HL Deb 19 June 1981 vol 421 cc817-9
Lord Bruce of Donington

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they consider themselves bound by Recommendation No. 122 (Employment Policy Recommendation, 1964) of the General Conference of the International Labour Organisation.

Lord Lyell

My Lords, Her Majesty's Government fully subscribe to the general principles contained in International Labour Organisation Convention No. 122 (Employment Policy Convention 1964) to which ILO Recommendation No. 122 is a useful supplement.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that, according to the forecast of the Manpower Services Commission, of the 1 million who are expected to become school-leavers this summer only 50 per cent. are likely to obtain employment and that by 1982 the figure will probably be one-third? How does the noble Lord reconcile that with the quite specific and not general obligations that the Government assumed in ratifying Convention No. 122, requiring that they should pursue a policy of full employment as a major political objective and that the policy should aim at a situation in which—and I quote: there is work for all who are available for and seeking work"?

Lord Lyell

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, mentioned by name the Manpower Services Commission and their forecast, but the special employment measures which are being undertaken by the Government in the current year will receive approximately £1 billion, and that will not be a mere fleabite. I would also add that the Youth Opportunities Programme alone will be assisting more than 400,000 young people in the present year, which is a major improvement over the last two years. I think that that in itself is an adequate response to the queries of the experts.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, does the noble Lord appreciate that the measures to which he has referred are in the main endeavours to deal with the situation but not to deal with the real problem; and although he says that the Government fully subscribe to the recommendation referred to in this Question, does he not accept that the unemployment problem is mainly due to the fiscal and economic policies of the present Government?

Lord Lyell

In one word, my Lords—No.

Baroness Gaitskell

My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Lord how he reconciles his Answer with the fact that cuts have been made against all types of education—higher education, medium education, primary education, everything. And now that we know that in the years to come there will have to be more unemployment because of "silicon chips with everything", does he not agree that we should be giving special help to education throughout the whole range in order to create jobs?

Lord Lyell

My Lords, the policies of education run hand in hand with the Youth Opportunities Programme. Certainly so far as the question posed by the noble Baroness is directed at youth opportunities in general and unemployment it can be answered by the fact that Government policies are, first, to reduce inflation, which in itself will produce stable employment opportunities once we have conquered inflation.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the answers he has given are thoroughly unsatisfactory? Is he not aware that the Government are not pursuing, as a major objective of policy, the aims set out in the convention, and in the circumstances, in view of the Government's desire to secure a shakeout of employment in industry, would it not be far more honourable to denounce the convention itself in accordance with Article 7 of the convention?

Lord Lyell

My Lords, perhaps I might draw the noble Lord's attention to paragraph 1 of Article 1 in the convention where I think the noble Lord will find these words: each member shall declare and pursue, as a major goal …"— and that is exactly what this Government are doing.

Lord Rochester

My Lords, is it not about time that we all recognised that any Government, of whatever political complexion, will now have to face severe problems of unemployment in a world recession and that we should do all we can to alleviate unemployment, particularly among young people?

Lord Lyell

My Lords, that is a helpful question for which I thank the noble Lord. Indeed we are doing that.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, will my noble friend take the opportunity of reminding the Opposition that the cut in the schools higher education programme is a reflection of the very much smaller number of people coming forward for educational purposes, and that those cuts were made for reasons resulting from the drop in the birthrate many years ago—no doubt in times of Socialist rule—by 3 per cent., whereas the actual cut in education is about 1.5 per cent.? So, in fact, per head of the pupils in our schools there has been an increase in expenditure.

Lord Lyell

My Lords, I am grateful for support from my noble friend, and indeed from all quarters of the House, but I think that is going just a margin wide of the Question on the Order Paper.

Lord Shinwell

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that I am surprised to learn from the questions and the answers that the ILO is now dealing with the constructive effect of unemployment rather than with employment? I always understood, certainly from my earlier experience, that the ILO was responsible for general conditions in connection with the employment of the working class and also for matters of safety and the co-ordination of efforts among the various nations associated with the ILO. Is this something new that the ILO has undertaken?

Lord Lyell

My Lords, I do not think so. I do have a document which relates to every country which has ratified conventions since 1919, which was a little before my time. No doubt the noble Lord could tell us that the policy is the same and has remained the same in the ILO ever since then.

Lord Spens

My Lords, would the noble Lord the Minister agree that there are a number of restrictive practices operated by the trade unions which are preventing employers from taking on more employees?

Lord Lyell

My Lords, I think that that, again, is a little wide of the original Question.

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