HC Deb 15 March 1994 vol 239 cc735-6
9. Mr. Flynn

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what proposals he has to improve the accuracy of employment statistics.

Miss Widdecombe

We have introduced a number of improvements over the past two years. Further improvements, based on completion of the inter-departmental business register are in hand.

Mr. Flynn

Has the Minister noticed that, in the meaningless propagandist fantasy of Government employment figures, the record number of part-time workers are counted as full-time workers, that the number of self-employed are estimated and out by at least 1 million and that more than 1 million people are counted twice? Can the Minister answer a question without blaming the last or the next Labour Government and confess that the employment figures are a tissue of Waldegraves?

Miss Widdecombe

The hon. Gentleman—as is consistent with Opposition Members—is extremely selective in the sources that he quotes and, as usual, misses completely the fact that in addition to the growth in employment figures we also published the labour force quarterly survey, which gives all the breakdowns that he has just mentioned. We published it, he can read it; I suggest that the Labour party does so.

Mr. Gallie

Is my hon. Friend aware that many early retired people are forced to sign on to ensure the continuance of their national insurance contributions? Does she believe that, in many instances, such people are not seeking work and are falsely inflating the unemployment figures?

Miss Widdecombe

It is undeniable that we include figures in our claimant counts that the International Labour Organisation does not include in its count. It is also true therefore that of course the figures are inflated by the numbers that my hon. Friend suggests. Nevertheless, it is right that people should sign on for national insurance credits. It is also right that there should be more than one measure. As I have to say yet again, all the measures show the same figures and the same trends. That means that they are the best possible guide to what is happening in Britain.