§ Mr. Cook
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if, in the light of the Prime Minister's statement during Question Time on Thursday 29 January, he will publish in the Official Report the annualised cost to the public sector of the current level of unemployment, itemised by increased benefit payments and reduced tax and national insurance contributions.
§ Mr. Brittan
[pursuant to his reply, 2 February 1981, c. 33]: As I made clear in the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) on 29 January—[Vol. 997, c. 1058]—the average direct cost to the Exchequer of a change in unemployment is in the region of £3,500 per person becoming unemployed, though this figure will vary widely from individual to individual. An article explaining this calculation will be published in the February issue of the Treasury's Economic Progress Report. As is explained in the article, an average figure of this kind cannot be grossed up to provide an estimate of the direct Exchequer cost of all those presently unemployed. Moreover, it is not correct to infer that the Government could employ individuals at this level of earnings without incurring additional net costs, quite apart from any other indirect consequences for the economy as a whole.
Estimated expenditure on unemployment and social security benefit payments for 1980–81 referred to by my right hon. Friend are as follows:
Estimated 1980–81 expenditure on: £ million Unemployment benefits 1,176 Supplementary benefit payments to unemployed 1,235