HC Deb 14 February 1989 vol 147 cc133-5
3. Mr. Boateng

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many full-time and part-time jobs were created in the 12 months to September 1988 in the greater London region.

The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Norman Fowler)

In the year to September 1988 the work force in employment increased by 25,000 in greater London. The only available information about full and part-time employment in greater London is for women employees. Those figures are provisional and show an increase of 15,000 in women full-time employees and a decrease of 1,000 in women part-time employees.

Mr. Boateng

In the same period, some 65,000 disappeared off the unemployment benefit register. What has happened to the 40,000 or so people who can no longer be found? Have they disappeared into some kind of twilight zone of fake statistics? Will the Minister give resources to organisations such as Brent Asian Professionals Association, Operation Fullemploy and others trying to provide real training for real jobs? What does he intend to do to encourage employers to provide workplace experience for young people who are currently deprived of it?

Mr. Fowler

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will also continue to support, as I take his remarks to do, the employment training programme. The figures for unemployment and employment are done on different bases. The labour force survey will show a more accurate picture of the growth in employment. That will be available in about a month. The hon. Gentleman should wait for that survey because he will find that some of his questions will be answered.

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will welcome the fact that unemployment in London has gone down so sharply. I am also sure that he will welcome and recognise the current estimate that there are about 150,000 vacancies in London and about 250,000 unemployed people. In other words, there are opportunities for people to take on work in London.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the problem in north-west London is not unemployment, but that there are not enough people to fill the vacancies? The Government have done a great deal already. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that they will continue to do as much as possible to find people to fill those vacancies and to train them?

Mr. Fowler

The figures that I gave show that there are about 150,000 vacancies in London. We estimate that 50,000—one third—of those vacancies do not require any previous training. The other vacancies require such training and it is for that reason that the employment training programme has been introduced. I am glad to tell the House that there are about 140,000 people on the employment training programme. That demonstrates its success and the big start that it has had despite opposition from Labour Members.

Mr. Leighton

Will the Secretary of State clear up a mystery? He keeps referring to 150,000 vacancies, but when the long-term unemployed go for their restart interviews fewer than 1 per cent. of them get a job. How does the Secretary of State explain that? Is he aware that the 150,000 vacancies to which he referred when he answered questions a month ago no longer exist? They generally last only a couple of weeks and go primarily to people already in employment and switching jobs, or to those who have recently become unemployed. The people still unemployed since that answer a month ago are the long-term unemployed, largely because of employer prejudice against them. What steps is the Secretary of State taking to deal with that problem?

Mr. Fowler

The hon. Gentleman is wrong on several points. First, the London labour survey that we have published shows conclusively that there are many unfilled job vacancies in London. There is no doubt about that. No one in the employment sphere doubts that. Many of the people who are unemployed require training. That is what employment training is about. I wish that the hon. Gentleman would have some influence on his Front Bench colleagues and get them to support that programme.

With regard to restart programme outcomes, the hon. Gentleman will understand that after their restart interviews many people go into employment training or to job clubs, which is one of the surest ways of finding employment.

Mr. Simon Coombs

Does my hon. Friend agree with the assessment that in 1991 the London Docklands will have created 80,000 new jobs as a result of £4 billion in private investment? Can he tell the House how far that process has gone?

Mr. Fowler

Ther is no question at all that the development of the London Docklands will bring, and is already bringing, new jobs to London. It is a great commentary in defence of our policy there that an area that was previously very much running down has been revivified by private investment for the benefit of people in London and for jobs.

Mr. Strang

How is it that in the greater London region—the centre of the so-called jobs boom—in May 1979 when the Government took office unemployment was 110,000 but now, on the basis of the Government's new method of calculation, it is 250,000 and if we used the method of calculation suggested when Labour was in power it would be 340,000, which is an increase of 200 per cent? Is it not time for a little less euphoria from Ministers and a little more action to tackle unemployment, not least in areas such as Hackney and Peckham where it is more than 20 per cent.?

Mr. Fowler

There is neither euphoria nor complacency. Unemployment has fallen dramatically in this country in the past 18 months. The most distressing aspect is the Labour party's refusal to welcome the good news that many more people are in jobs. It is about time that the Labour party came up to date and started backing a programme for training long-term unemployed people or they will have no credibility whatever.