HL Deb 02 February 1982 vol 426 cc1201-3

2.49 p.m.

Viscount Hanworth

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 that they have given sufficient publicity to their statement in this House on 25th November (col. 835) that Britain has a higher percentage of employed than any other European country except Denmark; but that the increase in average pay since 1977 has been greater than elsewhere with only a minimal increase in productivity.

Lord Lyell

My Lords, my noble friend had this to say on 25th November: We have a higher percentage of our population in employment in this country than any other member state in the European Community except Denmark". It does not follow from that that we have a lower unemployment rate, but it does demonstrate the large number of jobs which have been sustained by our economy even in the depths of a recession.

Viscount Hanworth

My Lords, while I accept what the noble Lord has said, and thank him for it, he does not answer the second part of my Question, which was, why do the Government not give greater publicity to these kind of facts, which, although not in any way showing that unemployment is not a terrible thing, do at least tend to show that we here are not alone in experiencing it? Furthermore, would the Government realise that their public relations have been, in the opinion of many—including a number of their supporters—worse than those of any Government in recent years?

Lord Lyell

My Lords, in attempting to answer the precise details of the second part of the noble Viscount's Question, I am sure that he and the rest of your Lordships will be interested to see that these precise figures were spelt out by my noble friend in the next column of Hansard, column 836, in the debate in which the noble Viscount took part. This Government believe that they publicise to the very best of their ability what they are doing to try to cure unemployment; but certainly we believe that we should publicise the remedies and not seek to apportion blame.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that the truth behind the statistics is as follows: under the Governments of Mr. Heath, Mr. Wilson and Mr. Callaghan the standard of life of the British people crept up slowly but never in any way diminished? It only started to drop when this Government took over.

Lord Lyell

No, my Lords.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that the phenomenon to which the Question draws attention, coupled at the same time with a very high rate of unemployment, is due to the fact that we have a larger workforce—that is to say, people both in jobs and seeking jobs—in relation to the population than any other European country?

Lord Lyell

My Lords, the noble Lord is absolutely right. There is still currently one European country which has a higher proportion of its population in work—that is Denmark. I understand that proportion is dropping dramatically as the rate of unemployment in Denmark rises equally dramatically.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, does the noble Lord agree, before he gets too enthusiastic about our high level of employment, that our figures are swollen by the fact that they include a very large number of women working only part-time who cannot really rank as part of full employment? That is the reason why the figures in Denmark are so high—because so many of their women also work part-time.

Lord Lyell

My Lords, I totally agree with the noble Baroness and of course it also relates to the Question that I was asked.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

My Lords, keeping the last question in mind, does my noble friend also take into account that the number of unemployed has been swollen by 1 million married women who in previous years would not have ranked to be included in the statistics at all?

Lord Lyell

In part, yes, my Lords.

Viscount St. Davids

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the ineptitude of the Government's publicity tends to set certain minds in the direction of thinking that this ineptitude spreads to other areas? This is perhaps unfair on the Government, but it means that some further effort should be made towards publicity for their own case.

Lord Lyell

My Lords, I believe that this Government's arithmetic is no better or worse than that of any other Government. This Government just use the figures and tell the truth.