HC Deb 16 January 1990 vol 165 cc152-4
12. Mr. Harry Greenway

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what has been the change in the unemployment rate in the United Kingdom in 1989 and in other major industrialised countries; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Howard

Between January and September 1989, the latest comparable date, the rate of unemployment has fallen faster in the United Kingdom than in any other major industrialised country. With permission I will publish a full comparison in the Official Report.

Mr. Greenway

Is not that a matter for great congratulation for this Government? Is it not a fact that the Delors social charter certainly would not have improved employment in this country? Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that even in boroughs such as Ealing, in which the Left-wing Labour council has both doubled the industrial rates and is thoroughly antibusiness, jobs have increased as a result of Government policies?

Mr. Howard

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, particularly in what he said about the social charter. However, the improvement in employment rates that he identified is not limited to Ealing. I hope that we shall see the principal Opposition spokesman on employment, the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) rise to his feet to welcome the 50 per cent. fall in unemployment that has occurred in his constituency in the past three years.

Mr. Cryer

Is not any fall in unemployment a fall from the peak created by this Government? When does the Secretary of State expect unemployment to fall to the 1979 level? Does he think that there is any connection between the £20 billion balance of trade deficit achieved by the Government—another peak—and the 2 million jobs lost in manufacturing industries since 1979?

Mr. Howard

I never cease to be amazed at the devotion shown by Opposition Members to jobs that existed in loss-making firms which offered no security either to the workers or the firms. The 2.75 million extra jobs that have been created in this country since 1983 are in firms that make profits and are secure for the long term.

Mr. Holt

As the resurgence in economic activity in Cleveland is a major contributor to the better figures that my right hon. and learned Friend has in front of him, will he find five minutes to write to Cleveland county council to tell it to accept the figures and the truth instead of asking its research and intelligence department to try and concoct false ones because it does not like the good news from Teesside?

Mr. Howard

I look forward to spending at least five minutes discussing that matter with my hon. Friend, so that we ensure that my letter correctly represents the facts.

Mr. Salmond

How can there be any further progress in reducing unemployment when the United Kingdom's whole economy is restrained because of overheating in one part of it? Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman read the research published in the current issue of the "Fraser of Allander Quarterly Economic Commentary", which reveals that manufacturing industry outside the south-east will suffer most from the Government's policy of high interest rates? Will he make respresentations to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to help give businesses in Scotland, the north and Wales a chance to achieve economic recovery?

Mr. Howard

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's analysis. Industry and employment throughout the country have benefited from the framework created by Government policies.

Following is the information:

International comparison of unemployment rates (OECD Standarised Unemployment Rates)
January September Change (per cent.)
Italy 11.1 211.3 0.2
Norway 14.8 35.0 0.2
Netherlands 9.4 n/a n/a
Japan 2.3 2.2 -0.1
France 9.7 9.5 -0.2
Canada 7.5 7.3 -0.2
Germany 5.7 5.5 -0.2
United States 5.4 5.2 -0.2
Sweden 1.5 1.3 -0.2
Portugal 15.2 34.9 -0.3
Finland 3.7 43.4 -0.3
Belgium 9.3 8.9 -0.4
Spain 117.7 317.0 -0.7
Australia 6.8 6.0 -0.8
United Kingdom 7.1 6.0 -1.1
OECD total 6.4 4 56.1 -0.3
Major seven 5.8 55.6 -0.2
EEC 9.3 58.9 -0.4
1 February.
2 April.
3 May.
4 August.
5 Estimated.