HC Deb 22 April 1986 vol 96 cc154-6
2. Mr. Canavan

asked the Paymaster General what is the current total number of unemployed people in the United Kingdom.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Ian Lang)

On 6 March 1986 the number of unemployed claimants in the United Kingdom was 3,324,000.

Mr. Canavan

Will the Minister now tell us the truth and admit that there are over 4 million unemployed, most of whom are being thrown out of work because of the Government's disastrous economic policies? The Government then fiddle the books to try to conceal the true length of the dole queue, which is costing the country over £20 billion a year. Why cannot that kind of money be channelled into public investment to create real jobs for the unemployed people of this country?

Mr. Lang

The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. The number of real jobs and people in employment in this country has risen in every quarter over the past three years. Over that period about 1 million new jobs have been created.

Mr. Fallon

Is my hon. Friend aware that under the initiative for the long-term unemployed on Teesside some 70 per cent. of those called in by jobcentres are getting a positive result? Will my hon. Friend pay tribute to jobcentre staff and assessers and invite the Opposition to visit some of this long-term work instead of criticising it as simply tea and sympathy?

Mr. Lang

My hon. Friend is right. Our restart initiative to bring help to the long-term unemployed around the country should be widely welcomed. It will help direct those unemployed people to the many jobs that are available.

Mr. Wainwright

Does the Minister realise the serious damage now being done to morale on the youth training scheme and the community programme by the prospects of unemployment for some of those reaching the end of their courses and in the light of the figures that he has just given? Does he agree that the manufacturing and construction sectors, especially, should deliberately be expanded in order to match the number of people who are eager and well-equipped to work in them?

Mr. Lang

I have just told the House that employment in this country has risen by about 1 million in the past three years. This suggests that there are a large number of jobs for people completing youth training schemes and the community programme. About two-thirds of YTS graduates go into employment or training and twice as many people coming off the community programme go into jobs as other long-term unemployed people.

Mr. Marland

Is my hon. Friend aware that recently, after extensive research, The Mail on Sunday estimated that one-fifth of those who are currently claiming unemployment benefit simultaneously work in the black economy?

Mr. Lang

We take very seriously any suggestion of fraud and would rigorously investigate any cases for which evidence is brought to us. My hon. Friend might like to know that we have expanded the fraud investigation staff by some 50 per cent. recently, and we plan further expansion.

Mr. Evans

Is the Minister aware that the figures he has given to the House, massaged and fiddled though they are, are an absolute condemnation of six years of Tory Government incompetence? Will the Minister also confirm that when we get the June labour survey figures, as a result of the latest fiddle that the Government are embarking upon, we shall have a substantial drop in the percentage of those unemployed? Will the Minister also say why the monthly labour market statistics are now leaving out such valuable information as the numbers of long-term unemployed? Is the Minister not ashamed of those figures?

Mr. Lang

I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the long-term unemployed amount to approximately 1.4 million. On the matter of fiddling the figures, perhaps the hon. Gentleman will tell us which of the changes that have been made to the unemployment count he would reverse if the Labour party ever came to power?

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