HL Deb 04 July 1985 vol 465 cc1308-10

3.22 p.m.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what new initiatives they are considering to arrest the continuing decline of jobs in manufacturing industry.

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, the Government wish to see a flourishing manufacturing sector and our policies are directed at developing an economic climate in which all industries can improve their performance. The rate of decline in manufacturing employment has eased considerably since 1983, but in manufacturing, as elsewhere, jobs depend on the market for what is produced and markets depend on competing effectively.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply, but I do not think that the trend to which he refers applies in the West Midlands, where there is still a downfall in employment prospects. Only this week there has been another substantial loss of jobs. Are the Government doing enough financially to help major exporters—and I speak particularly of those in the West Midlands—who are trying to capture export markets? I use as an example the export of cars. British Leyland is still suffering under the penalties of exports to Spain, and then of course there is the question of breaking into the Japanese market. Are the Government really giving enough financial incentives to help major industries and manufacturers, such as, for example, British Leyland?

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, I am sure that all noble Lords who are concerned about unemployment, as we all are, will have seen the unemployment figures issued today which show a welcome fall of some 62,000 in the headline total and 7,000 in the seasonally adjusted figure. That represents the biggest fall in the seasonally adjusted level of employment in a single month since August 1979 and demonstrates that Government policies are working. Secondly, I hope that your Lordships will take cognisance of the fact that if we are to have a viable manufacturing industry, it may not necessarily employ many people, but we must have an industry in which productivity and profitability ride side by side to generate the wealth which will give employment in the rest of the nation. Thirdly, employment relates to much more than manufacturing. The policies that this Government have initiated and carried through over the past six years are showing that in industry once again we can compete with the best in the world.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, in his reply to my noble friend Lady Fisher the Minister said that market forces determine the level of employment in the manufacturing sector. Was he able to take on board an interview on the "Today" programme on the radio this morning in which a representative of the CBI from either London or the South-East quoted a case where the goods, the price, the quality and the delivery were right and the firm almost got the contract, but at the eleventh hour there was an intervention by the Japanese who came along with better financial arrangements, underpinned by their Government, and took the contract away from our manufacturer? Does he not agree that such practices should be stopped as quickly as possible; and when are we going to start bowling a few bouncers?

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, I did not say that market forces determine the level of manufacturing industry. The determining factors are good management, good work practices, a view to quality and good delivery. I am aware that the Japanese, as well as many other nations, give special credits. I have no doubt at all that we can hold our place with other countries, if not in total. What such programmes as "Today" rarely do is to report on the instances where we take contracts from other nations.

Lord Davies of Leek

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply, but are we not impaled on the horns of a dilemma in so far as modern technology is advancing labour-saving devices and we are getting the production without the muscle power which we had in the past? Consequently, do we now not have to look at work and hours of work from a different philosophical point than we have through the centuries? In other words, the question of hours of work and further education in how to use leisure should be one of the concerns of any party which gets into power.

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, that is a philosophy of despair. Some countries are seriously worried about how they will find the people to fill the jobs between now and the end of the century. What keeps us back is not technology, but ourselves.

Lord Ezra

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that our major competitors abroad have achieved a considerable degree of consensus on the industrial revival policies that they pursue? Is it the policy of Her Majesty's Government to seek to achieve a similar degree of agreement in this country?

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, it is an old saying that it takes two to tango. In order to have consensus two people need to sit down to discuss the same problem. It is not always the case that that happens.

Lord Leatherland

My Lords, can the Minister tell us how many people are now registered as unemployed, and how does that number compare with what was the total when the Government came to office? Did the Minister fail to hear me? If that be the case, I shall speak a little more loudly. Can he tell us how many people are now registered as unemployed, and how does that number compare with the total when this Government came to office?

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, I have no wish to avoid answering questions of this nature, but the Question on the Order Paper is specifically about the manufacturing sector. The increase in the number of unemployed since 1979 is common knowledge, and the figure has gone up substantially. Incidentally, on the chart that we have been following the line of increase is no greater than the line of increase since the 1970s. But what is different today is that the employment that we have has a firm foundation. I sincerely believe that the steps that this Government have taken are restoring employment on a permanent basis.

The Earl of Lauderdale

My Lords, is it not the case that 100,000 new jobs have been created under this Government?

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, last year the United Kingdom created twice as many jobs as the whole of the rest of Europe put together.

Lord Brockway

My Lords, I welcome the reduction in unemployment announced today, and I do not wish to be partisan. However, is the Minister aware of the depressing psychological effect of unemployment on thousands or even millions of people in this country, in particular young school leavers, who become anti-social in a society which does not want them? Is not something serious happening as a result of unemployment to the relationship of many thousands of people towards the community?

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, without wishing in any way to sound immodest, I suspect that there are few Members of your Lordships' House who have spent more time than I have dealing with the subject of unemployment, and I am as concerned as anyone else about it. But what the Government have done for the employment of young people stands comparison with what has been done by any nation of the world. The new two-tier Youth Training Scheme will be a very great step forward.

It is not necessarily unemployment which demotivates young people. Sometimes I used to wonder at the state in which they reached us after 11 years of compulsory education. I wondered what it had done for them.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

My Lords, the noble Lord the Minister said that he was answering a Question concerning manufacturing industry. I am not sure whether his answers have been in reply to the Question I put down. Will he answer this question? What assistance are the Government giving to the car industry to help it to get into Spain?

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, Spain is one particular case, but if one really wants to know what help the Government are giving to the car industry, one should ask Jaguar. They have transformed themselves because they have realised that the only way to win orders and expand business is not to look for Government help and Government handouts, but to ensure productivity, reliability, delivery time and competitive pricing. These are matters in which the Government cannot intervene; only manufacturers can.

Forward to