HC Deb 19 January 1993 vol 217 cc245-6
3. Mr. Winnick

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what are the latest official figures for the numbers unemployed and the percentage of unemployed; and what the corresponding figures were for May 1979.

The Secretary of State for Employment (Mrs. Gillian Shephard)

On a seasonally adjusted basis, claimant unemployment in the United Kingdom stood at 2,908,900 or 10.3 per cent. of the work force, in November 1992; compared with 1,087,000, or 4.1 per cent. of the work force, in May 1979.

Mr. Winnick

The increase since 1979 should shame every member of the Cabinet, not least the Secretary of State herself. Is not it clear that unemployment will substantially increase even further shortly—to well over the 3 million mark—even on the official figures? Do not the Government recognise that they are playing with fire by allowing such high unemployment, with all the resulting misery, poverty and devastation which it causes for our fellow citizens? If the Secretary of State had any pride, she would resign.

Mrs. Shephard

The hon. Gentleman knows very well that I share his concern about unemployed people. But I am not inclined to take any lessons from him or his hon. Friends on how to deal with unemployment, given the extraordinary proposals emanating from the Labour Front Bench in the so-called shadow budget for jobs. He and his colleagues should recall that the last shadow budget cost Labour the election. This one shows that they have learnt no lessons in economics. Their policy would damage investment and training and cut jobs, yet they call it a budget for jobs. It is ridiculous.

Sir Michael Neubert

Does my right hon. Friend, like me, find the suggestion that high unemployment is unique to this country a touch unconvincing? Can she say how many people are out of work in Europe today and how that compares with 14 years ago?

Mrs. Shephard

My hon. Friend is right—we share the difficult problems of unemployment and the recession that causes it with other member states in Europe and countries further afield in the industrialised world. Only the policies of this Government can possibly cope with unemployment. The ridiculous shadow budget for jobs shows the Opposition's cynisism, when they deliberately seek to tax out of existence industries that provide 350,000 jobs.

Ms. Quin

The House would welcome some information from the Secretary of State about how she proposes to prevent unemployment from rising to more than 3 million. Would she like to comment on the figures that she supplied to me yesterday in a written reply showing the extent of adult male unemployment, which has rocketed not only in the north, where it is 16.4 per cent., but in the south-east, where it is 13.2 per cent? Do not those figures show the savage decline in our manufacturing? What will the Government do to ensure that employment in manufacturing increases?

Mrs. Shephard

The first thing that we would not do would be to tax manufacturing out of existence, which is the intention of the Labour party. We need policies of low inflation, low interest rates, a competitive exchange rate, low wage claims and the largest-ever range of help and opportunities for unemployed people, which we have in place.

Mr. Evennett

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that measures in the Chancellor of the Exchequer's autumn statement will create new jobs in this country and that, with the low inflation announced last week, there is a tremendous opportunity for new job creation in the economy during the next few months?

Mrs. Shephard

That is precisely why the autumn statement was so widely welcomed by business interests. The increase in capital allowances, extra help to boost exports, the cut in car tax and help for the construction industry were all welcomed by business, which creates jobs. Those measures will help to combat the difficult problem that all of us face.