HC Deb 03 July 1968 vol 767 cc243-4W
Mr. Judd

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity what steps she has taken to revise the travel-to-work areas which are used by her Department for unemployment percentages and some other employment statistics.

Mr. Fernyhough

Percentage rates of unemployment are prepared for individual exchange areas where these areas comprise "self contained" labour markets, and for groups of employment exchange areas in other places where there may be such a considerable volume of daily travel to work between a number of areas as to make the production of unemployment rates for the individual constituent parts unsound.

The existing travel-to-work areas have been in use, with some modifications, since 1953. Changes in the location of industry, the general tendency towards travel to work over greater distances and the consequent changes in travel to work patterns since that time have meant that in many areas the groupings now in use are unrealistic and the percentage rates of unemployment quoted for certain areas where travel to work has become extensive no longer reflect the real degree of unemployment in the labour market area.

My Department has, therefore, conducted a review of these travel-to-work areas on the basis of systematic criteria for the whole of Great Britain, using among other sources of information Census of Population data. As a result, from the count of unemployment on 8th July percentage rates of unemployment will be available for 170 travel-to-work groups and 296 individual employment exchange areas compared with 130 groups and 512 individual employment exchange areas as at present. In addition, there are a certain number of areas where no changes have been recommended at present but where changing travel-to-work patterns suggest that some review is necessary. Further consideration will be given to the position in these areas in the light of information now becoming available.

Where as a result of this review, exchanges, or small groups which were previously separate, have been joined in an enlarged "travel-to-work area" the new percentage rate of unemployment will result from amalgamating the figures used to provide the previous separate rates and will therefore in some cases be lower and in some higher than the previous separate percentages. The opposite effect will be seen in the less frequent cases in which a previous group has been split, producing new rates higher and lower than the previous rate. This is an inevitable consequence of a review of this kind, and where it occurs is a reflection of the changed travel-to-work patterns which have made the review necessary.

I am satisfied that the unemployment rates in the revised travel-to-work areas will provide a more satisfactory indicator of the real degree of unemployment in the labour market area than has been the case hitherto.