HC Deb 29 January 1991 vol 184 cc777-8
4. Mr. Campbell-Savours

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many people are employed in the north-west region.

Mr. Jackson

In September 1990 the civilian work force in employment in the north-west stood at 2,890,000. which was an increase since 1983 of 14 per cent. or about 366,000 new jobs.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Can I have a straight answer to a simple question, with no waffling and no misrepresentation of statistics? Have high interest rates and the high rate of sterling at entry into the European exchange rate mechanism damaged employment prospects in the north-west of England and the county of Cumbria? Are those two factors contributing to escalating unemployment? If the Minister is willing to concede that they are, what special measures can he now introduce to deal with the problems in the north-west of England? What is he going to do?

Mr. Jackson

I understood that entry into the ERM was Opposition policy. It is common ground among the parties in the House that inflation has to be brought down. Although there is some argument about how one achieves that, I think that everyone accepts that a consequence of any policy to reduce inflation is that the economy will slow down. We have to live with that, but we must try to ensure that the rise in unemployment is minimised. We must also look carefully at wage settlements to ensure that unions and employees do not demand too much and that employers do not award wages that are unsustainable by the business.

Mr. Butler

Is my hon. Friend aware that 150 jobs at the nuclear construction facility at Daresbury are threatened because of the ever-escalating contributions to CERN— the centre for European nuclear research? Will he have a word with his colleagues at the Department of Education and Science to ensure that we do not continue to export jobs because of grandiose European ventures?

Mr. Jackson

This matter relates more to my previous responsibilities than to my present ones. I note what my hon. Friend says and I will draw the attention of my colleagues in the Department of Education and Science to his remarks. However, it is rather an over-simplification to say that it is a choice between CERN and Daresbury. There are important European facilities, which involved Daresbury, at the Institut Laue Langevin in Grenoble. My hon. Friend is using over-simplistic terms.

Mr. Alton

Has the Minister noted the complaint made to the Merseyside chamber of commerce that the uniform business rate has cost industry and enterprise in the north-west and the midlands an additional £520 million this year? Does he agree that that has placed a downward pressure on jobs in the region? What measures will he take to protect small businesses and industries during the recession?

Mr. Jackson

I am surprised by what the hon. Gentleman says about the impact of the uniform business rate in the north-west. Let me repeat that the key to the problem of unemployment is the attitude of employers and employees to wage settlements. We must all work together to ensure that unemployment is minimised through the achievement of reasonable settlements.

Mr. Dunn

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the Opposition and the truth have been strangers for years? Will he also confirm that there are more jobs in the north-west—as there are in Britain as a whole—than there have been for many years?

Mr. Jackson

My hon. Friend is absolutely right: the national figures show a substantial increase in the rate of employment in Britain.

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