HC Deb 29 October 1985 vol 84 cc797-8
1. Mr. Evans

asked the Paymaster General what are the numbers of people who have been unemployed for over 12 months: and what was the figure in May 1979.

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

On 11 July, the latest date for which figures are available, the number of claimants in the United Kingdom who had been unemployed for over 12 months was 1,327,000, 41 per cent. of the total. The corresponding number of unemployed registrants in April 1979 was 367,000.

Mr. Evans

Does the Minister accept that long-term unemployment is now the greatest problem facing our society—a problem that was scarcely noticeable under the Labour Government, but is major under the Tory Government? How does the hon. Gentleman think the two Cabinet Ministers will solve the problem when one Secretary of State for Employment could not?

Mr. Clark

The House will agree with the hon. Gentleman's assessment of long-term unemployment, which carries with it a sense of rejection and degradation and is a source of great concern to us all. It is for this reason that my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State has set in train a number of initiatives devised specifically to bring the long-term unemployment back into the purlieu of the employment service, to make known to them all the facilities that are available and to make fresh contact with them, whether by post or by inviting them into jobcentres. I hope that the increasing economic activity will help bring this intractable problem towards a solution.

Mr. Powley

Does my hon. Friend agree that one among the many reasons for the level of unemployment is the demographic changes taking place, and that the number of people seeking employment has gone up dramatically over the past few years, which did not happen 10 years ago? Does the he agree further that in the years to come those demographic changes will alter today's position and that to ignore this factor is to ignore one of the reasons for the present level of unemployment?

Mr. Clark

My hon. Friend is right. It is true that the number of jobs continues to go up and that we have increased it by 350,000. If the population of working age had stayed at the same levels, unemployment would now be in the 2 million range.

Mr. Hardy

What steps are the Government taking to monitor and respond to the situation in constituencies such as mine where jobs are being destroyed at a pace and to an extent that would not have been imaginable in 1979? Does the hon. Gentleman deny that in 12 months' time the position in such areas will be a great deal worse than it is today?

Mr. Clark

It is true, regrettably, that there are parts of the United Kingdom where the old technologies are obsolete and were new businesses have not yet been established. However, if the hon. Gentleman looks at the national picture he will see that the number of vacancies is higher than it has ever been during the last decade.

Mr. Wainwright

Is the Minister aware that the special measures that the Government have made available to the long-term unemployed are so modest as in no way to approach what is needed to solve the problem? Will he undertake that his right hon. and noble Friend will come to Parliament with a scheme which will provide every long-term unemployed person with the opportunity of renewed work or at least work experience?

Mr. Clark

The House knows that we are already spending £2 billion of taxpayers' money on special employment and training measures, but it is hard to believe that permanent and lasting jobs could be created from this source after the tap of taxpayers' money had been cut off, or after, as would be the case if there were a Labour Government, the Chancellor of the Exchequer came scuttling back from the International Monetary Fund with his marching orders. Real jobs can be created only by increasing business and enterprise activity.

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