HC Deb 13 March 1986 vol 93 cc1064-5
1. Mr. Clay

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what consideration he is giving to including measures in his Budget to reduce unemployment.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. John MacGregor)

I cannot anticipate my right hon. Friend's Budget statement.

Mr. Clay

Is the Chief Secretary aware that last year the Chancellor concluded his Budget statement by describing the measures that he was taking as tackling the problem of unemployment where it was most acute and that it was a Budget for jobs? Since that time, unemployment has increased by over 114,000 in this country, over 9,000 in the northern region, over 1,300 in my constituency and by 259 in Fulham. When the Chancellor sits down on Tuesday—I know he will not tell us what measures he will take—but, in language that the unemployed will understand—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Briefly please.

Mr. Clay

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether unemployment is likely to go up or down, where and when?

Mr. MacGregor

After that rather long speech, I should say that the main element affecting the point to which the hon. Gentleman referred in the Chancellor's Budget statement last year was a significant increase in expenditure on employment and training measures in 1986 and 1987, involving extra expenditure of £600 million, particularly concentrated on the youth training scheme. I believe that throughout 1986–87 that will have a significant effect.

The same applies to the enterprise allowance scheme, which was extended last year, and which is having substantial effect in encouraging people into self-employment.

I would also say to the hon. Gentleman that, in terms of getting unemployment down, the most significant element is by encouraging industry and commerce to provide jobs. The hon. Gentleman will have noticed that the Confederation of Bitish Industry's February monthly trends inquiry showed that it was the best combined response in industry on prices and output since the inquiry started in 1975.

Mr. Speaker

Order. May I ask for brief questions, because they lead to brief answers.

Mr. Fallon

Will my right hon. Friend explain to the people of Sunderland and to their elected representatives that the one thing certain to destroy jobs in Sunderland is a public spending spree of £24 billion?

Mr. MacGregor

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Such spending would mean either big increases in taxation or much higher borrowing, which would clobber industry. I know the point to which my hon. Friend is referring. I have just sent a letter to the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) telling him that I still believe that the extra public expenditure involved in the Labour party's programme would be about £24 billion.

Mr. James Hamilton

As the right hon. Gentleman was educated in my constituency, knows Scotland well, and knows about the unemployment figures in Scotland, which are the highest in its history, is he aware that the British Steel Corporation has announced a further 414 redundancies in my constituency at the Clydesdale works? Unless there is a change in policy, there will be an upward trend in unemployment. I do not want the right hon. Gentleman to tell us that inflation worsens the position. When will the Government change their policy and show that in their Budget?

Mr. MacGregor

Because I come from the hon. Gentleman's constituency, I know of the need there, perhaps more than in most parts of the United Kingdom, to restructure from the old traditional industries, including the steel and coal mining industries, to modern industries. I have seen many examples in Scotland of vast new employment being created by modern industries. That is a considerable success story.