HC Deb 05 June 1991 vol 192 cc339-80
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment standing in the name of the Prime Minister and his right hon. Friends.

7.28 pm
Mr. Tony Blair (Sedgefield)

I beg to move, That this House condemns the Government for the recession which is affecting every part of Britain and every sector of industry, with serious long-term consequences for Britain's future; notes with dismay that at a time of rising unemployment, the Government is cutting support for the unemployed; and calls upon it to reverse the cuts in training provision and provide additional employment measures for the unemployed without delay. Our case tonight is clear: this recession is the avoidable recession, the consequence not of events outside Government control but of errors of economic incompetence. It is now cruelly affecting the lives of millions of our citizens, and without urgent Government action—first, on interest rates, secondly, on training and, thirdly, on help for the unemployed—there will be lasting and long-term damage to the future of this country.

In the past six months alone—the first six months of the Prime Minister's premiership—almost 500,000 people have been added to the dole queue. Ministers used to say that unemployment was not rising in the north, in Scotland, in the midlands and in Wales—just in the south. Last month shattered that illusion, when unemployment rose most sharply in the midlands, and the north and Scotland suffered their worst rise of the recession.

They used to clutch at the straw that unemployment was at least still below the European Community average. Now, according to the OECD, it is above it, and according to the National Institute of Economic and Social Research last week, by the end of 1991 only Spain, Ireland and what was East Germany will have higher unemployment rates than Britain.

This week Cambridge Econometrics and the London Business School forecast that unemployment will not only rise throughout the rest of this year but will continue to rise in 1992. Those bodies say that unemployment may rise to almost 3 million. Is any Minister prepared to contradict them?

Ministers used to take comfort from the idea that the recession was service-based, affecting white collar professionals. Now we know that even that was a false hope. Manufacturing output this year will fall by about 6 per cent., and investment by 10 per cent. According to the evidence given by the Confederation of British Industry to the Select Committee on Employment, about 90,000 to 100,000 manufacturing jobs have gone in the first few months of this year alone. Our analysis of vacancies at job centres shows engineering vacancies falling by 60 per cent. and technicians' vacancies by 70 per cent.

Worse still, it is clear that, over the period 1979 to 1991, we start from a lower base than other countries. By the end of 1991, manufacturing will have grown more slowly than in any other OECD country. It has risen by 62 per cent. in Japan, by 37 per cent. in the United States, by 27 per cent. in Germany but by only 6 per cent. in Britain. Manufacturing investment will have grown more slowly in Britain than in any other country except Greece.

The true distinctive feature of the recession is not that it is a sudden, service-based, white-collar recession, but that it is now affecting north and south, services and manufacturing, white-collar and manual jobs. No region, no sector, no occupation is now immune.

Let us be clear that, however the recession began, the reality today is that the companies going to the wall, the employees being made redundant, are those that took the tough decisions in the early 1980s, and reformed and changed as Ministers urged them to. These are the casualties not of wrong decisions taken by lazy managers or obstinate employees but of wrong decisions taken by Ministers, and it is Ministers who should now shoulder the responsibility.

In this recession, we are losing companies that we cannot afford to lose and skills that we desperately need to keep. Our concern lies not just in the present fears of the hundreds of thousands of people not under the threat of unemployment, and not just in the present difficulties of industry and home owners suffering under high interest rates. Our concern is that, without action now, we shall lose, and lose permanently, capacity and skills that we require to compete successfully in the future.

Mr. Andrew Mitchell (Gedling)

The hon. Gentleman is talking with great sincerity about unemployment. Has he had a chance to study the pamphlet produced by the Fabian Society, which shows that a national minimum wage policy would cost about 800,000 jobs? Does he agree with that estimate, and even if he does not, does he support his party's policy to introduce a national minimum wage?

Mr. Blair

I support that policy absolutely. The hon. Gentleman has been badly briefed by his researchers. The Fabian pamphlet that Ministers cite against a minimum wage was actually written in support of it. The job estimates are absolute nonsense. We know, as does the rest of the country, that Conservative Members are raising the issue only because they dare not talk about the unemployment that they are creating, day in and day out.

The other day, in an interview on "Frost on Sunday" on TV-am, the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave the Government's response to the recession: These are just vague stirrings at the moment, but the signs arc there … I know that when one talks to business men —I talk to business men all the time, and listen very carefully to what they're saying—lots of them say, 'We can't see it', but of course, they can't sec round the corner. That is what the economist has to do, what the Treasury has to do, and what we have seen David Frost then asked the Chancellor: But the vague stirring? You're saying you've seen vague stirring? The Chancellor replied: Faint stirrings, yes. Given three years of high interest rates and the number of small businesses going bankrupt—bankruptcy rates went up by 97 per cent. in the south this year, by 115 per cent. in the midlands, by 159 per cent. in Wales and by 261 per cent. in East Anglia—"faint stirrings" are a pretty poor record for any Government after 12 years.

Ministers told us that there would be no recession when there was a recession; they told us that it would be shallow when it was deep. Now, when the evidence of their own incompetence is piled deep around them, and when we have the worst recession in the western world, they still try to pretend that the problem does not exist, because they do not have a clue how to solve it.

Does the Chancellor of the Exchequer not understand that, as he and his colleagues looked round the corner—as he puts it—two years ago and told people that there was an economic miracle, and as people and businesses planned, borrowed and organised on that basis, those people and businesses are now entitled to experience feelings of betrayal, because, instead of a miracle, they have got a recession? Does the Secretary of State for Employment not understand the feelings of the unemployed, and their anger, not only about the fact of unemployment but about the fact that, at a time of fast rising unemployment—we have the fastest rising unemployment anywhere in the western world—the Government are cutting the budget for training the unemployed?

When unemployment was last at 2 million, in December 1988, the budget for special employment measures was £1–5billion in real terms. Today it is £800 million. Then, unemployment was falling; now, it is rising. Are not the training and enterprise councils, which have been landed with the responsibility for training the unemployed without the power or funds to do it properly, entitled to experience a sense of betrayal as well?

Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge)

May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman in the full flight of his rhetoric and return him to reality? How does he explain the fact that the amount spent on training in real terms—not in cash terms —is two and a half times higher than it was in 1979? That is a fact, and he cannot deny it. In the midst of all his waffle and rhetoric, he might compare the Government's record with that of their Labour predecessors.

Mr. Blair

As the hon. Gentleman wishes to talk about reality, are we not entitled to point to the reality of what is happening to training and enterprise councils? The hon. Gentleman does not need to take our word for it—

Mr. Nicholls


Mr. Blair

The hon. Gentleman asked about the reality of TECs—

Mr. Nicholls


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)


Mr. Nicholls

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman said that I asked about the reality of training and enterprise councils.—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am quite prepared to listen to the hon. Gentleman's point of order when the House will allow me to hear it, as it must.

Mr. Nicholls

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) is rather at fault. He said that I had asked him about TECs. Should he not have another chance to answer the question that I put to him? He said that training was underfunded, yet we are spending two and a half times as much as was spent when the Labour party was in office. That is the question that he should answer.

Mr. Blair

The hon. Gentleman's case—

Mr. Nicholls

Just answer it.

Mr. Blair

If the hon. Gentleman disputes that TECs are underfunded, he does not have to take my word for it but the word of the TECs themselves. One thing that one can say about the Government's case is that at least they have been clear, if not brazen, over the past six months. We have raised the question of the underfunding of training and the cuts in the training of the unemployed—

Mr. Nicholls

But you oppose TECs.

Mr. Blair

For six months, the Government have consistently denied that there is any such underfunding—[Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls) listened, he might learn something. For six months—

Mr. Nicholls

Will the hon. Gentleman answer my question?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must contain himself. That is not the way in which we conduct ourselves. Doubtless other hon. Members will seek the opportunity to make alternative arguments.

Mr. Blair

If the hon. Gentleman were to read the Government's proposals on preventive health care, he might find something that would help him.

Let us return to the training and enterprise councils and the cuts that have been made, and consider what the Government have been saying in the past few months. Many hon. Members of all parties will remember that, when the Opposition have raised the issue of cuts in training, the Government have consistently denied that any such cuts are being made. On 26 February, the Secretary of State said that Opposition complaints about funding were entirely unjustified. The Under-Secretary of State for Employment has said that the TECs are contracted to deliver the guarantee, funded accordingly, and will deliver the guarantee. The Secretary of State has also said that he has put in place the widest and most comprehensive range of assistance to help the unemployed. That is what the Government have been saying, but we are now able—

Mr. Phillip Oppenheim (Amber Valley)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way on that point?

Mr. Blair

No, I should like to finish my point.

We have conducted the first nationwide survey of training and enterprise councils and the problems that they have discovered, and we now have the evidence to put before the Government. This comes not from the Opposition, but from the training and enterprise councils which the Government themselves established. The 40 or so training and enterprise councils that replied to the survey report an average cut in training places of 25 per cent. That means that, in those TECs alone, 20,000 training places have been cut, and that 300,000 training weeks have been lost.

However, worse and more significant than anything else, is the reason that has been given. It is not the case, as the Government have said, that those TECs are merely switching training providers and reallocating contracts to different people. They have not said that there is any lack of demand for training places. Indeed, they have not said any of the things that the Government have been saying. The evidence has been clear. The north Nottinghamshire training and enterprise council has stated: there could be some difficulty in meeting the guarantee in North Notts given current funding levels for both ourselves and Employment Service. The Kent training and enterprise council, which covers the Secretary of State's constituency, has stated: The provision for ET this year is 30 per cent. less than 1990/1991. The budget amounts to £5.338 million but as we have carried over a large number of trainees into this financial year, our training providers are having to reduce numbers at a time when demand is increasing. The Barnsley and Doncaster training and enterprise council has stated: Out of a total of 12 local (adult training) contracts, four have not been renewed. The rationale for these decisions is relatively simple, in that we have to strike a balance between the needs of the trainees; increasing the quality of training; and maintaining viable providers on a budget reduced in real terms by about 50 per cent. That is what has been happening to the training and enterprise councils.

Mr. Oppenheim

Does the hon. Gentleman recollect that, not very long ago, he stated in answer to an intervention from myself that a future Labour Government would increase spending on training as a matter of priority? Did the hon. Gentleman get the chance to listen to his hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) speaking on the "On the Record" programme on 19 May, when she clearly reiterated that a future Labour Government's only spending priorities would be pensions and child benefit? Who is right—the hon. Gentleman or the hon. Member for Derby, South?

Mr. Blair

If the hon. Gentleman looks at the Budget submissions that were produced by the Labour party in the run-up to the Budget, he will see that we showed exactly how the Government could have returned the training and enterprise councils to their previous funding level. The hon. Gentleman is talking absolute nonsense.

I should like to quote to him from a letter from the north Nottinghamshire training and enterprise council to one of its local training providers. The House should recall that the Government have consistently said that no training providers are going under as a result of Government cuts in funding, but this is what that TEC has said: As explained by both Steven and Pearl on recent visits, the overall Adult Training budget for the North Nottinghamshire TEC has been reduced by about 30 per cent. Although this is clearly a strange situation to be in at a time of rapidly rising unemployment, it is nonetheless the case … We realise that our decision has resulted in some unpleasant decisions … to make regarding your staff. I am sincerely sorry that they will be redundant. I wish there was something that I could do to prevent it, but I am afraid that our hands are tied. That is what is actually happening.

Another minute has found its way into our posession. It is a letter from the Department of Employment to a training provider in London—to the Brixton Neighbourhood Community Association—[Laughter.]

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

What is funny about that? Why is the hon. Member for Wirral, South (Mr. Porter) laughing?

Mr. Blair

I must advise the hon. Member for Wirral, South (Mr. Porter) that that organisation was given approved organisation training status by the Government, so it is not very sensible for him to laugh.

The Department of Employment stated: After very careful consideration, I regret that we will not be seeking to renew our contract with you for the corning year. As you are aware, funding levels have been drastically reduced and it has just not been possible to continue to fund the existing network of providers. I repeat that that came from the Department of Employment.

Finally, a minute of a meeting on 2 May between the permanent secretary to the Department of Employment and the training and enterprise councils states: In both London and Sheffield the forecast for the period October 90 to October 91 was for a 50 per cent. rise in the levels of unemployment. Any arguments that the Treasury therefore had for a reduction in funding were now completely eroded and in fact there was a demonstrable justification for further funds. In the light of those minutes and letters from the training and enterprise councils, and in view of everything that has been said, are we not entitled to an explanation from the Secretary of State? How does he justify at Employment questions, in debates, on radio and on television steadfastly denying that there is any problem with funding when there is now clear first-hand evidence of a funding reduction that is causing hardship and putting the Government's training guarantees at risk?

Mr. Robert G. Hughes (Harrow, West)


Mr. Blair

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman in a moment. There is not only a problem with the training and enterprise councils. My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) recently raised the question of skill centres with the Secretary of State. He was told that he was making up nonsense about skill centres closing and about there being problems following their privatisation. Yesterday, however, my office received a letter from someone who used to be employed by the skill centres, which stated: Until last May, myself and hundreds of colleagues were civil servants employed by the Department of Employment and working in the Skill centres. I had worked in this field for 14 years and felt quite committed to retraining of the unemployed. I felt then, as I feel now, that training belongs in the public sector and responsibility for adult training and its funding should be taken by the Government. However, the decision was taken that we should be privatised, and Astra Training Services was born … recently, due in the main to the poor funding of Employment Training and the inability of the private sector to play their part (due I am sure to financial problems) Astra is now making such a large loss that they are needing to shed more staff. That is the reality of what is happening. Are we not at least entitled to an admission from the Government that that is what is happening?

Mr. Robert G. Hughes

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm the following figures? Does he accept that there are now 350,000 Government training places and that, when the Government came to power in 1979, there were only 6,000? Does that increase record a cut or is it, as I think, a record of the Government's commitment and real belief in training and in putting enterprise behind it?

Mr. Blair

It is a fact that unemployment is now more than double what it was when the Government came to power. The hon. Gentleman must explain why the Government are cutting funding for training the unemployed when unemployment is rising.

Mr. Richard Caborn (Sheffield, Central)

My hon. Friend has referred to Sheffield, whose TECs have been in dialogue with the Secretary of State and his Ministers about the budget cut of 38 per cent. When the pit bull terrier—the hon. Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls), who is constantly jumping up and down—was a Minister, representatives from the Sheffield TEC met him and tried to develop a proper partnership. A letter to the Minister from the Sheffield TEC says that the board of the TEC is not only frustrated because it cannot develop and deliver a quality service, but feels that it has been conned by the Government. That board consists of people from the private sector who spend two days a week trying to make training effective in a major manufacturing sector. They believe that they have been conned by the Government.

Mr. Blair

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I am aware that those concerns have been raised with the Secretary of State, and I hope that he will deal with them later.

Many of the TECs consist of people who came to them from business on the basis that they would have a genuine partnership with Government. They have found that their commitment to do more has become an excuse for the Government to do less. That is what is wrong.

What have the Government done recently for the unemployed? They have published what they call a five-point plan for the unemployed.

The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Michael Howard)

Before the hon. Gentleman concludes his remarks on training, will he answer the specific question from my hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley (Mr. Oppenheim) about his position in relation to the clear statement made by the shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett), on "On the Record"? If he cannot persuade the shadow Chief Secretary that training should be an immediate spending priority, nothing he has said in the past 15 minutes has any substance whatever.

Mr. Blair

The right hon. and learned Gentleman should have listened to what I said. He completely misrepresented the words of the shadow Chief Secretary. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman read our Budget submissions, which we published months ago, he would see exactly how funding should be restored.

Mr. Oppenheim

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have a transcript of exactly what the shadow Chief Secretary said in the "On the Record" interview on 19 May.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

That is a matter for debate; it is not a point of order.

Mr. Blair

I was discussing the Government's five-point plan, which was first launched in April last year, again in October, and then in November, December, February, March, April and May. The five-point plan has been launched eight times; it has been launched more often than the Liberal Democrats.

Let us analyse the plan which the Government boast is the most comprehensive package ever given to the unemployed. The plan offers In-depth advisory interviews for the newly unemployed … continuity at subsequent advisory interviews ….special advisory interviews … extra help to those long-term unemployed"— I presume that that means more interviews—and intensive help with job-search Perhaps that is another interview. The idea that that amounts to the most comprehensive plan for the unemployed ever launched is risible.

Some Secretaries of State for Employment have tried to create jobs; some of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's predecessors have created schemes; but he has created interviews. He should be the Secretary of State not for Employment, but for interviews. If the local election results in his constituency are any guide to the general election, he may be the first Minister to create a plan for the unemployed and then to participate in it.

Faced with the highest level of unemployment in the western world, thousands of new redundancies each week, record bankruptcies, closures and cuts, what is the Government's response? They have cut training places and closed training programmes which has put their pledges at risk. Then, to add insult to injury, the right hon. and learned Gentleman claims that he is offering more to the unemployed, when on any rational basis he is offering less.

If we have any evidence of the uncaring face of Conservatism, surely this is it. The Government lack not just compassion, but common sense. What other country would cut its budget for training the year before 1992? Is not the worst aspect that we are cutting training when all the evidence points to it being the single most important element of our future success? Even if unemployment were falling—not rising—that policy would be foolish. When people are being made unemployed and need help to return to the labour market, and when we are at the bottom of the recession, should we not now retrain and reskill so that, when recovery comes, it will be our industries, companies and employees that take the advantage of it and not those of our competitors?

Yet what do the Government do? Nothing: they have not one new idea, fresh idea or new policy. They cannot even decide on the temporary work programme that we know has been under discussion since February, but that discussion is obviously well advanced. The occasional leak to the newspapers or radio tells us that it has not yet been ruled out, but four months from when that programme was first raised, there are another 250,000 people unemployed. What will it take to make the Government act? The answer, I am afraid, is fear of general election defeat: that is all.

At the moment, the Government do not sufficiently fear the consequences of unemployment. When the chairman of the Conservative party was interviewed on "Channel 4 News" after the local council elections, he was asked about unemployment. He said: The question is how much does it affect people's voting intentions, and, I don't think that there is very much evidence that it has all that much impact on people's voting intentions. The Labour party's task from now until election day will be to prove him wrong, and we will.

When the pressure becomes too much, the headlines too bold, and the editorials too savage, when surrender becomes easier than resistance, the Government will do, what they were asked, as they did on the poll tax, the 16 to 19-year-olds training, transport, Europe and anything else. It will be too little, half-hearted and too late.—The Government are uncertain whether to make a virtue of listening or of standing firm. There will be a fit of indecision succeeded by a rash of misjudgments. That is not a healthy basis for government.

I understand that the Prime Minister has the first editions of the newspapers sent to him at 10 o'clock each evening. That is a revealing fact. Is not the difference between the present Prime Minister and the former one this: she used to read the newspapers the next morning to discover what she had done; he reads them the night before to discover what he should do?

We need action now on interest rates and we need the Government to stand up for the interests of small businesses. It is now that we need training cuts restored and special help for the unemployed. The tasks are too urgent and the needs too great to wait until the Government's indifference over unemployment is eventually replaced by their fear of the election result.

Two weeks ago, the Chancellor of the Exchequer told us that the recession and unemployment were a price "well worth paying". It will be the Labour party's job to ensure that a price is paid by the Government—at the election.

7.58 pm
The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Michael Howard)

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and add instead thereof: 'congratulates the Government on the success of policies which have created over a million new jobs since 1979; welcomes the introduction of the most comprehensive range of measures ever available to help the unemployed back to work; notes the very substantial increase in spending on training over the last 12 years; and, in particular, supports the measures in the recent White Paper, Education and Training for the 21st Century.'. The speech we heard from the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) was full of his usual blend of indignation, disingenuousness and false promises, and was punctuated by a total failure to answer any of my hon. Friends' questions. It is beyond dispute that had, the hon. Gentleman's party been in office, it would have made unemployment immeasurably worse and its current policies, if they were ever implemented, would raise unemployment sharply. On training, it is beyond dispute that the Labour party would not have made the enormous progress which we have made since 1979 and that its policies would ensure that all the progress that we have made would be put rapidly into reverse.

Let me begin by setting out our achievements. This country has made more progress, more rapidly, on training and employment in the past 12 years than in any previous period in our history. There are over a million more jobs in Britain today than there have ever been under any Labour Government, and last year we recorded the highest number of jobs in our history. More of our work force are qualified now than ever before and more are taking part in training than ever before. Employers are more committed to training than ever before. More young people are entering work well qualified; more of the adult work force is qualified, and at higher levels; and more high-skill jobs are being created and filled. The Government have played their full part at every stage.

The hon. Member for Sedgefield made much of the increases in unemployment in the past 12 months. He has taken to issuing ever more excitable press releases in recent weeks about the levels of unemployment in Conservative-held marginal seats. Before he counts his chickens, he might care to check his facts. He has recently produced a list of 46 Conservative seats, where the numbers of registered unemployed exceed the size of our majority. He neglected to point out that, in 45 of those 46 seats, unemployment is well below the levels prevailing when they were last fought at the general election. Indeed, unemployment in those 46 seats as a whole has fallen by more than 60,000, or over 25 per cent., since the last election, which is a bigger fall than the 23 per cent. fall in the country as a whole.

Mrs. Maureen Hicks (Wolverhampton, North-East)

My seat was one of those highlighted by the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair). Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that, although the hon. Member for Sedgefield gloats over unemployment and rubs his hands with glee every time someone is made unemployed, we heard little from him in the days when so many new jobs were being created in my constituency in the west midlands? Where was he when the local Labour authority opposed employment training in Wolverhampton and turned down £700,000 from the Government? Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that he is a total sham and a lot of hot air?

Mr. Howard

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. She was also right to describe the hon. Gentleman as gloating. His speech was one long gloat about those figures.

In the most marginal Conservative seat in England, which is represented by my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Gregory), unemployment is more than a third below its June 1987 level. In the most marginal Conservative seat in Scotland, which is represented by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger), unemployment is more than 36 per cent. below its level at that time. In the most marginal Conservative seat in Wales, which is represented by my hon. Friend, the Member for Delyn (Mr. Raffan), unemployment is barely half the level it was when he was elected. Even in the hon. Gentleman's constituency of Sedgefield, unemployment is more than 37 per cent. lower than it was at the time of the last election in June 1987.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

The Minister mentioned events north of the border. Does he recall that, when the vice-chairman of the Conservative party in Scotland came up with the idea for Scottish Enterprise, the training investment organisation, he said that its purpose was to eliminate unemployment in Scotland? When will that target be met?

Mr. Howard

It will be met and, in time, that is exactly what we shall achieve. We are pursuing policies that will bring down unemployment in Scotland to levels that have not been seen for many a day.

The way in which the hon. Member for Sedgefield has been using the unemployment statistics is another vivid example of the Labour party's approach to politics, which was described by my hon. Friend the Minister for Health in her memorable phrase as "scaring, not caring". That sums up the Labour party's approach. Its very purpose is to foment alarm and despondency. It is an approach of which it should be thoroughly ashamed.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

As the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland is present, will he give an undertaking that the Department will look carefully at the adult basic education units in Bathgate and throughout rate-capped Lothian region which are faced with closure? If those units are closed, how can people expect any kind of employment in the labour market? Will the Scottish Office give an undertaking to look at that serious matter?

Mr. Howard

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland is present and has heard the hon. Gentleman's question. I am sure that he will look at that matter.

Mr. Dalyell

I want an undertaking.

Mr. Howard

I have answered the hon. Gentleman's question.

The hon. Member for Sedgefield is fond of alleging that we are complacent about rising unemployment, but that is wholly untrue. Nor are we negative and alarmist like the Labour party. Unlike Labour Members, we do not spend our time fostering fear but get on with the job of providing practical help to the unemployed. The Govenment are providing more practical help than has ever been available before to help unemployed people back to work. The hon. Gentleman seemed to think that there was little point in providing skilled assistance to the unemployed to help them find jobs. He thought that that subject was fit for mockery.

Every month, the employment service finds jobs for over 100,000 unemployed people. For the present financial year, I have set it a testing target—to find 1.3 million jobs for unemployed people, 5,000 jobs every working day.

More than half of those who become unemployed leave unemployment within three months. In recent months we have stepped up our efforts to help the unemployed to higher levels than ever before.

Mr. Blair

Will the Minister at least admit that funding for training the unemployed has been reduced as we said? How does he justify that at a time of rising unemployment?

Mr. Howard

The hon. Gentleman knows the position, which has been explained to him time after time. When we looked at the studies and surveys on those matters which were carried out last autumn, we decided that it was right to adjust the balance of help provided to the unemployed. That is why we increased provision through the employment service and increased the number of places in job clubs and through the job interview guarantee scheme. When we saw that unemployment was rising in February this year, I announced an extra £120 million for employment training, specifically to meet that changed situation.

Mr. Blair

Will the Secretary of State admit, plainly so that it will appear on the record, that he has cut funding for training the unemployed as was said?

Mr. Howard

I have explained to the hon. Gentleman exactly what we have done. I have told him that, unless and until he can persuade the shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury to endorse his spending proposals, nothing that he says on this matter carries the slightest conviction.

Sir Norman Fowler (Sutton Coldfield)

Would not the hon. Gentleman's point carry much more credibility, had the Labour party not campaigned against the introduction of employment training, which is the biggest training programme for long-term unemployed people, and, initially, against the training and enterprise councils?

Mr. Howard

My right hon. Friend, who introduced employment training in the teeth of sustained opposition from the Labour party, is absolutely right. It lies ill in the mouth of the Labour party to criticise that programme.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

Does the Secretary of State realise that one of the main employers in my constituency is the Central Statistical Office, which collects Government statistics? It is so concerned about the constant manipulations and fiddles in Government statistics that the figures that we have been given today are meaningless and no comparisons are being made. Does the Secretary of State recall telling me a month ago that 700,000 people are counted twice in the employment statistics—he has said that again tonight—because they are doing more than one job?

Mr. Howard

If the Central Statistical Office lies in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, he should know that the comparisons that we make are entirely consistent. If he has any doubts about that, I suggest that he asks his constituents who work in the Central Statistical Office because he will then see that that is entirely true.

Mr. Ron Leighton (Newham, North-East)


Mr. Howard

I shall give way to the Chairman of the Select Committee, but then I must get on.

Mr. Leighton

We are trying to get the facts straight on the funding for employment training. Does the Secretary of State agree that during the last autumn review the TEC chairmen asked that the funding for ET should remain the same, but that there was a cut of £365 million, of which the Secretary of State has restored £120 million—one third of the original cut? The TEC chairmen are asking for the other two thirds to be put back. Since then, unemployment has risen for 14 consecutive months and the Secretary of State has not put back a single penny piece. Are not those the facts?

Mr. Howard

Naturally, the TEC chairmen asked for more money then and I dare say that they will ask for more money again. Does the hon. Gentleman know of anyone who is in charge of a budget who does not want to see it made bigger and does not ask for more money? Of course, that is what the TEC chairmen want, but they have been told in the past and will be told again that they will have the resources they need to do the job that they have been set.

Mr. Alun Michael (Cardiff, South and Penarth)

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Howard

No, I cannot give way again. I must press on.

I want to tell the House—although I understand why the Labour party are reluctant to listen—about the ways in which we have been helping the unemployed. Job clubs are a highly successful means of helping unemployed people back to work. Some 64 per cent. of unemployed people leaving job clubs go straight into jobs, training or further education. There were no job clubs when the Labour party was in power. Such clubs were introduced by this Government. This year, we are providing an extra 100,000 places in job clubs and the new job interview guarantee scheme, which is a new project that we have piloted in inner cities. It brings together people without jobs and employers with vacancies. There was no such scheme when the Labour party was in power.

Restart interviews were scoffed at by the hon. Member for Sedgefield. They were the first systematic means to call in and offer help to the long-term unemployed and were introduced by this Government. There were no restart interviews when the Labour party was in power. Now we are also offering restart courses—one-week job preparation courses.

The enterprise allowance scheme—the first ever national programme to help unemployed people become self-employed—was introduced by this Government. Already more than half a million new businesses have been founded by the EAS. Now that scheme is run by the training and enterprise councils, which have been given the flexibility to tailor it to meet the needs of different areas. There was no EAS when the Labour party was in power.

Employment training—the first ever national programme offering training to the long-term unemployed —was introduced by this Government when my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) was Secretary of State for Employment. There was nothing remotely like employment training when the Labour party was in power.

The employment service is now a next steps agency with much greater flexibility and efficiency so that it can offer help to the unemployed more effectively than ever. Yes it is true that it is now providing throughout the country a comprehensive five-point, job-help package to meet the specific needs of unemployed individuals. That includes in-depth advisory interviews for all newly unemployed people and an individual hack-to-work plan agreed with each one of them. There was nothing comparable when the Labour party was in power. The resources that have been made available to the employment service have been increased to ensure that it can provide that help effectively and efficiently. This year there will be about 650,000 opportunities, through my Department's programmes, to help unemployed people. No Government have ever done more than this one to help unemployed people back to work. We shall continue to spare no effort to ensure that we give them all the help that they need.

What would be the position on unemployment today if the Labour party was in power? We heard a good deal about economic mismanagement from the hon. Member for Sedgefield. With the benefit of hindsight, I would be the first to admit that interest rates were cut too far in the autumn of 1987 after the stock market crash. That unleashed the inflationary pressures which we are now getting back under control. It is absolutely clear that, if the Labour party had been in office in 1987 and 1988, the unemployment and recession we face today would be far worse. Throughout that autumn and winter, the Labour party called time and time again for still lower interest rates.

I am delighted to see that the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) is with us this evening. He was confronted with the evidence by Brian Walden on 17 March, who put his own statements back to him, and their effect on him was remarkable. He could not begin to conceal his discomfiture and was reduced to stuttering incoherence. He started grunting like an unhappy Japanese Sumo wrestler. He knew then and he knows now that the policies that he was then advocating would have made matters infinitely worse. The sum total of the Labour party's approach to economic policy is to call for lower interest rates in all circumstances and at all times, regardless of whether that would be the appropriate step to take. The right hon. and learned Gentleman's policy is the policy of the parrot—memorise a phrase and repeat it mindlessly and endlessly in all places and at all times, regardless of whether it has the least relevance to the task in hand.

So much for the policies that the Labour party would have pursued if it had been in power during the past few years. What of the policies that it now proposes? What would be their effect on unemployment? The effect of the minimum wage policy on jobs would be devastating, and hon. Members do not have to take that from me. The Fabian Society pamphlet said: If the national legal minimum wage were a fixed proportion of median earnings, like half'— that is only the first stage of Labour's policy— the restoration of differentials would have to be prevented, otherwise the proportion could not be held. If differentials were restored to any degree"— as both the pamphlet and trade union leaders made it clear that they would be— median earnings would rise and that would necessitate a compensating increase in the national legal minimum wage, setting off more restorations of differentials. An automatic upward chase would have been set in motion with inflationary consequences. The pamphlet went on to support estimates that up to 880,000 jobs would be destroyed.

The Fabian Society is not alone in saying that. The Financial Times, which the hon. Member for Sedgefield was so happy to call on for support during the Labour party's recent political broadcast, said in an editorial this week: Labour's minimum wage would raise unemployment among the unskilled, while doing little to relieve poverty. Moreover, it would reduce the incentive both for workers lo train and for employers to train them. Joe Haines in the Daily Mirror described the minimum wage by saying that it won't work and won't help". The hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) said that the unemployment consequences of the minimum wage would be "little short of disastrous."

Ms. Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)

There are thousands of women in my constituency who do dirty and degrading jobs for less money at the end of the week than the Secretary of State spends on dinner and who would be interested to hear Conservative Members sneering at the notion that they should earn a living wage. If a national minimum wage is so dreadful, why are we the only country in Europe without it?

Mr. Howard

That is not the case. As to the hon. Lady's constituents, of course they need to be helped. We do so sensibly through family credit, not by introducing a minimum wage which would destroy their jobs.

Even the Sunday People has said of Labour's minimum wage: it would only cause more unemployment and deny jobs to those who most need them". The stupidity of the Labour party is that it confuses, low-paid jobs with low-income households, but 62 per cent. of those whose pay is in the lowest tenth of earnings are in the richer half of the population. That is why the sensible way of helping those on low incomes is to pay family credit, which is targeted on those in low-paid employment.[Interruption.] We do not flinch from ensuring that the taxpayer helps to look after people on low incomes who need help and it is news to me if the Opposition no longer subscribe to that proposition. We believe that that is a more sensible way of achieving our objectives than is destroying hundreds of thousands of jobs.

The commitment of the hon. Member for Sedgefield to policies that will destroy jobs would not stop with a minimum wage. He would introduce a new tax on jobs, costing up to 50,000 jobs. He would act immediately to introduce the European Commission's social action programme, which was denounced by every major employers' organisation in Britain because it would add £3.5 billion to their costs and destroy over 100,000 jobs.

What about Labour's strikers charter? What about the return of secondary action and the flying picket, the neutering of the ability of the courts to deal with unlawful action, the compulsion on employers to recognise trade unions, and the new guarantee that strikers cannot be dismissed? Is that how the Labour party intends to encourage jobs and the creation of the resources from which it says that it will pay for all its grandiose schemes?

On training, the Opposition would not have made any of the progress which we have made since 1979. Not only would they never have conceived of the range of training measures which we have introduced, but even when these measures were put on a plate right under their noses their reaction was to fight them tooth and nail. They opposed every training initiative from the start. They attacked YTS. Their leader, as shadow Education Secretary, toured the country in the early 1980s denouncing vocational education in general and our TVEI programme in particular as fit only for hewers of wood and drawers of water". The Opposition opposed ET.

Unlike the Opposition, we have taken training seriously. We have increased spending on training two and a half times faster than inflation since 1979. We inherited 6,000 training places for young people from Labour and at present we have 350,000 Government-sponsored training places. That is 60 training places for every one which Labour was able to provide. More than 3 million young people have benefited from youth training and its predecessor since 1983.

We now have in place, with employment training, the biggest training programme for the long-term unemployed in Europe. That increased commitment has been fully matched by British employers, who, in 1986, were spending around £18 billion a year on training. Now they are likely to be spending more than £20 billion a year, and they have done even better than that. Since 1984 the number of employees receiving training from their employers has increased year in year out, and last year it was no less than 85 per cent. greater than it was just six years before. Moreover, we have put in place a national network of training and enterprise councils—the most radical leap forward in employer commitment to training in this century.

Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore)

The worst measure ever.

Mr. Howard

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman should have a word with his hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield. The Labour party should make up its mind about its policy towards training and enterprise councils—

Mr. Ray Powell

They are the worst thing ever.

Mr. Howard


Mr. Powell

Perhaps the right hon. and learned Gentleman will listen to someone with experience in training. For 12 years I chaired the CATO—community activities and training in Ogmore—organisation in mid-Glamorgan in my constituency. In 1981, 600 people were registered under the community programme as training with the organisation. This year, since the advent of training and enterprise councils, the local TEC has decided to withdraw the contract from CATO, which has had in all 4,000 people training under its auspices, so it has been deprived of a substantial contract. Some 250 places have been lost and 280 have been lost under job training —directly as a result of community enterprise training in mid-Glamorgan.

Mr. Howard

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman did not give the House the benefit of his views on TECs in general. Those views are far removed from those of his Front-Bench spokesmen. He will know from the experience that he has recounted that the community programme was not a training programme and he ought to appreciate that no Government owe a duty to any or every training provider. We owe a duty to the people who need help and training. The world that the Opposition occupy is a world in which nothing changes. They believe that a training provider with a contract should always retain it, regardless of whether it is providing what is needed to meet current demands.

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

If the right hon. and learned Gentleman is so keen on meeting the needs of those who need help, does he deny the clear evidence given by my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) of the reduction of funds for these TECs?

Mr. Howard

I have explained the position on funding several times—the hon. Gentleman could not have been listening. Perhaps he should have a word with the shadow Chief Secretary, with whose remarks on this subject I shall deal in a moment.

Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow)

Before my right hon. and learned Friend moves off the subject of TECs, may I tell him that, as an employer of 30 years' standing, I consider that they hold out the best prospect for training for our young people that I have known in my lifetime?

Mr. Howard

My hon. Friend is entirely right. He is much more in tune with the needs of industry than are Opposition Members.

Together with TECs we are putting in place a new framework to increase dramatically the incentives and opportunities available to individuals to train. We are creating the first ever proper national system of vocational qualifications in this country. We are changing the tax system to give individuals a tax incentive to train. We are building on our world lead in developing open and flexible learning. We are pioneering a system of career development loans to provide further help to individuals who wish to pay for their training.

The White Paper "Education and Training for the 21st Century" is a revolutionary package of measures for young people. Every young person leaving full-time education at 16 or 17 will have a training credit; will have access to the unified system of national vocational qualifications; will be able to have his achievement recognised in a way that gives equal esteem to vocational and academic attainment; will have access to an independent and invigorated further education sector; and will have a national record of achievement, to set out what he has achieved in school, and to build on as he continues to learn throughout working life.

Many of these measures are revolutionary, not just in Britain but in a world context. Training credits are a world first. The reform of vocational qualifications, based on the standards of competence needed for real work in real working situations, is setting an example which other countries want to follow.

The Opposition have no credentials whatever to pontificate about training; their record in Government and in Opposition is one of abysmal failure. It is against that background that we must assess the proposals which they now put forward. Those policies would throw the great progress made since 1979 into complete reverse. Foremost among them is Labour's advocacy of compulsion for the training of young people—of legislating to ban thousands of jobs held by young people. Since Labour also plans to restore benefit entitlement to young people who refuse the offer of a training place, its plans would make it illegal for a young person to take a job without training, but perfectly acceptable for him to choose the dole without training.

That is the programme with which Labour approaches the 1990s. That is the future that it offers our young people. We have abolished the dismal route from school to the dole queue which so many of our young people used to follow. Labour would restore it and encourage people to take it. That is the banner under which the new model Labour party marches into the 1990s. But of course, that is not all. The hon. Member for Sedgefield has promised more money—£900 million of it—on television this morning. The only difficulty is that, every time the hon. Gentleman gets up to promise more money, the shadow Chief Secretary slaps him down and says he cannot have it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley (Mr. Oppenheim) referred earlier to the shadow Chief Secretary's appearance on "On the Record". I am sure that all who had the privilege of witnessing that will long treasure the experience—[HoN. MEMBERS: "It was brilliant."] The hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) said: Only pensions and child benefits are commitments. She said that Labour must be careful not to confuse commitments which mean something with goals which mean nothing at all. We should understand, she said, that the Labour party could plan to do something and say so publicly, but that that was in no sense an undertaking.

Mr. Roy Hughes

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am concerned about the time. The Secretary of State has been speaking for half an hour. Is it not about time that he finished?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

I must be wholly neutral. Both Front Benches are tarred with the same brush in this regard.

Mr. Howard

I understand why Opposition Members do not want to listen. The hon. Lady said that Labour might hope to do this or have the intention to do that, but that none of those phrases amounted to a commitment. After all that, she said: I want the public to judge us on what we are saying". She talked about Labour's plans for education, health, social security, overseas aid, transport and even for lower taxation, but the hon. Member for Sedgefield should note that she did not once mention training or employment measures, nor did she ever utter the word "priority". I again invite the hon. Gentleman to say exactly where training comes on Labour's list. Is it a commitment or a priority? Is it a priority to which the Opposition are not committed, or a commitment to which they attach no priority?

We may have invented a new game. "Spot the ball" has nothing on "spot the pledge". The rules could be simple. The person who could rank in their correct order Labour's commitments, priorities, undertakings, aims, goals, desires, pledges, promises and objectives would win the prize. We would welcome employees of the Labour party and their families taking part, because they would have no more of a clue than anyone else.

At the next election, the British people will face a clear choice on—the issues of employment and training. It will be a choice between a Government who have created more jobs, more businesses and more wealth than ever before, and an Opposition committed to policies which would destroy millions of jobs, cripple our economy and wreck our future prospects. They will choose between a Government who have done more to advance training in Britain than any other Government this century—and an Opposition who have attacked and tried to undermine every step forward for training made in the past 12 years.

The choice will be between a Government bringing forward radical and necessary reforms to widen opportunity still further and to build upon the successes of the 1980s, and an Opposition determined to narrow choice, undermine excellence and lower quality, taking us back to the failed policies of the 1960s and 1970s. The British people will make that choice decisively, and this Government will remain to carry their mandate into the 1990s and beyond.

8.32 pm
Mr. Huw Edwards (Monmouth)

I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for calling me so early in this crucial debate.

Like many hon. Members, I enter the House following the death of a Member, in my case Sir John Stradling Thomas. He represented the constituency for 21 years and, as hon. Members know, he was a popular and charming man and his death saddened many people. Before I took my seat, I had the honour to attend his memorial service in the Crypt where the Speaker, in a moving tribute, said that Sir John was proud to be a Welshman and proud to be the Member for Monmouth. I am also proud to be a Welshman and the Member for Monmouth.

I was born and brought up in a fine Welsh community, the Welsh community in London. One of the great advantages of being brought up in that community was that one developed an affection for all parts of Wales—the north, the south and the rural and urban areas. I also developed an affection for people in Welsh-speaking areas as well as for those in non-Welsh-speaking areas. Monmouth has such a mix of people. It has a small number of Welsh speakers and many who do not speak Welsh.

Monmouth is a beautiful constituency, as anyone who visits it will see. I do not need to tell hon. Members about the beauty of the Usk, Wye and Llantony valleys because most of them visited the area during the by-election campaign. Monmouth has beautiful towns, villages and hamlets, one of which is Llanfihangel-Tor-Y-Mynnedd which I invite hon. Members to visit.

Monmouth is a rich farming area with a fine tradition in agriculture. Regrettably, many farmers have faced great difficulties in recent years. They have seen farm prices go down and their interest rates go up. The costs of farming have risen, and many people have left the land. Many farmers in Monmouth are worried that their children will not be able to inherit the farms, and they fear the consequences of losing the family tradition of farming. I hope that I can represent both the farming and the urban communities.

Like many beautiful constituencies, the beauty of Monmouth often masks some of its serious and growing problems. The recession is hitting people throughout the constituency and it affects people in the towns and villages as well as those who work in the private sector and farmers. They have seen the effects of high interest rates and ever growing unemployment. Unemployment in the constituency has risen by 43 per cent. since last June and it is affecting people throughout the constituency. What could be more insulting to the people of Monmouth who only a few years ago were constantly told about Wales's economic miracle than to be told now that those who are out of work are paying a price that is well worth paying to reduce inflation?

I wonder how the people who work in the American Express shop in Abergavenny felt when they were told that, after more than 20 years' service, they were to lose their jobs in six weeks. They did not receive an apology from the company or even much real warning. How did they feel with they were told that they were paying a price that is well worth paying even though their productivity and business increased this year? Such redundancies affect American Express in Neath and Swansea and other areas in south Wales.

Anyone who visits the constituency is welcome to go to the jobcentres in Monmouth and Abergavenny where they will see the jobs and the wage levels on offer. The rates are £2 or £2.50 an hour for vital jobs such as looking after sick people or working in private nursing homes. In such occupations, low pay is a massive problem. People despair when they look at the jobcentre advertisements offering £2.50 an hour. That is less than £100 a week, which is £80 to £90 net take-home pay. For years in the 1980s Ministers said that there was no problem of low pay. Amazingly, they now tell us that a minimum wage policy of only £130 a week, which is all that we are suggesting, would create massive unemployment. They cannot have it both ways.

Unemployment and low pay are inextricably linked, and we often hear the argument that low pay is better than no pay. Such an argument can be used to justify anything. How much below £130 a week do wages have to go? Pay of £6,500 a year when multiplied by three would buy nothing in the property market. People on such pay are totally excluded from that market, yet £130 a week is hardly generous; it is £3.40 an hour.

Figures from the Department of Employment show that in Gwent last year one in four men and six in 10 women earned less than the Council of Europe decency threshold. I worked for the Low Pay Unit on those statistics, and that has had a great influence on me. I shall continue to advance such arguments in the House.

Last year in Gwent, 23 per cent. of women worked full time for less than £120 a week. There is no work ethic like the work ethic of the low-paid. Many of them are working for little more than they would receive on benefit. In effect, they are virtually volunteers, and that is a remarkable work ethic.

That evidence is proof, if proof were needed, that Britain must have a minimum wage policy. Britain is the only country in the EC without one. We have already lost minimum wage protection for people under 21 resulting in ridiculously low levels of pay, low levels of benefit and disqualification from benefit, and we have seen the effect of that on what is supposed to be a civilised society. Young people sleep in doorways in the Strand, destitute, a phenomenon which has arisen only in the past three or four years as the result of the Government's social security, employment and housing policies. That is an insult to a civilised society.

The fear of redundancy, in particular in the national health service, proved an important issue in the recent by-election. At the beginning of the campaign, Guy's hospital announced a possible 600 job losses and the same occurred in hospitals in Bradford. That raised considerable fears among people working in the health service in Monmouth, such as the Nevill Hall hospital and the Mount Pleasant hospital. People feared for the future of the health service and for their employment as a result of the Government's pressure to encourage all hospitals with more than 300 beds and all units to consider opt-out status.

I do not apologise for anything that was said in that campaign. I stand by what I said throughout. The Government's restructuring of the health service amounts to its fragmentation, a way of abrogating responsibility and of ensuring, if not immediately, in years to come, the hiving off of the less profitable areas of the health service, the chronic sector and long-term care, and the possibility —more than a possibility, I think—that the profitable areas could be ripe for takeover by some of the private health organisations such as American Medical International, Humana and BUPA. What guarantee is there that that will not happen should we have another Conservative Government? It was perfectly right to raise those fears and anxieties.

I spoke to many people in the campaign who work in the health service—good administrators, consultants, nurses, paramedical staff and ancillary staff. People at virtually all levels agreed with me that nearly all the principles of the NHS are now being violated as the result of the changes which are now going through. If hospitals want to ditch care of the chronically ill or the mentally ill, they may well do so. The principles of equality and comprehensive care is disappearing. We are having a two-tier system. General practitioners are saying that all the time. Unless general practitioners are budget holders, they will lose when it comes to getting people into local hospitals.

The principle of professional autonomy is disappearing. The medical profession is seeing a cultural revolution in the health service whereby power has gone from those with clinical expertise to those with managerial expertise —the supermarket philosophy. During flu: campaign, nothing could be said about the health service without some of my opponents, and one in particular, using the analogy of the supermarket. When it comes to the NHS, people in my constituency and throughout Britain find supermarket analogies abhorrent.

The hospital that was the focus of the campaign is an ideal district general hospital. It sits under the hills in Abergavenny. Many of its patients come from Blaenau Gwent, Tredegar and Ebbw Vale, as do many of its staff. Tredegar and Ebbw Vale formed the spiritual birthplace of the NHS which established the principles of health care in Britain in the post-war period and those principles and values are widely shared throughout Monmouth and the country as a whole.

The by-election showed the country that those principles of equality, comprehensive provision, universality and collective responsibility are the values of the health service that the British people want to maintain, and I will use every opportunity in the House to advance those principles and to convey people's anxiety about the current restructuring of the health service. I shall continue to serve the constituents of Monmouth in the rural and urban areas to the very best of my ability.

8.45 pm
Mr. Barry Porter (Wirral, South)

It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Edwards). He has shown a great commitment to his constituency, to his country and to his predecessor. I do not think that it is too excessive to say that his predecessor was a friend of mine. He was the deputy Chief Whip in this place. On one occasion, because of my views about one or two Government policies, he questioned my parentage, but in the nicest possible way.

I do not intend to question the Government's policy tonight, but I have been somewhat disappointed. I am sorry that I was unable to visit Monmouth, but after my appearance in Ribble Valley and what happened there, I thought that it was as well to keep away. I can understand the hon. Gentleman making his maiden speech on the health service, but I hope that he will excuse me if I do not follow him on that. I understood that the debate was on training and employment, but that is a matter for the hon. Gentleman. However, I had hoped for something rather better from the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair), whom I had hoped would address himself to that topic.

I went to the great length for me of listening to what the hon. Gentleman said. As I understand it, he said that there is a recession and it is the Government's fault and that the London Business School and Cambridge Econometrics say that it will get worse. He then referred to the bit of the OECD forecast which happened to suit his argument, but not, I fear, to the rest. The OECD has the best possible record in forecasting. It gets it right more often than not. It suggests that there will be an increase in economic activity next year, a decrease in inflation and interest rates and that the United Kingdom economy will look rather better than it is at the moment. I do not pretend that it is wonderful at the moment, but then I never pretend that the Government can make things more wonderful or less miserable than most people. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman, who has gone off for his dinner, should suggest that that is the case.

I waited with eager anticipation for the great miracle, but I waited in vain. We had no more than a garbled speech attacking the Government and their economic policies, and attacking my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for making every possible effort to deal with the immediate problems of unemployment, whether they be short-term or long-term.

I find it a little distasteful that a party which in the past has made something of a reputation, and probably a deserved reputation, for itself out of its concern for working men and women and their prospects of employment immediately and in the long term, should then imply, but no more than that, that there is some miracle cure whereby, on the election of a Labour Government, there will be no unemployment. I appreciate that that was not said "in terms", and I cannot be bothered to analyse what was said to Brian Walden a week last Tuesday. But that is not the point: I am talking about the impression that people receive—about general perceptions. I hope that other hon. Members will agree that it is unfair to suggest that any Government, whatever their political colour, can snap their fingers and cure the problem of unemployment.

Let us go back to 1979. I remember the Conservative party poster that told us "Labour Isn't Working"; I suppose that we won the 1979 general election partly as a result of that poster. In those days, we all believed, or purported to believe, that Governments were capable of creating full employment. The Conservative Government believed that in 1970–71, when things started to go wrong—but we too were wrong, and we lost the election in 1974.

Let me tell the Labour party—if it does not mind my offering advice to "this great movement of ours"—that it cannot do it again. Would it not be better if, rather than Labour yah-booing across the Chamber and us boo-yahing back, the whole House admitted that at a time of perpetual change it is best not to pretend that we can solve the problems tomorrow? What we can use are the training systems outlined by the Secretary of State. Perhaps they could be better; perhaps more money could be available; perhaps other ideas could be advanced. But it does no one any good to say, "Your ideas are rubbish." It is clear from what the Secretary of State has said that the Conservative party has gone to enormous lengths to try to solve the unemployment problem, in both the long and the short term. I should have thought that it has done that as well as any party could have.

What positive contribution was made by the speech of the hon. Member for Sedgefield—not to the problem whether we win or lose the next election but to the problems of the people out there who really lose their jobs, and must face not only that but the possibility of their children losing theirs? He did not say a word about that. Over the past 12 years, we have tried to do what we can. Let us get this into perspective. It is not as though the United Kingdom's problem were unique; it is not, as has already been spelt out. No doubt the London Business School and the Liverpool School of Economics could explain why. Certainly there is no point in my boring the House with the statistics: we know that this is a problem that affects the western industrialised world.

What everyone should know, however, is that there is not a socialist solution to the problem of unemployment. I should have thought that that was self-evident, following the developments in central and eastern Europe. Moreover, I am sorry to have to tell Opposition Members that countries such as Japan and Taiwan, which employ vast numbers, do not do so by means of a minimum wage.

I am merely asking Opposition Members to be realistic about one thing. There will not be a general election this month, or in October; I trust that there will not be one until next spring. Can we get rid of the current hysteria and try to do something for the people we purport to represent—the unemployed? The Secretary of State has admitted, very properly, that we loosened the reins too much in 1987. I cannot remember any Opposition Member saying at the time that it was all very wicked, although I may be wrong about that. The way out of the problem, however—for most of the unemployed, at any rate—is lower inflation, lower interest rates, an increase in economic activity and more profits. As someone once said—I forget the name now—"There is no other way."

8.55 pm
Mr. Ron Leighton (Newham, North-East)

It gives me great pleasure to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Edwards) on a fine and moving maiden speech. It was outstanding—the best maiden speech that I have ever heard. My hon. Friend is a worthy victor of an outstanding by-election, and we look forward to hearing him speak many times in the future.

The Select Committee on Employment published a report today on employment prospects, which I urge all hon. Members to read. I will not say much more about it, because I believe that we are to debate it on Estimates day; suffice it to say that, according to the CBI, business optimism is now at its lowest for 10 years, and that the Institute of Directors told us that it had never known such bad employment numbers.

As all the witnesses agree, unemployment will rocket for the rest of the year, and will continue to do so next year—certainly until the next election, whether or not that takes place when the hon. Member for Wirral, South (Mr. Porter) said it would.

The Government are deliberately using unemployment as a weapon of economic policy. Deflation does not work in a mysterious way; it works by causing unemployment. The blunt club of high interest rates imposed over a long period strangles the economy, deliberately induces recession and causes mass unemployment; and, the Government hope, eventually reduces inflation.

Any fool can reduce inflation by inducing a recession. The successful policy is one that controls inflation while retaining a high level of employment. The present Government have failed to do that for 12 years. They say that their action is necessary to squeeze out inflation, but who put it there in the first place? We experienced one Government-induced recession in the early 1980s, which destroyed 20 per cent. of industry and inflicted unemployment of another 2 million to solve the problem of inflation. There has been a Conservative Government ever since. Why, then, has inflation returned? Because of the crass errors caused by Government economic mismanagement.

In 1988 there was a giveaway Budget, the "big bang" of financial deregulation and the consequent credit binge. Now, after all the pain and suffering of the early 1980s, we must go through it all again. There is no need for any of us to talk about the pain and human suffering that unemployment causes; we have had a graphic and vivid illustration in the interview in Vanity Fair with the former Prime Minister, who explained exactly how much devastation it produces. After 12 years, the Government are squirming with embarrassment at their failure. The Prime Minister said that there would be no recession. When the recession came, he and the Chancellor said that it would be short and shallow. Now, the Chancell3r claims to discern vague stirrings in the economy. Could anything be more pathetic?

We have had 12 years of Conservative Government, 12 years to get it right. We have had 12 years of the North sea oil bonanza and privatisation receipts, yet wt; have a country flat on its back, in deep recession, with the whole of its industry crying with pain. There are redundancies everywhere and unemployment will continue to rocket for as far ahead as anyone can see. We also have a yawning skills gap with our main competitors which is growing wider all the time, and the virtual collapse of training in many industries.

In those circumstances, traditionally we look to the Department of Employment, which hitherto has been an honourable Department. However, we now find the repellant sight of the Secretary of State who oozes complacency and indifference to the unemployed with every utterance suggests that it does not matter and that things are not so bad. As a monetarist, instead of seeking an expansion of the economy, he seems to be urging his Cabinet colleagues to strangle the economy even further. Instead of standing up for his Department's budget, he lays down and encourages the Treasury to walk all over him. He has presided over huge cuts in the Department's budget for adult and youth training.

The previous Secretary of State used to laud employment training. He said: ET is the largest, most ambitious programme ever undertaken in its scope and the opportunity it offers. It was intended to take 600,000 people in any one year. We all remember the propaganda at the time about fitting workers without jobs to jobs without workers. We do not hear much about that now. Instead, there are cuts in ET. The Secretary of State says that the unemployed do not need training.

The Secretary of State launched the training and enterprise councils. The launch was accompanied—he did not disagree with the figure I gave when I intervened during his speech—by large cuts in the budgets of TECs. What a way to encourage and bolster the voluntary activity of those who are giving their time to the TECs. He knows that at the time of the autumn statement the TEC chairman urged him not to cut the budget. Yet he announced a cut of £365 million of which he has now put back only one third. Since then, unemployment has rocketed for 14 consecutive months. The Secretary of State has not obtained a penny piece for the unemployed.

As a result of all that, there is a crisis within the TECs and among the training providers, almost all of whom are having to make many of their trainers redundant. Training for special needs in many parts of the country has come to a complete stop. Does the Secretary of State know that this afternoon the Select Committee took evidence from the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders? It announced that it is making 600 trainers redundant.

I have a letter from a chief executive of a TEC which says that many TECs are doing nothing for women returners. It says that many TECs discriminate—the Secretary of State can have a copy of the letter if he wishes —against women returners because they would have to pay £50 child allowance. Where is the Secretary of State? Where is the battle for a counter-cyclical increase in his training budget? Does he care that training in many industries is collapsing?

For example, the bottom has fallen out of the construction industry. Many firms are going bust. Anyone who does not believe that should look at what is happening in docklands. Construction employers tell me that an extra 100,000 construction workers will be unemployed this year. Does the Secretary of State know that this year there has been a drop of 75 per cent. in apprentices registered in construction? Does he care about that, and is he doing anything about it?

I spoke to the printing employers yesterday. They are now renegotiating youth training with 82 TECs. That is a problem for them. They told me that this year, as a result of smaller cash incentives to firms which are suffering in the recession, there will be a 50 per cent. reduction in youth training in the printing industry. Does the Secretary of State tolerate it?

The country will face increased competition. Where is all the propaganda about gearing up for 1992? If we cut training in the printing industry by 50 per cent., the Germans will wipe the floor with us. They are doing so already. What will the Secretary of State do about that? When disasters and catastrophes are put under his nose, he pretends that he cannot see them and that they are not happening. In fact, he makes trite little comments suggesting that everything is all right. We had an example of that for half an hour this evening. Everything is not all right. It is going from bad to worse. As Secretary of State for Employment, it is his job to do something about it and to stand up and defend his Department's budget, which he is not doing.

I now deal with engineering. I have a document from the Engineering Employers Federation which states: present YT funding policies are reversing the important gains made in YTS. The Government should be coming up with counter-cyclical expenditure on training, which is counter inflationary. However, instead of standing up and fighting its corner, the Department of Employment is actively conniving with the short-termism of the Treasury. That is what we have come to after 12 years of Conservative government. The Government have run the country into a quagmire, and youth training is certainly suffering. The Government are not honouring the youth training guarantee.

Not long ago, we were told that the most urgent problem seemed to be a 33 per cent. drop in the number of school leavers. Now, because of the recession, every budget is being cut and all recruitment is being stopped, and, instead of a shortage of youngsters, there is a surplus, despite the fact that there has been a drop of 33 per cent. Youngsters are now leaving school with no job, no YT place and no benefit. That is happening in my constituency and in the London borough of Newham as a whole.

I hope that the Minister of State is paying attention. During the previous Employment questions I asked him about youngsters who were leaving school in Newham with no YT place. He said that I was misinformed. I try not to be misinformed, so I went back to the borough of Newham and got the figures. At that time, there were 312 young people leaving school in Newham with no job and with no YT place. I immediately wrote a letter to the Minister of State, but I am still waiting for a reply. Why have I not received one and why have I had no apology? I was not ill-informed and I can tell him that the figure has increased. There are now 384 young people in Newham with no job and no YT place. I want him to answer and to reply to my letter.

The Minister might also note that unemployment in my constituency increased by 40 per cent. in the last 12 months. The training boards have been abolished, so there is now no statutory duty on employers to train. Instead, there are supposed to be voluntary industry training organisations, but whatever happened to those organisations? The truth is that most of them are ineffective, underfunded and understaffed—they are run by two men and a dog. What interest do the Government show in them? Virtually none at all.

I have a briefing from the organisation set up for engineering. It states that the Government show no interest in it, only in the TECs. It states: What it has not so far specifically done is to give the same active, high profile support for the job that the industry training organisations will do as it has for the important work of the TECs. Clear public commitment of this kind would strengthen the influence of the new bodies. Where is the Government's commitment to the industry training organisations? There is none. It is patently and blatantly obvious that this is a Government of failure. There is a yawning and widening skills gap which the Government's inaction is compounding.

The public have come to realise that we have a blinkered Government of dogma and false ideology who have failed. The public see the signs of that failure all around them in their everyday lives. They know that we, as a nation, can do better and that to do so we shall need a new Government. The people know that, and the Government know that the people know that. That is why the Government are frightened to have a general election, but they cannot put it off for ever. They must eventually meet their maker—the electorate—and when they do, they will surely reap retribution for the misery of the mass unemployment that they have inflicted on this country and for their failure to achieve an educated work force which will enable this country to compete in the modern world.

9.9 pm

Mr. Simon Coombs (Swindon)

It is always a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton). He was in his usual characteristically lively form. He has the old socialist principle behind him that one must spend money on a problem and that the more money one spends on it, the more virile is one's attitude and one's position. When the hon. Gentleman calls the Government dogmatic, I remind him that the policies of the Labour party never change: it simply seeks to spend more and more of the taxpayers' money on any problem.

The Government reacted to the problems of the early 1980s by creating the training programme to which my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State referred. Now they have taken the radical approach of examining that training programme to find out whether it is delivering value for money. They have changed their policy in order to concentrate more on advice and guidance for the unemployed, rather than imagining that people who have been trained once and lose their job need yet more training.

The Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen should not fall into the trap of believing that only more and more training will solve the problems of the unemployed. They should not forget enterprise, which is in danger of being the Cinderella of the debate. They should not forget that the people who are losing their jobs at present, particularly in the south-east, already have a high level of skill and had been trained extensively in the work they did. The answer is not always that which the Opposition suggest in their dogmatic fashion.

I come to the debate as one of the stars of the misery index—that is to say, the curious figures sent out every month by the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair). As I have the sixth largest constituency in the country, inevitably it has a fairly large raw unemployment figure. Fortunately, it is still lower than when I was first elected in 1983. However, I follow the logic of the hon. Member for Sedgefield up to this point. If indeed there is a direct correlation between the level of unemployment and the majority of hon. Members in the House, the fact that unemployment in my constituency is less than half what it was in 1983 when I won the seat leads me to the conclusion that I shall be returned at the general election, whenever it comes, with an increased majority. I do not know exactly how the reverse formula works, but I should have at least double the majority.

As I said in The Guardian this morning, people are not so naive as to judge a Government after 12 years on a single issue. Opposition Members who pin all their hopes on unemployment—it has been made clear in the debate that that is what they are doing—will find that the people of Britain are a little more subtle and sensitive in their judgments and will not be content simply to judge the Government on one set of figures, however inaccurately and misleadingly those figures are presented by the Opposition Front bench team.

I wish to make a few remarks about the causes of the difficulties that we are experiencing in Britain. On Monday this week, I asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster a question about the position of the banks, their attitude to small businesses and the rates of interest that they charge for loans. I am delighted to say that, within 24 hours, my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest (Mr. Coombs) raised exactly the same point in Prime Minister's Question Time, when we learned the satisfying news that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer would meet and talk to the leading clearing banks.

At a time when interest rates have fallen by 3.5 per cent. since last October, it is extraordinary that the banks have increased their interest rates and effective lending rates to small businesses in my constituency and elsewhere by as much as 6, 7 or 8 per cent. above the base rate now obtaining in Britain. The banks give as a reason the difficulties that they have experienced in lending to third-world countries. I accept that one must consider that argument, but when one is told that the interest charged to small business in my constituency and elsewhere must be kept high because such firms are a high risk, one asks which is the chicken and which is the egg.

How does arbitrarily raising interest rates help to reduce the risk of small businesses going out of business and causing more unemployment? I hope that the discussions that are to take place between my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the banks will lead to a different attitude being taken by those lenders who have contributed in their way to some of the problems that this country currently faces.

In Swindon, I have the additional problem of the attitude adopted by the Labour-controlled council, which for the past five years has pursued a policy of preventing employment growth. The council argues that green undeveloped land on the outskirts of the town should be protected, and that, unless the town's infrastructure can catch up, it would be wrong to allow growth to continue. However, it does not argue that the growth that has occurred in my constituency over the past 20 years has turned it from a safe Labour seat into a Conservative seat. It would be unworthy of me even to suggest that that might have anything to do with the council's thinking.

The consequence of the council's policies is that the additional jobs that could have been created by new companies moving into the town—in accordance with the pattern that was seen for 20 years without a break—have come to an end. People who lost their jobs in the past 14 months do not have the hope of new employment that would exist but for the mistaken policy of the local Labour-controlled council.

As my right hon. and learned Friend said, there is more to offer the unemployed than training—but when the alternatives are read out, it creates only amusement on the Opposition Benches. The hon. Member for Sedgefield was present in the Chamber a moment ago, but now he is not. If he were in his place, he would have an opportunity to apologise to all those people working in the employment service who dedicate their best efforts to helping the unemployed with the interviews that the hon. Gentleman so mockingly denigrated.

Labour has become the party of instant action—but instant action is nearly always the wrong action. Labour denounce the Government when they suggest that consultation could be useful or that they are considering an issue. Labour want only instant action. The instant action they want now is for large quantities of money to be thrown at the problem of the unemployed—although the Opposition's own shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury says that they cannot have that money anyway.

There is some sense in talking to an unemployed person before sending him or her on a training course. There is some sense in finding out what skills he or she already has, and in trying to match the individual's needs to the job opportunities that exist.

The White Paper on education and training for the 21st century that was published last week belies the Opposition's suggestion that the Government are running out of new ideas. That White Paper enthusiastically endorses the extension of training credit vouchers, which are being taken up all over the country with great interest—particularly by those training and enterprise councils that are piloting the scheme.

I spoke last night to the chairman of the Bradford TEC, who said that, putting the purchasing power of a voucher in young people's hands was the best possible news because, for the first time, they are in control of their destiny. The scheme is being taken up enthusiastically in pilot areas, and I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State will soon decide to extend it across the country, where it will be widely welcomed. The White Paper makes it clear that that is the direction in which the Government are going.

I am delighted about the White Paper's commitment further to extend education compacts, which are the right way of bridging the gap between education and industry. Once again, it was bitterly opposed by the Opposition.

The Opposition's policies are designed only to increase unemployment. Had they been in power during the 1987 stock market crash, they would have reflated the economy far more than we did. The right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) was present earlier and was challenged about that; he wriggled and giggled, but had no answer to the fact that, in November 1987, he clearly said that the Labour party would reflate the economy more than the Government. The effect would have been higher inflation.

I do not suggest that a Labour party's reaction to ever higher inflation would have been a deflationary policy, but it would have led to a run on currency, which would have forced it into a high interest rate policy whether it liked it or not. The effect would have been higher deflation and a higher rise in unemployment. We would have been in a position to say to Labour Members, "You got it wrong," as they say to us, but let them never forget that, in late 1987, they believed that we should have gone further with the mistake that we made at that time. Labour Members are the last people to criticise us in that respect.

It is not only the policies that they advocated then that would be disastrous for this country. The national minimum wage is written off by almost everybody who takes an interest in the subject. Trade unionists are anxious to persuade the Labour party not to indulge in that policy. I ask the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) to read the collected thoughts of Mr. Gavin Laird and Mr. Bill Jordan, who are clear on the subject. They say, "Please don't do it." The shadow Chancellor, when asked about the effect of the national minimum wage, said "Maybe one or two people might lose their jobs." Does he not take any notice of what is said by the trade unions, who still seek to run the Labour party?

Mr. Dalyell

As the hon. Gentleman mentioned Mr. Gavin Laird and Mr. Bill Jordan, he will acknowledge that both were against that was done to the engineering industry training board. They believe in training as it was in the engineering industry, which was very beneficial to my constituency.

Mr. Coombs

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I always listen carefully to what he has to say, but that was not germane to the point that I was developing. However, it shows that, once something is set in concrete, Opposition Members never seek to change it. No radical spirit is left in the Labour party. It can try only to preserve and conserve. Perhaps we should call it the Conservative party, because that is what it is. It has no ideas for the future only ideas of the past.

The right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East intervened briefly from a sedentary position to say that 11 European countries support the social action programme, but that is not right. Eleven European countries signed the social charter, but if he studies debates in the European Community on the implementation of the charter by draft directives, he will see that there is growing concern about the implications of those proposals for employment.

The Labour party's policies in the future, as in the past, will only drive up the level of unemployment, whereas Conservative policies, by reducing inflation and boosting competitiveness vis-a-vis our partners in Europe and elsewhere, will help to increase prosperity and reduce unemployment, which we rightly regard as a scourge. The Labour party does not understand that. It never has and it never will, because it does not understand the nature of competition.

Our policies are now working. Inflation is coming down and so are interest rates. On the strength of that, in due course, the next general election will be won by the present Government.

9.25 pm
Mr. Michael Carr (Ribble Valley)

It is clear that unemployment is now out of control. The Department of Employment's internal projections are reported as forecasting that 2.6 million people will be out of work by October, and most outside economists expect unemployment to rise above 3 million by March 1992. Moreover, the longer-term outlook is bleak, with unemployment likely to plateau at such levels under present policies. That is hardly a sign of bottoming out, and is certainly not a reason to predict an economic revival early next year. In view of the Prime Minister's grandiose early statements about a classless society, we might have been forgiven for thinking that the economic mismanagement of the Thatcher decade would be remedied forthwith. However, the announcement of a 40 per cent. cut in the employment training budget hardly seems an appropriate first step.

It is scandalous, when unemployment is rising faster than in any other EC country, that the Government saw fit to cut public funding of training. Under this Government, Britain is less skilled, less well educated and less well trained than all our major competitors.

The unemployment figures in themselves are worrying, but they hide more sinister statistics. The real price of unemployment is increased poverty, a rise in homelessness, a deterioration in the nation's health, the deskilling of thousands of our citizens and the cost to the public purse. The Prime Minister has pledged that the Government will be a caring Government, yet his Chancellor of the Exchequer has let slip the fact that Government economic policy is deliberately adding to unemployment in order to reduce inflation. The Chancellor's remark that unemployment was a price "well worth paying" rightly shocked many people, and showed how little the Government are prepared to do to combat high and rising unemployment.

Liberal Democrats fully understand the importance of reducing inflation, but we do no accept that the price for that needs to be a return to mass unemployment. Other countries, such as Germany, the Netherlands, Japan arid the United States, run their economies with lower unemployment and lower inflation, and avoid the high price that the Government seem prepared to pay.

The debate on unemployment in the recession has so far completely ignored the real-world price of unemployment. The most immediate effect of the rise in unemployment will be an increase in poverty. Not only unemployed people, but their families and those who depend on their wages will suffer.

In the 1970s, low pay was accepted as the root cause of poverty. However, figures based on Department of Social Security data were released last month by the Campaign for Work, and they clearly show that unemployment was a key characteristic of poverty in the 1980s. Those figures show that, although poverty is often, rightly, associated with groups such as pensioners, the disabled and lone parents, by far the most common characteristic of the poor is being out of work. Before unemployment finally started to fall after the previous recession, more than 50 per cent. of the poorest families were afflicted by unemployment. It is symptomatic of the way in which people are discussing unemployment in this recession that those figures have not been widely reported.

Such comprehensive figures for the previous recession have only become available in the past year or two, so it is unlikely that data for the effects on poverty of this recession will be available for some time. However, the clear message from the experience of the 1980s is that the recent increase in unemployment will put back the fight against poverty in Britain by several years if the present failure to tackle unemployment persists.

The Government compounded the misery of poverty and strengthened the link between it and unemployment through their social security and taxation policies of the 1980s. Those policies have resulted in a large reduction in the real value of safety net benefits and make poverty an increasing likelihood for many thousands more on the dole. Not only has the real value of unemployment and related benefits been cut since 1979 by about 5 per cent., but the benefit system itself has become more restictive in its regulations and has been starved of the resources that it needs for administrative efficiency. For much of the late 1980s, the Government's policy seemed to be to blame the unemployed for being out of work and then to penalise them through their social security policies.

Many other aspects of the Government's social security and taxation policies will mean that unemployment may be even more closely linked to poverty in this recession. The Government admit, for example, that the poll tax will be with us until at least 1993, with unemployed people liable for at least 20 per cent. of their poll tax bills. The unemployed will now pay water charges, whereas under the rate rebate and supplementary benefit system, they were protected. Such social security and taxation policy changes come on top of measures in other policy areas, which have tended to affect the unemployed disproportionately. Council house rents and rents for private accommodation have increased by well above the rate of inflation. Public transport has suffered from underfunding and from above-inflation price rises.

The evidence linking unemployment with policy could not be clearer; nor can anyone have any doubts about the impact on the unemployed of various policy changes, especially in social security. In terms of poverty, the social costs of unemployment were high during the recession of the 1980s; in this recession, they will be even higher.

In the 1980s and 1990s, homelessness has been closely associated with joblessness. Between 75 and 80 per cent. of homeless people are out of work. Although that may not be surprising, it is important to recognise the vicious circle that is immediately created. Once someone is trapped by homelessness, for whatever reason, employment is hard to come by. That in turn makes securing proper accommodation almost impossible.

The figures for repossessions in 1990, when repossessions almost trebled to 43,890, illustrates the changing nature of home ownership since the last recession. As the Council of Mortgage Lenders has commented: Unemployment has proved of greater importance this time round and now accounts for almost 10 per cent. of (new) homelessness cases. This is an indication only of the cases where unemployment was cited as the direct cause of homelessness. In many of the other cases unemployment contributed quite substantially to the family/relationship break-ups which account for 60 per cent. of homelessness. Such evidence highlights the human misery that is caused by unemployment. Unemployment causes stress which in turn, causes family disputes which, in turn, can cause homelessness. The social costs of unemployment can be a vicious spiral of personal misfortune—a vicious spiral that leads to a deep national problem.

There is a general recognition that unemployment represents a deskilling processs, with individuals losing touch with the labour market and finding that their skills become less and less relevant to the market's needs. Those economic consequences are alarming enough, but they pale beside some of the health implications of long-term unemployment. Research is increasingly showing the damaging effects of unemployment on an individual's mental and physical health.

The longitudinal study of the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys, which links death records with the 1971 and 1981 census data, reveals that the death rates of unemployed men and their wives were 21 per cent. above the national average. It is expected that that trend will be reaffirmed by this year's census. A link between suicides and unemployment has also been established. A study in Edinburgh from 1978 to 1982 showed that suicide attempts were 11 times more likely among unemployed people than those in work.

The economic costs of unemployment are also many and varied. They include the direct cost of unemployment to the Exchequer through a higher number of claimants and lower tax receipts, as well as many indirect costs. Despite the meanness of current benefit policy, the social security costs of unemployment are high. The Department of Social Security's expenditure plans show that, for an increase of 100,000 in the number of unemployed, social security payments increase by £305 million.

We hear stories of training credits. They undoubtedly have some merit, but they must be seen in the context of the statistics I mentioned. In Sweden, £12,000 is committed to the training of each unemployed person. The Government are mooting a figure of £1,500. That shows that, in Sweden, unemployment is seen as an opportunity to retrain and reskill the work force. Unfortunately, the Government see unemployment as an economic necessity and as a political irritant.

The loss to the economy of deskilling many members of the work force is particularly serious because the effects can last for years. We believe that training is the key to ensuring that the long-term levels of unemployment fall. Filling skills vacancies with skilled workers seems to be no longer the main aim of Government employment policies. The Government also seem reluctant to recognise the need to retrain those already in work. If Britain is to keep pace in the world economy, one that will increasingly demand a skilled and technologically advance work force, the Government must commit substantial funds to education and training now.

9.36 pm
Mr. Henry McLeish (Fife, Central)

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend from Monmouth (Mr. Edwards) for his maiden speech. It was an eloquent, reasoned and dignified contribution, and we all welcome the fact that he mentioned, with fond memories, the previous Member for that constituency. We look forward to many contributions of that quality in the years to come.

This has been an interesting debate, as two worlds have collided in their perception of training and the unemployed in this country. The excellent speech from the Chairman of the Select Committee on Employment, my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) injected a dose of reality into the debate, but I found the speech of the Secretary of State for Employment simply remarkable. We were treated to a story of no cuts—just adjustments—the most comprehensive provision for the unemployed, record-breaking achievements, the best training provision this century and revolutionary methods. That world may be inhabited by the Secretary of State for Employment, but it is not inhabited by Labour Members and those outside the House.

The key issue is why, after creating unemployment, the Government are effectively doing nothing to help the unemployed. Why is it that, after acknowledging publicly the depth of the skills crisis, the Government have cut the training budget? Why is it that, after 12 years of Conservative government, Britain is less equipped than any nation in Europe to embrace the challenges, respond to the changes and improve our competitiveness in the new economic realities of the 1990s? Why are the Government unable and unwilling to tackle the issues which are immediate and urgent and which lie at the heart of Britain's future in the 21st century?

The debate has rightly focused on the importance of the recession. It has focused on the breaking of guarantees to young people and adults. It has focused on the selling out of the TECs after they were offered such a warm send-off. They were not advised that they would have no responsibilities or proper cash provision. We have focused on the scandal of special needs. It is morally objectionable for the Government to seek to cut funds from the schemes that provide not only skills but social support to the most vulnerable in the community. Will the Under-Secretary refer to that point?

Unemployment is a crisis. Put simply, Britain's labour market is in total disarray. That is the legacy of 12 wasted years in which the Government have been in office. We were not informed in their manifestos of 1979, 1983 and 1987 that mass unemployment would be a permanent characteristic of their economic policies. Rather, we were offered economic miracles and the Chancellor confirmed that we are experiencing one.

We were offered industrial renaissance, and the deposed former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) talked about the rebirth of Britain. If that is the case, why are we in such an appalling economic mess, with recession deep, levels of economic activity low, and disillusionment with the Government's ability to cope so widespread?

I shall focus in the remaining few minutes on the Government's unemployment record. The Government cannot now trade excuses in public. They cannot blame scapegoats or find anyone on whom to pin the responsibilities that they have discharged so ineffectively over the past decade. Why is unemployment now rising faster in Britain than anywhere else in Europe? In Europe in the past year, unemployment among the under-25s has been, on average, 1 per cent., whereas in Britain it has been 32 per cent. Why has unemployment in Britain increased by 100 per cent. since 1979? Why have the number of vacancies slumped by over 26 per cent. and why have the number of people chasing each job increased by 136 per cent.? That does not smack of an economic miracle but of something quite different.

Although the Government make great play with their employment growth record, which is the other side of the labour market coin, it is stripped of double jobbers and training places. The Government have created only 460,000 part-time jobs in 12 years. What kind of a record is that to be parading around Britain? It is the worst record of employment growth among OECD countries. I challenge the Government to respond to those statistics, because I always use their statistics, courtesy of the computer at the Department of Employment. The Labour party will continue to take advantage of that excellent facility.

Why have we now lost 2,112,000 manufacturing jobs and 163,000 construction industry jobs? That does not smack of an economic miracle for those in manufacturing, who now find themselves with no future in that area.

Why have apprenticeships in the manufacturing industry slumped from 266,000 in 1979 to a miserable 87,000 in December 1990? The crisis in manufacturing is that training has been ripped out of it, and we now have very few apprenticeships, while countries such as Germany, France and Scandinavia are pushing forward. They see a future and they invest. In the early 1960s, in periods of Conservative Governments, there was always a slump in the number of vacancies. Why did we have the highest unemployment this April since the 1930s?

It must be submitted that that is not the stuff of which miracles are made. Day in and day out, we are still told that the Government have created employment and that things are not so bad. This evening, the Secretary of State for Employment suggested that a commitment made in Scotland to eliminate unemployment was still on their agenda. If that is so, the Scots see little chance of it becoming a reality.

To find a microcosm of the panic measures and the ineffectiveness of Government economic policy in this country, we need look no further than London, which we discussed earlier today. The conning of the capital by the Conservatives during the past decade is simply breathtaking. Why is it that, in London, vacancies have slumped by 75 per cent. in a decade? Why is it that unemployment has risen by 300 per cent—not doubled, but trebled? Why has the number of people in London chasing each job increased by 1,000 per cent.? Londoners have been conned by a Government unwilling to tell the story that is now unfolding as we approach the general election.

Of course, the Government always respond by saying, "What about our jobs record?" What about it? Figures published by the Department suggest that, excluding training places, 40,000 jobs have been created in Britain's capital city in 10 years—4,000 jobs a year for a population of 6 million or 7 million. That is a simply breathtaking statistic when viewed in relation to the Government's claims made day in and day out.

We ask simple questions. Why is it that, faced with 2.6 million unemployed in October and possibly 3 million unemployed next year, the Government will provide no cash for a temporary work scheme? Why, when faced with a deepening skills crisis, will the Government not reinstate the £400 million cuts that have been made? Why, when the training and enterprise councils flagship is in danger of sinking, is there no funding or leadership from the Government? After 12 years, why do we have a labour market which is in disarray and has no strategic overview?

Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Littleborough and Saddleworth)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. McLeish


The answer to all those questions is no, no, no—because the Government simply do not care about what is happening. The Prime Minister has been attacked for his dithering. I can say with sincerity that the Secretary of State for Employment and his Ministers are dithering and drifting and not providing the direction that is badly needed in Britain.

Other Ministers have tried to help the unemployed. There have been various changes, including fiddling the figures and removing people from the unemployed figures. The restart scheme, which involved recycling, was introduced by Lord Young of Graffham. There was ridicule when it was suggested that we should train the workers without jobs to fill the jobs without workers. The removal, recycling and ridicule are now to be followed by amazing inactivity.

Tonight, we have heard that our attack on the Government's employment record is hurting. The misery index has been mentioned, and we have heard overtures this evening to suggest that we should have a truce until next year. I offer Conservative Members a helpline. We are willing to listen to them and give them the statistics that the Government will not. If they phone my office, we shall not ask them to leave their name. They can remain anonymous: they need merely leave their majority and the number of their constituents on the dole—we shall do the rest.

We know that the Government's record on both jobs and unemployment is deplorable. We need a change of Government before we can tackle the problems ahead of us. The only unemployment that we want to see is among Ministers and Conservative Members. To that end, we shall fight and win the election, and give skills and the jobless a high priority in a Labour Government.

9.48 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Robert Jackson)

I start by apologising for missing part of the speech of the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair). I know that he will accept my reason for not being here as I was returning from a visit to the Federal Republic of Germany, where I was studying training arrangements in that country. I answered many interested questions from the Germans about recent developments in our training policy, particularly training credits, which the Germans view positively and about which they were very encouraging.

I shall try to answer some of the questions posed by hon. Members during the debate, then offer one or two reflections on what is revealed by the exchanges on unemployment between the parties.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Edwards) on his maiden speech and, as other hon. Members did, on the fitting words that he used about his distinguished predecessor. I must say that I disagreed with what he had to say about the minimum wage. He should attend to the question put by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State about the job destruction effects of a minimum wage to the hon. Member for Sedgefield—a question that was not answered. The hon. Gentleman should perhaps answer it; I hope that he will take it seriously. He will find that it pays in this House to listen carefully to what each of us has to say and then to do intellectual justice to it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wirral, South (Mr. Porter) made a thoughtful speech with whose tone and substance I very much agreed, but I shall return later to some of what he had to say.

The hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton), the Chairman of the Select Committee, claimed that the youth training guarantee is not being honoured. I apologise for not yet having replied to his letter about YT opportunities in Newham. I shall ask for a draft tomorrow and reply as soon as I can thereafter. I emphasise that the Government are firmly committed to that youth training guarantee. This year we have increased spending on YT even though the number of young people has fallen by 5 per cent. The hon. Gentleman's assertion about the guarantee cannot be true globally speaking, however, for the simple reason that we have not reached the end of the school year and thus do not yet know how many claims will have been made on YT.

The hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) referred to alleged breaches of the guarantee, too. That was a bit rich coming from a member of a party that failed when in power to offer any guarantees to the unemployed.

Mr. McLeish

Is the Minister prepared to state that there is no TEC area in the country in which the guarantee is not being honoured?

Mr. Jackson

I have already explained that that does not arise until we know how many school leavers there are. We are firmly committed to the guarantee, and we will discharge it.

I particularly agreed with the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs) about the Employment Service and its value in advising and counselling the unemployed. The mocking words of the hon. Member for Sedgefield about the service were a serious misjudgment. He will find that all the professionals in the field will confirm the value of this kind of assistance. Every month, the Employment Service places about 100,000 unemployed people in work, and Opposition Members would do well to support this work, not to denigrate it.

The hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Carr) went on at considerable length about things that we already know about unemployment, but he conspicuously failed to come up with positive suggestions about what to do about it—and I very much regret that.

What I want to say next is perhaps a little unusual for a wind-up speech on an occasion such as this. One of the most interesting features of the debate has been the extent of the common ground between Government and Opposition. Some obvious common ground is to be found in our shared concern about unemployment and about the position in which unemployed people find themselves. The hon. Member for Ribble Valley should not claim a monopoly of concern for himself or his party.

Moreover, there is considerable common ground about what should be done and what can be done to help the unemployed. My hon. Friend the Member for Wirral, South was so right about that. There is no dispute between the Government and the Opposition about the importance of fighting inflation, either. The Opposition have come to accept the Government's view that there is no trade-off to be made between higher inflation and lower unemployment: we cannot spend our way out of unemployment.

Secondly, reference to a pay policy was conspicuously absent from the speeches of the hon. Members for Sedgefield and for Fife, Central. The Opposition, in short, accept the Government's view that state intervention in pay bargaining is not the right way to fight unemployment. That too is a major piece of common ground.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

The Minister said that he agreed with much of what my hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Carr) said about unemployment causing homelessness, poverty and ill health. We do not think that such a price is worth paying, but the Chancellor does. That is the important difference between us.

Mr. Jackson

I was trying to set out the areas of common ground. The speech by the hon. Member for Ribble Valley gave few clues to what the Liberal Democrats would do.

The third area of common ground between the Government and the Opposition is that, in response to probing by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State, it became clear that the Opposition's commitment to spending on training is hedged about with many qualifications on affordability. Plainly, the Opposition accept the Government's view that it is impossible for Government to beat unemployment by increasing public spending on training.

The debate has shown that the Opposition have no miracle cure for unemployment, a phrase that my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral, South was absolutely right to use. The Government have no miracle cure either, and nor have the Liberal Democrats.

The debate has shown a surprising amount of common ground on unemployment policies, but it also reminds us of what continues to be a fundamental difference between the parties. Government policy is committed to the principle of deregulation, to increased flexibility in the labour market, and to a reduction in the cost of employing labour, and that policy succeeded in creating more than 3 million new jobs in the 1980s. The Opposition are committed to a variety of measures to regulate the labour market, and they will all increase the cost of employing labour, reduce employment and destroy job opportunities.

The Opposition have chosen to focus on the problems of unemployment, and they owe the House and the country answers to the questions about their policies. I had hoped for some enlightenment from the hon. Member for Fife, Central, but there was none. I shall repeat some of the questions. Has the hon. Member for Sedgefield estimated the number of jobs that would be destroyed by the Opposition's industrial relations proposals? Has the hon. Gentleman estimated the number of jobs that would be lost if his proposals for a training levy were implemented because those proposals would add to industry's costs? If he has made such an estimate, perhaps he will tell us the number of jobs that will be destroyed. The hon. Gentleman nods, so I expect that he will do so in the near future.

Does the hon. Member for Sedgefield agree with the CBI estimate that the European social action programme, which his party endorses, will cost about 100,000 jobs? If he disagrees with that estimate, perhaps he will tell us why and let us know how many jobs he is prepared to see that programme destroy.

What is the Opposition's response to the Fabian Society's pamphlet about the job destruction effects of Labour's minimum wage policy? We have repeatedly asked that question but have had no answer. Does the hon. Member for Sedgefield agree with the Fabian Society estimate of 850,000 lost jobs? If he disagrees, perhaps he will tell us why.

To do justice to the hon. Member for Sedgefield, I should say that he has made some progress in shifting the Opposition's policy on employment and training away from some of the rather sterile and unconstructive posturing in which his predecessor engaged in the 1980s. We remember the line taken by the Opposition about youth training and the technical and vocational education initiative. The Leader of the Opposition said that they were fit only for hewers of wood and drawers of water, but now they are very popular with the Opposition.

To hear what the Opposition have to say about employment training, one would think that they had supported it from the start, but that was never the case. The hon. Gentleman has made some headway in making his party adopt a more constructive position, but until he is prepared to give some serious answers to the questions being put about the Opposition's policy, I fear that all his well-honed rhetoric will simply lack in credibility.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 208, Noes 284.

Division No. 158] [9.59 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley, N.) Buckley, George J.
Allen, Graham Caborn, Richard
Alton, David Callaghan, Jim
Anderson, Donald Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)
Armstrong, Hilary Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Canavan, Dennis
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)
Ashton, Joe Carr, Michael
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Clelland, David
Barron, Kevin Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Battle, John Cohen, Harry
Beckett, Margaret Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Beith, A. J. Corbett, Robin
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Corbyn, Jeremy
Bennett, A. F. (D'nfn & R'dish) Cousins, Robin
Benton, Joseph Cox, Tom
Bermingham, Gerald Crowther, Stan
Blair, Tony Cryer, Bob
Boateng, Paul Cummings, John
Boyes, Roland Cunliffe, Lawrence
Bradley, Keith Cunningham, Dr John
Bray, Dr Jeremy Dalyell, Tam
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Darling, Alistair
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Dewar, Donald Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Dixon, Don Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Dobson, Frank Martlew, Eric
Doran, Frank Meacher, Michael
Douglas, Dick Meale, Alan
Dunnachie, Jimmy Michael, Alun
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Eadie, Alexander Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Eastham, Ken Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Edwards, Huw Moonie, Dr Lewis
Evans, John (St Helens N) Morgan, Rhodri
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Morley, Elliot
Fatchett, Derek Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Fearn, Ronald Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Mowlam, Marjorie
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Murphy, Paul
Fisher, Mark Nellist, Dave
Flynn, Paul Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Foot, Rt Hon Michael O'Brien, William
Foster, Derek O'Hara, Edward
Foulkes, George Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Fraser, John Patchett, Terry
Fyfe, Maria Pendry, Tom
Galloway, George Pike, Peter L.
Garrett, John (Norwich South) Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Prescott, John
Golding, Mrs Llin Primarolo, Dawn
Gordon, Mildred Quin, Ms Joyce
Gould, Bryan Radice, Giles
Graham, Thomas Randall, Stuart
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Reid, Dr John
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Richardson, Jo
Grocott, Bruce Robinson, Geoffrey
Hain, Peter Rogers, Allan
Harman, Ms Harriet Rooker, Jeff
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Rooney, Terence
Haynes, Frank Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Heal, Mrs Sylvia Rowlands, Ted
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Ruddock, Joan
Henderson, Doug Salmond, Alex
Hinchliffe, David Sedgemore, Brian
Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall) Sheerman, Barry
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Hood, Jimmy Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Sillars, Jim
Howells, Geraint Skinner, Dennis
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Hoyle, Doug Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Hughes, John (Coventry NE) Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Soley, Clive
Illsley, Eric Spearing, Nigel
Ingram, Adam Steinberg, Gerry
Janner, Greville Stott, Roger
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Strang, Gavin
Jones, leuan (Ynys Môn) Straw, Jack
Kennedy, Charles Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Kirkwood, Archy Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
Lamond, James Turner, Dennis
Leadbitter, Ted Vaz, Keith
Leighton, Ron Wallace, James
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Walley, Joan
Lewis, Terry Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Livingstone, Ken Wareing, Robert N.
Livsey, Richard Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Loyden, Eddie Wilson, Brian
McAllion, John Winnick, David
McKelvey, William Worthington, Tony
McLeish, Henry Wray, Jimmy
Maclennan, Robert
McMaster, Gordon Tellers for the Ayes:
Madden, Max Mr. Allen McKay and
Mahon, Mrs Alice Mr. Thomas McAvoy.
Adley, Robert Favell, Tony
Aitken, Jonathan Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Fookes, Dame Janet
Amos, Alan Forman, Nigel
Arbuthnot, James Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Forth, Eric
Arnold, Sir Thomas Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Ashby, David Fox, Sir Marcus
Aspinwall, Jack Franks, Cecil
Atkins, Robert Freeman, Roger
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) French, Douglas
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Fry, Peter
Baldry, Tony Gale, Roger
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Gardiner, Sir George
Batiste, Spencer Garel-Jones, Tristan
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Gill, Christopher
Beggs, Roy Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Bellingham, Henry Glyn, Dr Sir Alan
Bendall, Vivian Goodhart, Sir Philip
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Goodlad, Alastair
Bevan, David Gilroy Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Biffen, Rt Hon John Gorst, John
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Body, Sir Richard Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Boswell, Tim Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')
Bottomley, Peter Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Grist, Ian
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Ground, Patrick
Bowis, John Grylls, Michael
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Hague, William
Brazier, Julian Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Bright, Graham Hampson, Dr Keith
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Hannam, John
Browne, John (Winchester) Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick Harris, David
Budgen, Nicholas Haselhurst, Alan
Burns, Simon Hawkins, Christopher
Burt, Alistair Hayes, Jerry
Butler, Chris Hayward, Robert
Butterfill, John Heathcoat-Amory, David
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Carrington, Matthew Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Carttiss, Michael Hill, James
Cash, William Hind, Kenneth
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hordern, Sir Peter
Chapman, Sydney Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Chope, Christopher Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Clark, Rt Hon Sir William Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Conway, Derek Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Irvine, Michael
Cope, Rt Hon John Irving, Sir Charles
Cormack, Patrick Jack, Michael
Couchman, James Jackson, Robert
Cran, James Janman, Tim
Currie, Mrs Edwina Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Curry, David Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Key, Robert
Day, Stephen King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Devlin, Tim King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Dickens, Geoffrey Kirkhope, Timothy
Dicks, Terry Knapman, Roger
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Dover, Den Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Dunn, Bob Knox, David
Durant, Sir Anthony Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Dykes, Hugh Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Eggar, Tim Latham, Michael
Emery, Sir Peter Lawrence, Ivan
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd) Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Evennett, David Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Fallon, Michael Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Lyell, Fit Hon Sir Nicholas Porter, David (Waveney)
McCrindle, Sir Robert Portillo, Michael
Macfarlane, Sir Neil Powell, William (Corby)
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Price, Sir David
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire) Raison, Rt Hon Sir Timothy
McLoughlin, Patrick Redwood, John
McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael Riddick, Graham
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Madel, David Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Malins, Humfrey Roberts, Sir Wyn (Conwy)
Mans, Keith Ross, William (Londonderry E)
Maples, John Rost, Peter
Marlow, Tony Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Sackville, Hon Tom
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel) Sainsbury, Hon Tim
Maude, Hon Francis Sayeed, Jonathan
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Shaw, David (Dover)
Miller, Sir Hal Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Mills, Iain Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Miscampbell, Norman Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Mitchell, Sir David Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Monro, Sir Hector Shersby, Michael
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Sims, Roger
Morrison, Rt Hon Sir Peter Skeet, Sir Trevor
Moss, Malcolm Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Moynihan, Hon Colin Soames, Hon Nicholas
Neale, Sir Gerrard Speller, Tony
Needham, Richard Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Nelson, Anthony Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Neubert, Sir Michael Squire, Robin
Nicholls, Patrick Stanbrook, Ivor
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Steen, Anthony
Norris, Steve Stern, Michael
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley Stevens, Lewis
Oppenheim, Phillip Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Page, Richard Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Paice, James Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N)
Patnick, Irvine Sumberg, David
Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath) Summerson, Hugo
Patten, Rt Hon John Tapsell, Sir Peter
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Pawsey, James Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Temple-Morris, Peter Watts, John
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N) Wells, Bowen
Thurnham, Peter Wheeler, Sir John
Townend, John (Bridlington) Whitney, Ray
Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath) Widdecombe, Ann
Tracey, Richard Wiggin, Jerry
Tredinnick, David Wilkinson, John
Trippier, David Wilshire, David
Trotter, Neville Winterton, Mrs Ann
Twinn, Dr Ian Winterton, Nicholas
Vaughan, Sir Gerard Wolfson, Mark
Viggers, Peter Wood, Timothy
Wakeham, Rt Hon John Woodcock, Dr. Mike
Walden, George Yeo, Tim
Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Waller, Gary Tellers for the Noes:
Walters, Sir Dennis Mr. David Lightbown and
Wardle, Charles (Bexhill) Mr. John M. Taylor.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 30 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.

MR. SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved, That this House congratulates the Government on the success of policies which have created over a million new jobs since 1979; welcomes the introduction of the most comprehensive range of measures ever available to help the unemployed back to work; notes the very substantial increase in spending on training over the last 12 years; and, in particular, supports the measures in the recent White Paper, Education and Training for the 21st Century.