are not accurate. I have published—[Interruption.] I notice that Labour Members are ready enough to accept the figures when it suits them and that they take pleasure in the figures when unemployment goes up, but they seem to resent it bitterly when unemployment goes down.

Sir Dudley Smith

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there has been a welcome improvement in the number of engineering jobs on offer in the west midlands? However, is he also aware that some jobcentre employees are actively discouraging men over 50, or even over 45, from applying for those jobs, on the ground that they are too old? Will he ask them to desist from that practice forthwith, and, even more important, will he make representations to the CBI to get it to encourage men of maturity as well as men with skills?

Mr. King

I am very concerned about what my hon. Friend says, because it is standard practice that jobcentres are required and encouraged to request employers not to impose such age restrictions. I certainly note what my bon. Friend says. If there are further illustrations of the point that he makes, I should like to hear of them.

Having been in the west midlands this morning and seen the reports of the Birmingham chamber of commerce about the encouraging prospects and the surge of orders from home and overseas, I am encouraged to see the improved prospects for the west midlands.

Mr. Terry Fields

Having been to Birmingham today, why did the Secretary of State not take the train a little further north to Liverpool and, during his travels, read the report of Liverpool's city planning officer, which shows that since the Government have been in power 65,000 jobs have gone from the Liverpool area, including 40,000 in manufacturing industry? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the report suggests that by the time the Government leave office 100,000 people will be unemployed in Liverpool? The Secretary of State cannot blame that on Liverpool city council. When will he do something about it?

Mr. King

I am interested in the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's question. If he thinks that the present administration in Liverpool city hall is a positive encouragement to investors and companies to locate in Liverpool, he has a funny idea of the conditions that are necessary for the creation of work and the chances to tackle the serious problems in Liverpool, about which I know as much as any Minister.

Mr. Soames

Will my right hon. Friend remind the House that 65 per cent. of our work force is in work, which is a higher proportion than that in France, Germany or other OECD countries? Does he agree that that is a major coup for the Government?

Mr. King

In the year from January 1984 to January 1985, for which I have the figures, unemployment rose by 140,000 — which is a matter of great concern — while under the Socialist Government in France it rose by 250,000. During the past two years, employment in Germany fell, whereas employment in the United Kingdom increased by 2.6 per cent. I take no comfort from the fact that the United Kingdom is doing better than other countries in Europe. All hon. Members know that we need to create more jobs if we are to make the dent that we need to make in unemployment.