HC Deb 17 November 1987 vol 122 cc902-3
5. Mr. Watts

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement about the trend of unemployment over the last 12 months.

Mr. Fowler

As I announced on Thursday, there has been a record annual fall in unemployment since October 1986. New figures that I am publishing today show that there has been a record fall in long-term unemployment. Long-term unemployment fell by 169,000 in the 12 months to October, to its lowest level for nearly four years.

Mr. Watts

I thank my right hon. Friend for that encouraging news about the trend of unemployment generally, particularly for the long-term unemployed, but can he confirm that unemployment among under 25-yearolds is also continuing to fall and that it is now well below the EEC average?

Mr. Fowler

I can confirm both those points. It is certainly below the average of many European countries. The latest figures show that unemployment among under 25-year-olds showed a fall of 227,000 over the past year —a reduction of 20 per cent. Unemployment among the under 25-year-olds is now the lowest for over five years.

Mr. Barry Jones

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is no room for complacency? May we please have real jobs for the long-term unemployed? I remind him of the early 1980s redundancies in steel, coal and textiles and the fact that many of those unfortunate enough to lose their jobs at that time in those industries are still without work. I also remind him that in the travel-to-work area of my constituency more than 10,000 people are out of work.

Mr. Fowler

There is certainly no room for complacency. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the major priority must be the long-term unemployed. On the other hand, I think that the hon. Gentleman, with his customary fairness, will acknowledge the great improve-ment that there has been in employment, particularly over the past 12 months.

Mr. Anthony Coombs

Is my right hon. Friend aware that not only has unemployment in my constituency fallen by nearly one tenth in the last month, but that such is the confidence of local firms in the Government's policies that no fewer than 66 per cent. of them plan to increase labour over the next six months? Will he tell the House by how many the number of 18 to 23-year-olds in employment has increased since 1983 and by what percentage unemployment for that group has fallen?

Mr. Fowler

I cannot give the figures that my hon. Friend has requested, but I can say that there has been the fall in unemployment that I referred to of almost 230,000 for under 25-year-olds. The general point is clear, and it is made clear again by the figures that I shall publish today, that long-term unemployment is coming down. As my hon. Friend reminds the House, there is no question but that new jobs are becoming available.

Mr. McLeish

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the suspicions that surround the method of producing the unemployment figures? Is he willing to tell the House about the claims experiment, started by his Department on 1 September and to last for three months, which seeks new ways of harassing the unemployed to ensure that they leave the register and thus contribute to the claimed glowing Conservative success.

Mr. Fowler

There is no question whatsoever of harassing the unemployed. Checks will certainly be made to ensure that people are available for work, but that has been the position under all Administrations.

In response to the hon. Gentleman's question about the figures, I remind him that there has been a fall in the number of unemployed every month over the past 16 months. That has been the trend. It ill becomes the Opposition to complain about that extremely good news.

Mr. Marland

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there has been a substantial fall in the level of unemployment in my constituency over the past 16 months and that a great deal of that is due to Government-backed training schemes, which are very popular, not only with those who are looking for jobs, but with employers in the district?

Mr. Fowler

That is right. It is also clear that schemes such as YTS, are leading increasingly to people entering permanent employment. It is about time that the Opposition recognised the success of those schemes.