HC Deb 21 January 1986 vol 90 cc178-9
13. Mr. Dormand

asked the Paymaster General what is the total number of unemployed; and how many have been unemployed for at least one and two years respectively, at the latest available date.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

On 10 October 1985, the latest date for which figures are available, the number of unemployed claimants in the United Kingdom was 3,276,900, of whom 1,351,900–41 per cent. of the total—had been unemployed for over one year, and 823,100 for over two years.

Mr. Dormand

Is not the most damning condemnation of the Government's policies the number of long-term unemployed? The figures that the Minister has just read out are disgraceful. As we have constantly been told about the success of the Government's economic policies, will he say when they are likely to bring down the number of unemployed?

Mr. Clarke

New policies are producing a rapid rate of creation of new jobs. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that our first priority among the unemployed must be to tackle the problem of the long-term unemployed. That is why we are trying out in pilot areas the schemes that I described a few moments ago. We are approaching each of the long-term unemployed in those areas, we are offering them individual advice, referring them to jobs, to training and to job clubs, and providing a new allowance to supplement the pay of those who have to take a low-paid job as their first job. The combination of the present growth in the economy and the growth in new jobs, plus those special measures for the long-term unemployed, should bring great hope to many of them.

Mr. Alexander

When my right hon. and learned Friend announces the monthly unemployment figures, will he consider announcing at the same time equivalent figures for our partners in the EEC? As our figures are usually better than those of other EEC countries, why do we leave it to the Opposition to put the worst possible slant on what we are doing?

Mr. Clarke

We try to make useful comparisons of that type, but people always take more notice of the unemployment figures than of many relevant comparisons that could be made with overseas. Since the last election here, the creation of new jobs in the United Kingdom has far exceeded the rate at which they have been created in the rest of the EC put together. We should be more aware of that achievement.