HC Deb 06 November 1986 vol 103 cc1077-8
13. Mr. Nellist

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make it his policy to include a forecast of the levels of unemployment in his next Budget; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. MacGregor

No. It has not been the practice of this or previous Governments to publish forecasts of unemployment.

Mr. Nellist

Is not the real reason for that answer the fact that, despite the 18 statistical fiddles that the Government have used to count the number of unemployed in the past seven years, the only hope that the Government see for bringing the unemployment figures below 3 million by the time of the general election is through further statistical fiddles? The Government's own figure shows that there are 7,154 unemployed in Coventry, South-East, costing £46 million a year in benefits and costing those in work £35 a week. Is not the only hope for the unemployed in Coventry, South-East, not more statistical fiddles, but a change of Government?

Mr. MacGregor

Not at all. I must make it clear that we are simply following previous practice. There is no question of any change in the publication of forecasts of unemployment. The hon. Gentleman never understands that it is customers for goods and services at home and overseas who create jobs. They are hugely put off by the sort of activities which the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues previously undertook and encouraged in British industry, which did so much to destroy jobs. It is the reverse of that which is the greatest hope.

Mr. Churchill

Although the levels of unemployment remain unacceptably high, is it not noteworthy that this country has a higher proportion of its population of working age in employment than any other major country in western Europe? Will my right hon. Friend take steps to make that fact more widely known?

Mr. MacGregor

My hon. Friend is right and I am extremely grateful to him for giving me another opportunity to make that fact known. There is only one other country which has a higher proportion. What is more, in this country our level of youth unemployment is below the EEC average, and falling. It is also true that we have had an employment increase. It is important to emphasise, as my hon. Friend did, employment rather than simply unemployment. It is true that we have had an employment increase in the past 13 quarters, which is the longest period of continuous employment growth for almost 30 years. Those are the facts and my hon. Friend is entirely right in emphasis.

Mr. Terry Davis

Will the Chief Secretary admit that the reason why the Government will not publish the forecast is not that the forecast does not exist but that if they did publish it it would confirm what everybody knows, which is that the Government have no hope to give the people who have no jobs?

Mr. MacGregor

That is simply not true. We are following the practice of previous Governments, none of whom have produced long-term forecasts on unemployment.

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