HC Deb 09 June 1992 vol 209 cc135-7
7. Mr. Austin Mitchell

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what was the level of male unemployment in Grimsby (a) in 1982 and (b) at the latest available date.

Mr. McLoughlin

In June 1983, the earliest date for which figures are available, on the unadjusted basis there were 8,380 men claiming unemployment-related benefits in the Grimsby travel-to-work area. There has been a reduction of 10.4 per cent., leaving a total of 7,507 in April 1992.

Mr. Mitchell

Is it not disgraceful that in the second Government-induced recession unemployment is almost up to the level that it attained in the first Government-induced recession, at about one man in six in Grimsby? Is it not also disgraceful that at such a time the Government are cutting spending on training? Instead of praying for a recovery, which cannot come at present interest rates, the Government should expand the economy and improve spending on training and the quality of its provision.

Mr. McLoughlin

That is an obvious example of a hon. Member who prepared his supplementary before he heard the answer to his main question and stuck to it irrespective of the main answer. As I have said, there was a reduction of 10.4 per cent. in the year to April 1992, the year about which the hon. Gentleman asked. We really expect better of him.

9. Mr. Hinchliffe

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what has been the change in the level of unemployment since 1979; and if she will make a statement.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard

Seasonally adjusted unemployment in the United Kingdom rose by 1.607 million between April 1979 and April 1992. It is still about 430,000 less than at its peak in July 1986.

Mr. Hinchliffe

I remind the Secretary of State that, as a direct result of Government policy, about 20,000 mining-related jobs have been lost in the Wakefield district during that period. When will the RECHAR and European social fund programmes commence in mid-Yorkshire, and when will local authorities be advised of the details of the schemes that are to be included? What assessment has been made of the implications of Government proposals for the privatisation of coal in areas such as the Wakefield district, not just in terms of miners' jobs but for industries such as mining engineering?

Mrs. Shephard

Jobs in manufacturing, as in all other sectors, have obviously been affected by the downturn in the economy. As the hon. Gentleman knows, manufacturing's share of GDP has declined under all Governments. The programmes that he mentions are matters for my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, and I shall draw his attention to the hon. Gentleman's comments.

Mrs. Peacock

Can my right hon. Friend tell the House what percentage of the United Kingdom population is in work and how that compares with our EC neighbours?

Mrs. Shephard

The interesting thing is that 70 per cent. of people of working age in our population are in employment, which is higher than the EC average of 58 per cent.

Mr. Malcolm Bruce

Does the Secretary of State accept that that is unhealthily complacent of the Government? Will she accept that it is not just a waste for individuals but a waste of resources to keep people unemployed, as it costs £8,600 for each person in loss of benefit and taxation? Will the Government introduce schemes that will put people back to work, build up our manufacturing base and help to achieve the Government's own programme of maintaining services and cutting taxes?

Mrs. Shephard

There is no complacency in the Government. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the best way to put people out of work is to pursue the sort of policies that he and his hon. Friends supported up to the election. The programmes in place and mounted by my Department, the Employment Service and employment training, are the best possible ways of getting people back to work as quickly as possible. I also remind the hon. Gentleman that two thirds of all the newly unemployed leave unemployment within six months. It is down to the Employment Service to help them to achieve that.

Mr. Jenkin

In seeking to create employment opportunities in the United Kingdom and in resisting, rightly, the European "shirking" hours directive, will my right hon. Friend consider using all means at her disposal and will she help the House to defy the European Court if necessary?

Mrs. Shephard

As I have already said, the United Kingdom has made it clear from the outset that we resist the directive and consider it to be unjustified. We believe that it will impose liabilities on our labour market that we do not need and do not want. I remind my hon. Friend that it is being brought forward, unjustifiably, under the qualified majority voting procedure. On legal challenge, I rule nothing in and nothing out at this stage.