HL Deb 01 May 1968 vol 291 cc1085-6

2.35 p.m.


My Lords, beg leave to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are now able to say what have been the respective decline in employment and growth in unemployment in manufacturing and distribution since the introduction of selective employment tax in terms of number and proportion up to the end of December, 1967, and what more recent figures are available; and what infer ences Her Majesty's Government draw from these figures.]


My Lords, between June, 1966, and June, 1967, there were reductions in employees in employment of 276,000, or 3.1 per cent., in manufacturing and 127,000, or 4.3 per cent, in the distributive trades. Employment statistics for the latter industry are only available for June each year. Over the same period the numbers of registered wholly unemployed increased by 77,000 in manufacturing and 23,000 in the distributive trades. Employment in the distributive trades and in the group of industries bearing S.E.T. increased each year from 1959 to 1966, even in years when employment in manufacturing fell. There has thus been a marked change between 1966 and 1967 in trend in employment in the tax-bearing industries. It seems likely that selective employment tax played a major part in bringing about this change.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for that Answer, which plainly requires to be carefully examined, may I ask Whether it is the intention of the Government to maintain the selective employment tax in being? Do they expect that by so doing they will be able still further to reduce the numbers of people in distributive trades? Finally, do the Government think that the very heavy discrimination against the distributive trades has been justified by the figures he has given?


My Lords, in regard to the first part of the Question, the Government continue hopeful, as on all occasions in all matters. With regard to the second part, I do not think I can usefully answer that, because it raises the whole question of the value or disadvantage of selective employment tax which we have debated on a number of occasions. I am sorry that I cannot, therefore, be more helpful.


My Lords, do the Government consider that they have enough figures available, and are they being kept in such a form, as to enable them to make satisfactory inferences?


My Lords, I would agree that if a lot more figures were available it would be possible to make more detailed and, above all, more up-to-date inferences; but that would involve recruiting more civil servants.

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