HL Deb 15 October 1985 vol 467 cc467-70
Lord Hatch of Lusby

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 how many new jobs have been created in the United Kingdom since June, 1983, and what are the comparative figures of unemployment over the same period.

The Minister of State for Defence Support (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, the latest date from which comprehensive employed labour force figures are available is March 1985. Figures for June will be published tomorrow. Between June 1983 and March 1985 the United Kingdom employed labour force increased by 626,000. During the same period, the number of unemployed claimants rose by 214,000.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the unemployment figures in this country, which were published 10 days ago, are the highest for the OECD, and are higher than those as a percentage of the labour force for Italy, France, West Germany and the average for the OECD? Can he tell us how it is that as unemployment has been rising, so, according to his figures, has employment?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the answer to that question is simple. The employable labour force has been increasing at a faster rate than the number of vacancies; the number of jobs has been increasing. As for comparisons with other countries, although there are some OECD figures such as those to which the noble Lord refers, unemployment is higher in a number of countries in the OECD than it is in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, trends in the United Kingdom are now favourable whereas the trends in other OECD countries are less so.

Lord Harvey of Prestbury

My Lords, can my noble friend say how the figures compare with other EC countries?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I do not have all the EC figures in front of me; but I have just referred to the OECD figures, and some of the OECD members are members of the European Community as well.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

My Lords, can the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, really be realistically answered without a full inquiry into the so-called black economy?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I am certain that the noble and learned Lord is right to suggest that the figures for the so-called black economy, which are not readily available, might put a different complexion upon the answers that I have given today.

Baroness Turner of Camden

My Lords, may I ask what special arrangements the Government are considering in connection with those areas of the country where the unemployment figures are much higher than the national average? I am speaking particularly of areas such as Merseyside, where according to the latest figures unemployment is over 20 per cent., and Tyne and Wear, where again the figures are over 20 per cent.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the noble Baroness is right to suggest that there are wide regional variations in the figures that I have referred to this afternoon. There are a number of regional support schemes and job creation schemes, most of which have their focus in the areas to which the noble Baroness has referred.

Lord Sainsbury

My Lords, may I ask the Minister whether it is not a fact that many of the people who have found jobs are women working part-time who were never on the unemployment register?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, it is factors such as that which have some effect on the figures to which I have referred. However, perhaps it is worth saying that a number of persons who are available for employment are doubtless only available for part-time employment, and the same applies to the number of jobs. So we are comparing like with like.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

My Lords, despite the many figures which have just been given, is it not a fact that per thousand of the population we have more people in work in this country than any other European country except Denmark?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, my noble friend is quite right to say that. He is indeed correct.

Lord Murray of Epping Forest

My Lords, further to the point previously made, would the Minister not agree with me that it is a fact that the employment of males is falling, that the employment of females is falling, and that the only increase in employment—of which great play has been made in terms of jobs being created—is, as has been said, that of females working part-time? Is the Minister not concerned that the level of employment in manufacturing industry is still 25 per cent. below that of 1979? What steps are the Government intending to take, as distinct from speeches being made, to rectify this appalling situation?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the noble Lord is right when he says that the number of people employed in manufacturing industry has fallen; but the number employed in service industries has greatly increased not only in this country but right across the countries of the OECD and others. As for what the Government are doing, I believe the fact is that there are more people working in the United Kingdom now than at any time in our history. We need to ensure that the present trend of the increase in the number of jobs continues and then we shall see the number of those unemployed declining.

The Earl of Lauderdale

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that these figures, so far as they go, on the whole are encouraging rather than discouraging in that the curve for new jobs is rising and the curve for new people coming into the labour market is beginning to decline? Is it not also the case that the complaint that many jobs are half-time jobs ill matches the argument for a shorter working week and even a shorter working life?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I sure my noble friend is right in what he says, but then I have despaired of encouraging noble Lords opposite long since.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, may I press the Minister further on the point that was raised by my noble friend Lord Murray, as to where this increase of 600,000 plus jobs has actually been created? Are they in the service sectors or are they in the manufacturing sectors? Secondly, cutting across all the figures of jobs created, while the Government can claim some statistical success, is it not a fact that if the record over the last 12 months is repeated there will be 3½ million out of work next year, which is quite an increase on the present number?

Lord Trefgarne

No, my Lords, indeed, I believe the trend is in quite the reverse direction of that to which the noble Lord points. For his further information, employment in services over the period to which I have referred increased by 230,000; the number of self-employed has also increased by a very substantial number, 380,000 over the same period; also there has been a substantial increase in part-time employment which noble Lords opposite seem to deplore so much.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, will not the noble Lord agree that the whistling-in-the-dark figures which he has given this afternoon will mean nothing to the millions of out of work married men with young children and to the millions of out of work young people with young children? Will he not agree that we on this side of the House have sat here now for four years, listening to the Government opposite telling us that recovery and a massive reduction in unemployment will be taking place in a few months' time? When will this Government take seriously the problem of mass unemployment?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, it is of course the case that too many people are unemployed and that I deeply regret. However, the fact remains that 23,665,000 people are employed, which is 650,000 more than in the previous period in question.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

My Lords, may I ask my noble friend the Minister whether he is able to give the House any figures for jobs which are advertised at Jobcentres, that is job vacancies at Jobcentres, throughout the country?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, yes, I can help my noble friend. There were 184,000 jobs available at Jobcentres in September, last month. We reckon that that is about one-third of the total number of jobs available.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, I——

Lord Leatherland

My Lords, the noble Lord has had one turn! May I ask the Minister whether he can tell us how many young people who have graduated from our universities in the last two years are now unemployed?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I have not that figure in front of me, but I dare say that many of them form a portion of the 650,000 new jobs to which I have already referred.

Lord Leatherland

My Lords, is it possible for the Minister to send those figures to me?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I shall certainly make inquiries into the point which the noble Lord raises and, if I have anything to add to what I have already said, I shall write to him.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord to elaborate on his first answer to my question? I asked how it can be that there are more employed whilst unemployment is going up. Is not the answer that that includes the 870,000 hidden unemployed referred to in the Government's own labour force survey of 1984, and that they should be added to the total number of unemployed when the figures are published each month?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, no. The answer to the noble Lord's earlier question, as to why the number of unemployed was not declining while the number of jobs was increasing, is that the size of the work force is increasing even faster than the number of jobs.

Viscount St. Davids

My Lords, is it not of some interest to the noble Lord that the number of jobs advertised by the Institute of Personnel Management for new personnel managers seems to be increasing rather quickly? Would he not conceive it as a possibility that usually they hire the personnel managers, then later hire the personnel? Would this be of some interest to him?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I think I am entitled to take the same comfort from that observation as does the noble Viscount himself.

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