§ 6. Mr. John Fraser
asked the Paymaster General how many people are now unemployed in Lambeth; and how many were unemployed on 14 April 1981.
§ Mr. Fraser
Will the Minister take it from me that since Lord Scarman's inquiry was set up the number of people unemployed in Lambeth has at least doubled? To what extent do the Government take any responsibility for that?
§ 7. Mr. Nellist
asked the Paymaster General on how many occasions since 1979 the method of counting unemployment has been altered.
§ Mr. Nellist
Would not the effort expended on removing 1.25 million people from the unemployment register be better expended by the Government on a crash programme of public works, such as building houses, schools and hospitals? Is it not the final indignity for the Paymaster General to say, as he did five minutes ago, that youth unemployment in Britain has fallen, when he knows that there has just been a staistical change—a sideways shift into the youth training scheme—not the creation of real jobs for our youth?
§ Mr. Lang
The hon. Gentleman takes an unduly gloomy view of these matters. His interest in statistics has 151 recently been confined to trying to discover which 50 constituencies have had the biggest rise in unemployment in the past year. I hope that he was not too disappointed that Coventry, South-East was not among them. Unemployment in Coventry, South-East fell by 1.33 per cent.
§ Mr. Maclean
Will my hon. Friend admit that it is disgraceful that under all Governments those in self-employment and the armed forces have been ignored in compiling unemployment figures? Does he agree that any change which takes account of the excellent job done by our men and women in the armed services and the self-employed is to be welcomed by both sides of the House?
§ Mr. Lang
My hon. Friend is right. Self-employment has been increasingly important in recent years and now accounts for the highest proportion of the total in employment since 1921. The House might also like to be reminded that the previous Labour Government changed the method of counting. In March 1976 they excluded adult students, which at some times of the year could affect the count by 200,000.
§ Mr. Flannery
Is not the reason why the Minister could not give comparable figures for 1981 that since then there has been another trick in the method of counting the unemployed by the removal of people over 60 and he will not give any figures once a change has been made, but pretends that they do not exist?
§ Mr. Lang
I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman thinks that we should have left figures that we knew to be inaccurate or whether he believes that we should publish accurate figures, as the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) has agreed should be the case. Among the changes that we have instituted, two of them—fortnightly registration and the inclusion of the severely disabled—have increased the count by 20,000 and 23,000 respectively.
§ Mr. Lang
As my hon. Friend knows, we are working towards producing a more comprehensive and helpful picture of the unemployed. I am sure my hon. Friend recognises that the unemployment count is based on a kind of snapshot taken on one day of the month. On average, 30,000 people find a job on every working day, which shows how impossible it is ever to have total accuracy.
§ Ms. Richardson
Does the Paymaster General agree that the exclusion of some married women from the register gives a wholly distorted picture of the number of people wanting work? Will he give the House an estimate of the number of women, for example, who are left out of the register who are ready for work but cannot find childcare provision or someone to look after an adult dependant?
§ Mr. Lang
I do not have those exact figures with me. However, the hon. Lady may know that part-time employment of women has risen by over 500,000 since 1979. There are people included in the count who are not seeking work, but it is also true that there are people not included who are seeking work.
§ Mr. Wainwright
Will the Minister get his statisticians, at the same time as they refine the count of those claiming benefit, to publish a monthly estimate of the large number of people who have no benefit to claim but are unemployed and are actively seeking work?
§ Mr. Butterfill
Will my right hon. and learned Friend comment on the observation by the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) that we should spend more money on building hospitals, and compare this Government's programme of hospital building with that of the previous Labour Government?