HC Deb 17 November 1987 vol 122 cc908-9
12. Mr. Simon Hughes

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many parliamentary constituencies have had a higher rate of increase in unemployment than Southwark and Bermondsey over (a) the past three years, (b) the past two years and (c) the past year.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. John Lee)

On 8 October 1987 unemployment in Southwark and Bermondsey was lower than in October 1986 or October 1985, and at a similar level to that of October 1984. The numbers of parliamentary constituencies in Great Britain in which the unemployment figures show either an increase or a smaller percentage decrease in unemployment than the Southwark and Bermondsey constituency over the past three years, two years and one year were: 42; 102; and 107 respectively.

Mr. Hughes

How does the Minister explain that within a mile of the City of London and the area on which the Government concentrate—the docklands—we have had a rate of increase in unemployment during the past two years that is greater than that in any other constituency in the south of England bar one? Is he aware that over the past four years we have had unemployment that has consistently been double the national average? When can my constituents expect less than 10 per cent. unemployment in the heart of the capital?

Mr. Lee

In the London travel-to-work area unemployment over the last year has fallen from 10.7 to 9 per cent. In the local jobcentres that cover the Southwark and Bermondsey constituency there are presently 746 vacancies. If the Southwark local authority had not tried to block at an early stage projects such as the Globe theatre trust, which will, we hope, create 160 direct jobs, or had been less reluctant to become involved in the community programme, local employment would be a lot better.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

Does my hon. Friend agree that too often it is councils such as Southwark, with profligate and absurd policies, that drive out businesses? Such policies, let alone the outright hostility to, or obstruction of, Government schemes to help the unemployed, serve the unemployed worst.

Mr. Lee

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. Southwark is a classic example.

Ms. Richardson

Is not unemployment in Southwark and Bermondsey and elsewhere far worse than the Minister suggests because most married women cannot register, on the unemployment register because of their stamp position, and suffer the double disadvantage of not being able to take a community programme place because the husband is unemployed?

Mr. Lee

The national rules stand and, of course, they apply to Southwark just as they apply to every other area. All our employment measures and programmes are available in Southwark and throughout London. In addition, a tremendous amount of Government money has gone into inner city areas, especially into docklands and Southwark.