HC Deb 13 November 1990 vol 180 cc438-9
7. Mr. John Greenway: T

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many people are in work in the United Kingdom (a) now and (b) in 1979.

Mr. Howard

The work force in employment in the United Kingdom stood at 27,346,000 in June 1990 and 25,365,000 in June 1979—an increase of just under 2 million over the period during which this Government have been in office.

Mr. Greenway

Many people choose to take part-time jobs, but such jobs are now under threat because of European Community directives on part-time and temporary workers. Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that the European Commission is proposing that all part-time staff who work more than eight hours a week will have to pay national insurance? If that is true, does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it is a tax on jobs which could devastate the rural economy and that all hon. Members should unite to oppose it?

Mr. Howard

My hon. Friend is right, but he has identified only part of the damage that the European Commission's proposals would inflict on prospects for employment. The costs on employers, in addition to the costs on employees to which my hon. Friend referred, would run into billions of pounds. That is why we are endeavouring to persuade the Commission and other member states of the damage that these proposals would do to employment throughout the Community.

Mr. Ashley

Is the Secretary of State aware that the number of registered disabled people out of work has more than doubled since 1979 and that this is mainly his fault, because he failed to implement the 3 per cent. quota system and in some ways is condoning law breaking? As he is letting down disabled people, what does he propose to do about finding jobs for them?

Mr. Howard

The right hon. Gentleman will know that the difficulty with the quota system is that there are insufficient numbers of registered disabled people to allow employers to fill the quota. This is one matter on which we consulted in producing our recent consultation document, of which I know the right hon. Gentleman is aware. In direct answer to his question, I can say that, as I am sure he will be pleased to know, as part of the package announced last week, unemployed disabled people are to be included among the aim group for the purposes of eligibility for employment training. I am sure that many more of them will take advantage of those opportunities and will acquire jobs as a result.

Sir Dudley Smith

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that one of the more heartening aspects of the situation is the number of people over the age of 50 who are in full-time employment? Is he aware that, at long last, British industry and commerce have recognised the value of older people and that, by and large, most are doing excellent jobs?

Mr. Howard

My hon. Friend is right. Employers are increasingly coming to recognise the value of workers aged over 50. They are getting jobs in increasing numbers and I expect that trend to continue.

Mr. Beggs

What progress has been made to detect those who are claiming benefit while being employed and thereby distorting the true figures of unemployment?

Mr. Howard

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. We have been concentrating our efforts in these matters on employers who are suspected of acting in collusion with workers and encouraging workers to break the law in this way. Our efforts are achieving considerable success and have resulted in many prosecutions.

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