HC Deb 11 July 1995 vol 263 cc734-6
7. Mr. Dunn

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many people were in full-time work at (a) 1 July 1993 and (b) 1 July 1995. [31788]

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

Over the quarters ending August 1993 and February 1995, there were 19 million and 19.2 million people in full-time employment in Great Britain.

Mr. Dunn

Will the Secretary of State please spell out the implications for those in employment of the introduction of the social chapter, the minimum wage, and the loss of inward investment that would result from the policies of the Labour party and the parliamentary part-timers, the Liberal Democrats?

Mrs. Shephard

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his lovely blond hairstyle. As he well knows, the social chapter would roll back successes made in the United Kingdom in the past decade in modernising our industrial relations and removing the regulation that deters employers from taking on extra people. In the past decade, we have also provided extra help for unemployed people to find work.

The social chapter would increase burdens on employers. It would raise unemployment. Conservative Members believe that terms and conditions of employment should not be laid down by Government, much less by Brussels, but should be negotiated between employers and employees. Obviously, a national minimum wage would deter job creation. It would deter enterprise and destroy jobs. That is obvious to everyone except the Labour party.

Mrs. Mahon

Is it not true that nearly 600,000 women in part-time jobs had to stay there because they could not obtain full-time jobs, and that 2.5 million part-timers earn less than the national insurance threshold, thus excluding them from statutory sick pay, maternity pay and a retirement pension? How does the Minister believe those people will live when they get sick and when they get old?

Mrs. Shephard

It is true that the growth of employment in the early stages of recovery was concentrated among part-timers, but the hon. Lady should also know that full-time employment has now increased at a faster rate than part-time employment, and that only 14 per cent. of people who worked part time this winter did so because they could not find a full-time job. The imposition of a national minimum wage is the wrong way to tackle low pay and unemployment, and women would suffer the worst as a result.

Mr. Tredinnick

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the number of people employed in manufacturing increased by 15,000 in the quarter to March, and that that was the third quarter running? Will she also confirm that many of those jobs are in the east midlands, and most of them are full-time jobs?

Mrs. Shephard

I agree with my hon. Friend. Indeed, the Government's general approach to the labour market—a sound macro-economic policy, open trade and flexible labour markets—has helped the recovery and the creation of jobs, which he so rightly welcomes, in the east midlands as elsewhere in the country.

Ms Harman

Bearing in mind that, when the Secretary of State was Employment Secretary, she brought in the legislation that abolished the wages councils, thereby taking away low pay protection from 2.5 million workers, will she confirm to the House the figures that are in the latest labour force survey, which show that, in spite of the fact that pay for those in the bottom of those wages council sectors has fallen, and therefore they have suffered from the loss of that low pay protection, there has been no increase in jobs in those sectors and therefore we have the worst of all worlds—losing low pay protection and no extra jobs?

Mrs. Shephard

The hon. Lady has misread the labour force survey. She should know from that that the wages of those who were previously covered by wages councils have increased faster than other wages. I repeat that pay must be a matter for determination between employers and employees. The hon. Lady needs to understand that a national minimum wage would have precisely the effect that she would so much deprecate.