§ 5. Mr. Skinner
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what estimate he has made of the effect of the introduction of jobseeker's allowance claimants on the unemployment figures since October 1996. 
§ Mr. Skinner
Is the Minister aware that there is hardly anyone in Britain, apart from the Tory bunch opposite, who does not realise that the jobseeker's allowance is another one of the many fiddles—there have been about 30 in all—used by the Government to kid people that there are only 1.8 million people out of work? The truth, as the News of the World reported on 17 November, is that 4.1 million people are out of work.
However, I can tell the Minister that good times are coming: I have just left a meeting of the Labour party national executive committee and we have decided to keep the jobseeker's allowance just long enough to clear the Tories out of office and make them stand in line—unless they moonlight—so that they will know how it feels to have to queue up to receive the paltry amount of money that the Tory Government offers. After that, we shall abolish the jobseeker's allowance.
§ Mr. Forth
The House eagerly awaits a statement from the hon. Gentleman about what occurred in the national executive committee today. Perhaps he will catch your eye, Madam Speaker. I assume from the hon. Gentleman's remarks that, were there to be a Labour Government, one of its first actions would be to declare that there are more than 4 million people out of work. That would be an interesting proposition. That is the logic behind the hon. Gentleman's comments.
The fact is that the Labour party believes what the International Labour Organisation and the European Commission have signed up to, which is that the labour force survey shows that about 2 million people in this 347 country are out of work. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to take that issue up with his hon. Friends on the Labour Front Bench: I will leave them to sort it out among themselves.
The jobseeker's allowance is a genuine attempt to ensure that unemployed people who expect support from the taxpayer through benefits are available for and actively seeking work. If they are, they will have the full support of the Employment Service. I am delighted to say that, as a result of that measure, unemployment continues to fall.
§ Mr. Bill Walker
Does my hon. Friend agree that getting rid of a helpful allowance is an interesting proposition which would bring back the winter of discontent and the good time that we all enjoyed under the last Labour Government?
§ Mr. Forth
My hon. Friend is right. Most hon. Members remember very clearly what happened under the Labour Government—that is to say, the winter of discontent. It will be interesting to hear what the Labour party says in the next few weeks and months about its commitments on trade union and industrial relations law and on the jobseeker's allowance. That will be a key test of Labour's proposals. I await a statement from the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) to clarify the position.
§ Mr. Pearson
Is the Minister aware of the widespread dismay felt by jobseekers in the west midlands at recent reports that half of manufacturing companies are experiencing recruitment difficulties while those jobseekers have not had even the merest sniff of a job? Why does not the Government scrap crap schemes—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—such as project work and provide real assistance to people who are out of work?
§ Mr. Forth
That was obviously an example of new Labour, new language. I assume that the hon. Gentleman is in close collusion with his hon. Friends on the Front Bench, who are constantly telling us about literacy and higher educational standards. If what he has just said is an example of their drive for higher standards, it does not bode well for the future.