HC Deb 15 June 1995 vol 261 cc880-2
6. Mr. Booth

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the economic benefits of falling unemployment. [27037]

Mr. Aitken

Unemployment has fallen by 661,000 since December 1992. Our assessment is that this has made a major contribution towards the Government's aim of promoting rising prosperity for all.

Mr. Booth

As unemployment in Finchley has fallen by 16 per cent, over the past year, I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his assessment of unemployment. Has he taken time to look at unemployment in France and Spain, and do not the very much worse figures in those countries exist because they have adopted just the sort of policies that the Labour party would impose on us?

Mr. Aitken

My hon. Friend is right to highlight the fact that in Britain unemployment is falling faster than in any other major country in the European Union and that it is far lower than in France and Spain. Youth unemployment is 50 per cent. higher in France and 250 per cent. higher in Spain than in Britain. My hon. Friend asks why those differences, which are so much in our favour, have occurred. The answer is that those countries have the minimum wage; we do not. Those countries have a social chapter; we have opted out of a social chapter. Those countries have rigid labour markets; we have deregulation. We have Conservative free market, supply-side reforms and policies, whereas France and Spain have continued to cling to the same tired old socialist policies that the Labour party still espouses.

Ms Armstrong

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman recognises that many of the problems that he has identified have led in this country to job insecurity, which I know is a matter about which he himself is concerned. Has he noticed that a survey said yesterday that more people in work are increasingly insecure about the future and worried about losing their job? Does he not understand that that insecurity, coupled with the still far too high unemployment levels, mean that much of the Government's strategy for economic growth is put under threat?

Mr. Aitken

That is a feeble retort to the case that I made in the supplementary answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mr. Booth). As he reminded us, unemployment in his constituency has come down by 16 per cent., so people are not feeling so insecure in Finchley. Since December 1992, unemployment in Durham, North-West, which the hon. Lady represents, has come down by nearly 1,000 people—a fall of 23.3 per cent., so she does not have much to complain about.

Mr. Gallie

In response to the hon. Member for Durham, North-West (Ms Armstrong), does my right hon. Friend agree that the greatest threat to workers' jobs would come with the election of a Labour Government and that therein lies the greatest feeling of insecurity?

Mr. Aitken

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. There are many Labour policies, such as a minimum wage, that will destroy jobs. He represents a constituency in Scotland and he will be well aware that the policies for a tax-raising Scottish Assembly are absolutely guaranteed to scare away the magnificent flow of inward investment projects that are coming into Scotland at a rate of two a week— they will go as soon as there is a tax-raising Scottish Parliament. All the extra policies, such as the minimum wage, and all the high expenditure will destroy jobs faster than anything else.