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11. Mr. Stevens : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many representations he has received following the publication of the labour force survey ; and if he will make a statement on its conclusions.
Mr. Fowler : The 1988 labour force survey was published in March and since then I have received a number of communications on it. The survey results confirm that there has been a continued and strong growth in employment. Between spring 1987 and spring 1988 employment increased by 682,000, of which 60 per cent. was among full-time employees ; self- employment grew by 160,000, continuing the upward trend of recent years and unemployment fell by more than million and remained at a lower level than the monthly unemployment count.
The survey confirmed the picture of rapidly falling unemployment recorded by the monthly unemployment count.-- [Interruption.]
Mr. Stevens : I thank my right hon. Friend for that substantial reply. In the Employment Gazette did my right hon. Friend notice the figures that showed that 4.8 million people of working age received training and education courses in 1986 compared to 2.1 million in 1984? Does my right hon. Friend agree that those figures, taken with the labour force survey, the International Labour Organisation and OECD estimates of unemployment, show that the claims about unemployment and training levels made by Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen to be just mischievous nonsense?
Mr. Fowler : Yes. My hon. Friend is right. What the labour force survey reveals above all is that the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) has been fiddling the unemployment figures upwards for months.
Mr. Fowler : I do not have the full figures on that, but I shall seek to get them for the hon. Gentleman. However, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the labour force survey shows that 60 per cent. of the growth in employment is accounted for by full-time work and that in the past 12 months 75 per cent. of new jobs created have been full-time.
Mr. Bill Walker : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the information coming from the labour force survey shows very clearly how much Scotland has benefited from the policies of this Government and indeed, that there are more people in work today? In particular, the growth in high technology, the new satellite industry, leisure, recreation and tourism shows that the Scottish economy is in good shape.
Column 178create new jobs. It has been attracted into this country by the strength of the economy and the policies of this Government.
Mr. Nicholls : My right hon. Friend has no plans to do so. Many provisions in health and safety legislation require specified tasks to be carried out by competent persons. The Health and Safety Commission keeps these provisions under review. If the commission wishes to make proposals to my right hon. Friend which would affect the role of competent persons in any particular area, he will of course consider these proposals most carefully.
Mr. Nicholls : The reason why the concept of a competent person has been enshrined in our legislation for many years is that it puts the onus on the employer in those circumstances to ensure that the person is competent. I think that the hon. Lady will agree with me on reflection that to actually have a requirement of competency is often better than having a test of qualification. Whether somebody is competent is a matter of fact.
Mr. Cope : Gross provision for the Health and Safety Commission and Executive in the three years from 1 April last is £118.3 million, £125.9 million and £133.5 million, as shown in the public expenditure White Paper. The provision allows for real growth in the executive's activities in all three years, including an increase in the number of inspectors, and of inspections.
Mr. Pike : As the Government have also indicated that they will make additional funding available only in exceptional circumstances, will the Minister indicate, if the Government are committed to the Health and Safety Executives, whether a continuing rise in the accident rate would be one of the factors which would influence additional funds being made available?
Column 179to submit evidence to Lord Justice Taylor's inquiry into the Hillsborough disaster? Does the executive's statutory responsibility to inform the public about safety matters or its liaison function with local authorities have any bearing on safety measures at football grounds?
Mr. Cope : It is not part of the Heath and Safety Executive's direct responsibility under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act or other legislation of that sort, but it is advising on safety measures and will continue to give such advice as is required both to the authorities in charge of the football grounds and to the inquiry.
Mr. Meacher : How can the Minister give such complacent answers about funding when his Department is continually extending the responsibilities of the Health and Safety Executive without providing any extra resources to implement them? How can he justify introducing the new and important Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations this year without providing extra resources to enforce them? Is it not pure gesture politics to will the end but to refuse to will the means?
Mr. Franks : That figure will be welcomed by all hon. Members, or at least by all Members who sit on the Conservative Benches. Is it not the case that the youth training scheme was, and still is, opposed by the Labour party? Is not the Government's record in stark contrast with the hollow words and crocodile tears of the Labour party?
Mr. Cope : The Labour party does not seem to be of one mind about YTS. Sometimes it supports it and sometimes the Labour party gets in its way. I thank my hon. Friend for his comments about the figures. In Barrow in Furness, 90.4 per cent. of young people who complete YTS obtain employment and that is even better than the national average.
Mr. Wood : Is my hon. Friend aware that YTS has made a major contribution in Stevenage to many young people's successful transition from school to work? Is my hon. Friend satisfied that the work in terms of the two year scheme is going well?
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Wakeham) : I have been asked to reply This morning my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister addressed the conference on security and co- operation in Europe forum at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre. This afternoon my right hon. Friend will attend the 150th anniversary of independence celebrations in Luxembourg.
Mr. Cohen : Was a computer error which indicated plenty of space on the terraces one of the contributory factors to the Hillsborough disaster? Would not computer failure at turnstiles checking ID cards repeat the conditions which led to those deaths? Is that not a powerful reason for the Government to withdraw their Football Spectators Bill, await the inquiry report and have a radical re-think with the emphasis on safety?
Mr. Wakeham : My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said yesterday that it would be seemly to delay progress on the Football Spectators Bill for a short while in view of Saturday's tragedy at Hillsborough stadium. I do not wish to add to that statement and I think that we should allow a little time to elapse. However, the Government believe that the future of football in this country lies in a national membership scheme in designated grounds and now, it seems, in providing all-seated accommodation at major football grounds.
Mr. Amery : My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is reported to have said that a European monetary union would lead to a European federation and a European Government. Will my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House remind my right hon. Friend the Chancellor that the countries of the British Commonwealth and empire operated a single currency for more than 30 years under the guidance of a single reserve bank--the Bank of England--without ever coming near to a federation? Will he remind him of the guidance given in an old hymn :
"I do not care to see the distant scene
one step enough for me"?
Would he also remind him of the opportunities which we lost with regard to the coal and steel authority and the Messina conference through too pedantic an attachment to phraseology?
Mr. Wakeham : My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be grateful to my right hon. Friend for his words and his wisdom in these matters. However, I assure him that any recent announcement with regard to the Government about a united states of Europe is simply not on the agenda.
Mr. Hattersley : Having had 24 hours in which to appreciate the mood of the House and the country, are the Government now willing at least formally to suspend consideration of part 1 of the Football Spectators Bill until the Taylor inquiry has reported on the whole subject of safety at football grounds without the inhibition or pressure of concurrent parliamentary legislation?
Mr. Wakeham : The Third reading of the Football Spectators Bill in the House of Lords was fixed for 24 April. That has been postponed, and no new date has yet been arranged. The Bill is an enabling framework. The Government have already given a full commitment not to implement the membership scheme within that framework until satisfactory arrangements have been worked out. That commitment still stands and, obviously, now embraces the lessons to be learnt from this tragic event.
Mr. Hattersley : That answer is, I think, word for word, what the Home Secretary said yesterday and is equally lacking in meaning. May I put a wider point to the Leader of the House. Will the Government understand the advantages to the whole country of proceeding on this subject by co- operation rather than confrontation? Will the Leader of the House make it clear to the Prime Minister that, given goodwill on both sides, such co- operation is possible? It is absurd that this should become a party political matter. We do not want that to happen, and I do not think that the country wants it to happen.
Mr. Wakeham : Neither do the Government want it to happen, but if there is to be goodwill on both sides the hon. Gentleman had better listen to the replies that are given. I was not repeating what the Home Secretary said yesterday.
I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.
Mr. Wakeham : My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer made clear yesterday the fundamental and far-reaching nature of the proposals in the Delors report. I can assure my hon. Friend that the proposals for a united states of Europe are simply not on the agenda. There can be no question of future treaty amendments along the lines of the Delors report. We cannot accept the transfer of sovereignty that that implies. What we should be doing is pressing ahead with completion of the single market by 1992--a major task, to which the United Kingdom is totally committed.
Mr. McAllion : I know that the Leader of the House will wish to join me in sending the sympathy of the entire House to the family and friends of the young Dundee girl who was killed by two Rottweiler dogs last Friday. The House cannot turn away from its clear responsibility to control and restrict the availability of licences for these and other powerful and potentially lethal dogs. Will the Leader of the House therefore consult his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary with a view to the initiation of an immediate review of the no-licence situation and the
Column 182early introduction of legislation to ensure that these killer dogs are removed from, and safety restored to the streets of this country?
Mr. Wakeham : I shall certainly consult the Home Secretary. I have read about the recent tragic incident in Scotland. There has long been legislation to control dangerous dogs, and remedies are available once it is clear that a particular dog is dangerous. The breeding of dogs for sale commercially is already controlled by legislation. We do not think it sensible to try to extend these controls to private individuals who wish to sell the offspring of pets. We are therefore not contemplating legislation to control a particular breed or type of dog. However, I shall refer the matter to my right hon. Friend.
I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.
Mr. Burns : Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating Chelmsford borough council on its "operation eyesore" this week for cleaning up litter blackspots in the area? If my Control of Litter (Fines) Bill is unsuccessful, owing to the absence of parliamentary time, will the Government be prepared to bring in legislation to give all local authorities the power to impose on-the-spot litter fines? Could shops, fast -food outlets and banks be compelled to keep the pavements outside their premises litter-free?
Mr. Wakeham : I certainly congratulate the Chelmsford borough council on the steps that it is taking to combat litter. I hope to be in Chelmsford on Friday to have a look at it. Litter is everybody's problem, and we are all involved in finding solutions. Local authorities, in particular, have a valuable job to do. The Government are considering a variety of measures to back up litter abatement activities, including those provided for in my hon. Friend's Bill.
Mr. Ashdown : Can the right hon. Gentleman deny that 7.5 million people in Britain now drink water with excessive levels of lead, and 5 million people drink water with nitrate levels which exceed the European standards? Can he deny that Britain is liable to be brought before the European Court for those infringements? What action do the Government intend to take to ensure that we are not prosecuted for failing to provide safe water for the people of Britain?
Mr. Wakeham : I cannot confirm or deny the hon. Gentleman's figures, but I am glad to hear that he is supporting the steps that the Government are taking to improve the quality of water through the National Rivers Authority.
Mr. Rowe : Will my right hon. Friend pass on to his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister an invitation for her to visit Mid-Kent and other parts of Kent so that, with her considerable interest in the problems of the environment, she can see for herself the immense pressures to which that county is now subjected as a direct consequence of the success of her own policies?
Q4. Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Prime Minister pursuant to her reply of 21 March, Official Report, column 511, if she will make a statement on the further proposals to help Brazil in research into forestry regeneration and allied subjects ; and what resources are being earmarked for the conservation of the Amazonian rain forest.
We have written to the Brazilian Government offering to finance further expert advice and research on the conservation and management of the Amazonian rain forests and on climate change. We have also offered more training in the United Kingdom in environmental disciplines. We have suggested sending soon to Brazil a team from the Overseas Development Administration to discuss those possibilities and any other proposals which the Brazilians may make.
Mr. Jacques Arnold : Will my right hon. Friend ask the Prime Minister to make it clear to the Government of Brazil that there is no intention to internationalise the Amazon basin and that we respect their sovereignty, but, nevertheless, we expect the Brazilian Government to give a lead in conservation in that area and to make clear to the rest of the world the assistance that they require?
Mr. Corbyn : Will the Leader of the House give an undertaking that the Government will in no way support the funding of projects in the Amazon rain forest which lead to the destruction of that forest by either the EEC, the World bank or the international monetary fund? Will he also accept that the serious problem of the destruction of rain forests in Amazonia and elsewhere is partly caused by the debt crisis, which imposes an economic system on those countries which forces them to destroy the rain forest and thus damage the environment for the rest of the world?
Column 184I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.
Mr. Favell : Does my right hon. Friend agree that, ahead of the Taylor inquiry, it is wrong to condemn the police for the Hillsborough disaster last Saturday? When I started going to Hillsborough football ground 40 years ago with my parents and my young brother and young sister, the crowd capacity was far greater than now, there were few policemen, fans were not segregated and people felt safe inside and outside the ground. In other words, if people only treated each other now as they did then, one policeman would not have been faced with the dreadful life and death decision that had to be made last Saturday and we may well have avoided the appalling loss of life.
Mrs. Mahon : Will the Leader of the House advise home workers in my constituency, who have just had their wages halved by F. K. I. Babcock, how they can survive when they have to pay soaring interest rates and manage with inflation running at nearly 8 per cent.?
Since my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's return from Africa, she has received numerous congratulations on the success of the visit.
Sir Hugh Rossi : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Prime Minister is to be congratulated on the part that she was able to play in Namibia, and that the decision, endorsed by Cuba and Angola as well as South Africa, for the withdrawal of SWAPO forces fully vindicated her condemnation of their cynical contravention of the United Nations plan and the Geneva protocol, and their attempt to dominate elections down the barrel of a rifle?
Mr. Wakeham : My right hon. Friend is right. SWAPO's initial action caused tragic and unnecessary loss of life. But the UN plan has survived a severe test. What matters now is that the proposed cease-fire should be made to work and that preparations should resume for free and fair elections. We are doing everything possible to help. The House will welcome the role that our signallers are playing in manning the assembly points in northern Namibia.
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