HC Deb 05 December 1989 vol 163 cc148-50
12. Mr. Pawsey

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many people are now in employment; and what was the figure in 1979.

Mr. Fowler

In June 1989 the work force in employment in the United Kingdom was 26,343,000. This is the highest level ever in the history of this country. The figure for June 1979 was 25,365,000 so there has been an increase of nearly 1 million over the 10-year period.

Mr. Pawsey

As unemployment in Rugby is now less than 3 per cent., I cannot say that the figures that my right hon. Friend cited are particularly surprising. But does he agree that those figures vindicate the policies of his Department and of the present Government? Does he further agree that our country's economic situation is reflected in growing prosperity and an increasing number of jobs?

Mr. Fowler

I think that that is unquestioned. My hon. Friend is exactly right. He could have added that our rate of unemployment is now below that of virtually every other country in the European Community.

Mr. James Lamond

Before the Minister gets carried away with his own boasting, should he not remember that the 26 million people in employment include many hundreds of thousands—perhaps millions—who have been forced into part-time employment? They also include many hundreds of thousands who have lost good jobs—for example in the hospital cleaning services—and who have been forced by privatisation to accept longer hours, shorter holidays and much worse conditions just to get back to work.

Mr. Fowler

It would be a great pity if the hon. Gentleman sought to give the impression that part-time work somehow does not count. It may not count for him, but every survey conducted by the labour force survey has shown that nine out of 10 people in part-time employment want part-time jobs. That fact should be recognised by the Opposition. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. May I ask hon. Members to desist from private conversations, as it is very difficult to hear hon. Members who have the Floor, even from this end of the Chamber.

Mr. Barry Field

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the fact that we have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the whole of the EEC means that we should proceed with the utmost caution in the adoption of the social charter, which is likely to destroy jobs rather than create them?

Mr. Fowler

The acid test of the social charter must be whether it creates jobs. We must be concerned that a number of provisions set out in the charter and the action plan add to labour costs and will therefore destroy jobs rather than create them.

Mr. McLeish

Does the Secretary of State accept that between 1979 and 1989, the employment gap between north and south has widened dramatically? Is he aware that while 1,156,000 jobs in civilian employment were created in the south, the north lost 358,000 jobs? Would he describe that as a regional policy or a regional sell-out?

Mr. Fowler

The hon. Gentleman ignores the reduction in unemployment. The position has improved steadily throughout the country and it has improved in the north and also in every region. It is a great pity that the Opposition do not acknowledge the real improvement in employment in this country.

Mr. Evennett

How many self-employed people are there in the work force in 1989 and how many were there in 1979?

Mr. Fowler

There has been a substantial increase of about 1.2 million since June 1979 to 3.1 million today. In other words, self-employment has undoubtedly expanded very quickly to the benefit of the public in this country.

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