HC Deb 14 March 1989 vol 149 cc269-70
1. Mr. Jack

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the number of people currently in employment in the north of England.

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

In the three regions, north, north-west, and Yorkshire and Humberside, the work force in employment in September 1988 was 6,099,000. This has increased by 268,000 or 4.6 per cent. in the last two years alone.

Mr. Jack

My right hon. Friend's excellent reply helps to confirm why unemployment in my constituency of Fylde has fallen in the past year by 30.3 per cent., but does he agree that the figures also confirm the excellent findings of the recent labour force survey, which show that the Opposition's attempts to rubbish our approach to employment creation are bogus and bankrupt?

Mr. Fowler

I agree with my hon. Friend on both points. Unemployment in the whole of the region, including the north, the north-west, and Yorkshire and Humberside, has come down by 140,000 in the year to January—a reduction of almost 18 per cent. As my hon. Friend reminds us, at the last Employment Question Time the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) asserted that the labour force survey reveals that unemployment today in Britain is still over 2.6 million"—[Official Report, 14 February 1989; Vol. 147, c. 140.] The hon. Gentleman now knows what he said. To use his own characteristic words, that is utterly bogus. We wait for his withdrawal.

Mr. Allen McKay

When the Minister talks about Yorkshire and Humberside and the labour force survey, will he admit that the survey does not tell the whole story, as pockets of unemployment remain? Will the Minister take account of the fact that in my constituency of Barnsley, West and Penistone male unemployment is still more than 16 per cent? What does he intend to do about that?

Mr. Fowler

There are parts of the country, including Yorkshire and west Humberside, where we wish the employment position to improve substantially. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will also recognise, however, that unemployment has come down by virtually a million since the last election and that there are more than a million new jobs in the economy. That all-time record is certainly better than the position in 1979.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Does my right hon. Friend accept that employment would be even higher if the Government encouraged a positive "Buy British" campaign when British goods are best? Does he further agree that employment would be higher than it is today if there was free and genuinely fair competition, not least for the magnificent British textile and clothing industry, which is one of the largest employers in the country?

Mr. Fowler

I think that the Government would want free and fair competition. The Government support the organisation that is encouraging British goods and their marketing. As my hon. Friend knows, Sir Basil Feldman is chairman of that organisation, to which my Department subscribes.

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