HC Deb 16 February 1993 vol 219 cc124-7
11. Mr. Hain

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if she will give the latest figures for adult male unemployment in (a) the United Kingdom, (b) Wales, (c) the valleys programme area and (d) Neath.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard

The unadjusted rates are 14.2 per cent.,14.2 per cent., 19.6 per cent. and 13 per cent. respectively.

Mr. Hain

The Secretary of State has confirmed that one in five adult males is unemployed in the south Wales valleys area, That is a disgraceful figure. When added to the one in five who are economically inactive, that means that four in 10 people are seeking work or wish to work in the south Wales valleys area. When will the Secretary of State stop mouthing fine words and coming up with seminars and gimmicks, and when will she do her job of creating employment in this country by carrying out a programme of investment—not gimmicks, schemes and other words of sympathy?

Mrs. Shephard

I share the hon. Gentleman's concern for all people facing unemployment, but he surely welcomes the fact that unemployment in Neath, his constituency, has fallen in the past 12 months. He must be delighted, too, that unemployment is lower in Wales than in some regions of England and that that is due in no small part to a highly successful programme of inward investment which last year brought 17,000 jobs to Wales with capital expenditure of more than £1 billion. The hon. Gentleman asks about action; that is action, but it has been welcomed by him and his comrades in the TUC as alien action.

Mr. Richards

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Wales has attracted inward investment by more than 1,000 companies since 1981 creating tens of thousands of jobs? Does she agree that if the Labour party were to have its way with the social chapter that inward investment would dry up?

Mrs. Shephard

There is no question about it. Indeed, if Opposition Members were to have their way with many of the other lunatic policies that they wish to pursue—for example, punitive taxation of successful companies, levies and burdens on business, support for the social chapter and for the national minimum wage—it would discourage inward investment and hence the creation of jobs.

Mr. Dobson

Can the right hon. Lady confirm that the figures that she has just given for the United Kingdom show that we now lose no fewer than 15 million working days every week because of unemployment? Does she agree that it is the economics of the madhouse for Britain to attempt to do without the products, goods and services of the people that her Government have thrown out of work? Is it not time that, instead of just expressing her concern and coming up with fiddled figures, she did something about getting people in this country back to work? They want real jobs, and when they are at work they want to be paid well enough to be able to bring up their families.

Mrs. Shephard

Earlier the hon. Gentleman exhorted us to cut the cackle, which is pretty rich coming from someone who has raised blustering to an art form. He is quite right when he says that what people want is real jobs, and real jobs can come only from the pursuit of low inflation, low interest rates and low burdens on businesses —exactly the reverse of all the policies pursued and supported by Opposition Members.

Mr. Jenkin

May I emphasise to my right hon. Friend that we recall how we created jobs in the 1980s by maintaining a low taxation, low interest rate and high incentive economy? I draw her attention to the unemployment record in France, which has been linked by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development directly to the application of minimum wage legislation, which demonstrably destroys jobs.

Mrs. Shephard

It is indeed the case that the experience of France in terms of job creation was in direct contrast to our own during the 1980s, when our supply-side measures were described as impressive by the OECD.

12. Mr. Wigley

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what is her latest estimate of unemployment among persons aged under 21 years.

Mr. McLoughlin

Claimant unemployment figures by age are produced quarterly and for specific age bands only. On the unadjusted basis, there were 243,928 claimant unemployed people aged under 20 in the United Kingdom in October 1992.

Mr. Wigley

Is the Minister aware of the disastrously high level of youth unemployment in many parts of Wales and elsewhere? Is he aware that for those leaving youth training schemes the unemployment level in Wales has increased from 15.9 per cent. in 1990 to over 26 per cent? Is this not a totally unacceptable level? In these circumstances, why on earth do the Government cut back the money available to the training and enterprise councils, as they have with the West Wales TEC, where they have cut back £800,000, when the money is desperately needed to give training opportunities to young people?

Mr. McLoughlin

What the hon. Gentleman is saying is that 74 per cent. of those who go on youth training schemes manage to find jobs when they finish their course. I should have thought that he would welcome that. My right hon. Friend has made it perfectly clear that we stand by the guarantee to all people in that age bracket, and if for any reason any TEC cannot meet that guarantee, we are willing to consider whether extra resources can be made available to it.

Mr. Riddick

Does my hon. Friend accept that we on the Conservative Benches fully understand the terrible difficulties that unemployment brings for individuals and their families? Does my hon. Friend agree that a system of workfare, particularly for young people, is worthy of consideration? Not only would it ensure that certain useful environmentally friendly jobs were carried out; it would also give those young people an opportunity to have contact with the world of work.

Mr. McLoughlin

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who will acknowledge the change that we have made already whereby young people will not have the opportunity of claiming benefit without going through training or further education. With regard to workfare, I can only say that we are looking at a number of schemes that have been put to us.

Mr. Barry Jones

Does the Minister know that some of our biggest companies are closing their apprentice training schools? Does he know that this is particularly the case in steel, textiles and aerospace? What will the Government do about this serious development, which will prove to be the route to industrial suicide unless they do something about it?

Mr. McLoughlin

My right hon. Friend mentioned the damage that had been done to the apprenticeship scheme, and the way in which many trade unions tried to pursue larger wage increases. We are determined to ensure there is proper training and look forward to a change and to reversing the policy of the Opposition so that they start supporting training schemes we have taken forward.

Mr. Tredinnick

Does my hon. Friend agree that as far as workfare is concerned, there are already schemes in place that assist those who are unemployed and that it would be better to look at a scheme such as this as an additional resource for the unemployed? Might not there be competition for such a scheme because of the additional resources that will be provided?

Mr. McLoughlin

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. A number of schemes are available, such as employment action, which has been very successful and useful in the community.