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Labour Statistics (Leicester)

11. Mr. Janner : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment whether he will make a statement regarding the current level of unemployment in the city of Leicester.

Mr. Eggar : In November 1989 there were 9,629 unemployed claimants in the local authority area of Leicester, a fall of 1,902 or 16.5 per cent. over the last 12 months.

Mr. Janner : Is the Minister aware that over the past 12 months the hosiery and knitwear industries in Leicester have lost 4,000 jobs and that the Government's research programme cannot possibly save them because it will be too late to do so? Will the Government announce some help for the knitwear and hosiery industries in my constituency in view of the growing unemployment in those vital industries that have long been traditional and important to the city?

Mr. Eggar : I shall certainly draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to the points made by the hon. and learned Gentleman. I know that similar points were made during last Friday's debate.

Mr Ashby : Does not my hon. Friend agree that although his reply is good news, that is despite the fact that the loony Left-wing Leicester council policies encourage unemployment in Leicester?

Mr. Eggar : I quite understand my hon. Friend's concerns about Leicester council's policy. Clearly, anything that adds to the costs for employees and employers in Leicester is likely to lead to unnecessary job losses.

Mr. Jim Marshall : Is the Minister aware that in many parts of the city of Leicester, unemployment is in excess of 25 per cent. and still increasing, and that it will increase further as local industry is facing increased pressure because of high interest rates? In the light of that, will he put pressure on his colleagues who are in charge of economic affairs to ensure that interest rates decline as quickly as possible?

Mr. Eggar : I am slightly surprised by the hon. Gentleman. Why does he have to write down his own local area in Leicester? Unemployment has fallen sharply in Leicester, as it has elsewhere in the east midlands. Why does he not point out that, rather than the problems of the industries?

Labour Statistics

12. Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what has been the change in the unemployment rate in the United Kingdom in 1989 and in other major industrialised countries ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Howard : Between January and September 1989, the latest comparable date, the rate of unemployment has fallen faster in the United Kingdom than in any other major industrialised country. With permission I will publish a full comparison in the Official Report.

Mr. Greenway : Is not that a matter for great congratulation for this Government? Is it not a fact that

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the Delors social charter certainly would not have improved employment in this country? Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that even in boroughs such as Ealing, in which the Left-wing Labour council has both doubled the industrial rates and is thoroughly anti-business, jobs have increased as a result of Government policies?

Mr. Howard : My hon. Friend is absolutely right, particularly in what he said about the social charter. However, the improvement in employment rates that he identified is not limited to Ealing. I hope that we shall see the principal Opposition spokesman on employment, the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) rise to his feet to welcome the 50 per cent. fall in unemployment that has occurred in his constituency in the past three years.

Mr. Cryer : Is not any fall in unemployment a fall from the peak created by this Government? When does the Secretary of State expect unemployment to fall to the 1979 level? Does he think that there is any connection between the £20 billion balance of trade deficit achieved by the Government--another peak--and the 2 million jobs lost in manufacturing industries since 1979?

Mr. Howard : I never cease to be amazed at the devotion shown by Opposition Members to jobs that existed in loss-making firms which offered no security either to the workers or the firms. The 2.75 million extra jobs that have been created in this country since 1983 are in firms that make profits and are secure for the long term.

Mr. Holt : As the resurgence in economic activity in Cleveland is a major contributor to the better figures that my right hon. and learned Friend has in front of him, will he find five minutes to write to Cleveland county council to tell it to accept the figures and the truth instead of asking its research and intelligence department to try and concoct false ones because it does not like the good news from Teesside?

Mr. Howard : I look forward to spending at least five minutes discussing that matter with my hon. Friend, so that we ensure that my letter correctly represents the facts.

Mr. Salmond : How can there be any further progress in reducing unemployment when the United Kingdom's whole economy is restrained because of overheating in one part of it? Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman read the research published in the current issue of the "Fraser of Allander Quarterly Economic Commentary", which reveals that manufacturing industry outside the south-east will suffer most from the Government's policy of high interest rates? Will he make respresentations to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to help give businesses in Scotland, the north and Wales a chance to achieve economic recovery?

Mr. Howard : I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's analysis. Industry and employment throughout the country have benefited from the framework created by Government policies.

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Following is the information :

International comparison of unemployment rates                                            

(per cent.)                                                                               



Italy          |11.1          |<2>11.3       |0.2                                         

Norway         |<1>4.8        |<3>5.0        |0.2                                         

Netherlands    |9.4           |n/a           |n/a                                         

Japan          |2.3           |2.2           |-0.1                                        

France         |9.7           |9.5           |-0.2                                        

Canada         |7.5           |7.3           |-0.2                                        

Germany        |5.7           |5.5           |-0.2                                        

United States  |5.4           |5.2           |-0.2                                        

Sweden         |1.5           |1.3           |-0.2                                        

Portugal       |<1>5.2        |<3>4.9        |-0.3                                        

Finland        |3.7           |<4>3.4        |-0.3                                        

Belgium        |9.3           |8.9           |-0.4                                        

Spain          |<1>17.7       |<3>17.0       |-0.7                                        

Australia      |6.8           |6.0           |-0.8                                        

United Kingdom |7.1           |6.0           |-1.1                                        


OECD total     |6.4           |<4><5>6.1     |-0.3                                        

Major seven    |5.8           |<5>5.6        |-0.2                                        

EEC            |9.3           |<5>8.9        |-0.4                                        

<1> February.                                                                             

<2> April.                                                                                

<3> May.                                                                                  

<4> August.                                                                               

<5> Estimated.                                                                            



Q1. Mr. Dykes : To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 16 January.

The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher) : This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings today.

Mr. Dykes : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the best way to maximise the advantages and opportunities for Britain in the developing European Community is for Members of Parliament and Members of the European Parliament to work more closely together in future, not grow further apart?

The Prime Minister : I understand that the Procedure Committee has some proposals to make on that matter, and its report will be debated in this House in due course. It is most important to work together in such a way that Europe is open for trade and is not protectionist, and that it operates in such a way that the rights of this House--the sovereign and oldest House of Parliament in the European Community--are well and truly respected.

Mr. Battle : Why are the Government continuing to allow the dumping of industrial toxic waste into the North sea, despite comments made during last night's Second Reading of the Environmental Protection Bill, international assurances, and the protests made by the rest of Europe? Will the Government continue blatantly to disregard international agreements and the environmental health of the North sea?

The Prime Minister : I have checked the law and the reports, and they confirm that we agreed to phase out dumping of industrial waste into the North sea by the end

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of 1989, except where there was no practicable land disposal option--which requires a great deal of planning permission and investment. But then we have to show to the satisfaction of the Oslo Commission that waste dumped at sea will not cause harm. That is being done, so we are not infringing any of our legal


Q2. Mr. John Greenway : To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 16 January.

The Prime Minister : I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Greenway : Farmers in my constituency believe that there is a contradiction in the attitude adopted by the European Commission, which wants to see greater progress made towards monetary union but is nevertheless prepared to reduce the gap between the real and notional value of the green pound by only one third. How can there be a single European market for agriculture when that crippling disadvantage for British farmers is so lightly dismissed by Brussels bureaucrats?

The Prime Minister : As my hon. Friend knows, farm price differences are due to the arrangements for green currency. We agreed to phase out the green currencies by the end of 1992, which will be of great benefit to our farmers, and we must hold our partners to that agreement. Meanwhile, the Commission's current proposals will reduce the gap by one third, which is a step in the right direction. Whether or not that goes far enough is a matter for negotiation in the coming months.

Mr. Kinnock : Does the Prime Minister recall telling the House last year that, under the present Government, there is no incomes policy? Why did she change her mind?

The Prime Minister : The right hon. Gentleman is not correct. Under this Government, it is for the private sector to determine its pay levels and for the Government, as an employer, to determine their pay levels.

Mr. Kinnock : I wish to jog the Prime Minister's memory by quoting from Hansard. She said :

"Under this Government there is no incomes policy."--[ Official Report, 16 February 1989 ; Vol. 147, c. 482.]

Perhaps she can explain why she has two incomes policies in the public sector--one for the top paid, above the rate of inflation, and one for the remainder, below the rate of inflation. Why does she not come clean and admit that, even though it would mean swallowing her own words?

The Prime Minister : The right hon. Gentleman does not understand what an incomes policy is. If he did, he would know that there is no incomes policy under this Government. It is for the private sector to determine pay arrangements in relation to productivity and bearing in mind the need to keep prices competitive. It is for the Government, in the public sector, to determine the rate of pay for those who come directly under our employment. To do that, we have observed the recommendations of the pay review bodies for those people who do not go on strike. We have observed the many negotiating arrangements. The position is much more complex than the right hon. Gentleman understands.

Sir Fergus Montgomery : If the NHS management bows to industrial action by the ambulance men and decide to

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raise the offer, what message would that convey to the 84 per cent. of NHS workers who, last year, settled their pay claims through the usual negotiating machinery?

The Prime Minister : My hon. Friend is right. The pay claim that is being resolved now should have been settled last spring or early summer. That pay round was settled at 6.5 to 6.8 per cent. by some 84 per cent. of NHS employees including nurses, administrative and clerical grades, senior managers, ancillary staff, building trade operatives and medical laboratory scientific officers. They all settled at the right time for between 6.5 and 6.8 per cent. It would be unfair if, because the ambulance workers did not settle and have gone on strike and disrupted some of their work, they were to receive more than those who settled and did not strike.

Q3. Mr. Bill Michie : To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 16 January.

The Prime Minister : I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago-- [Interruption.]

Mr. Michie : I am here. Will the Prime Minister admit to the shabby Government policy that restricts ambulance crews having a decent living wage, while around her she has highly-paid colleagues who make more moonlighting than they earn as Members of Parliament? Is it not time that she cleaned up this sleaze Parliament?

The Prime Minister : I thank the hon. Gentleman for calling attention to his place. I am used to answering Sheffield questions from that area. I do not agree with him. As he is aware, the ambulance men have had a revised offer costing another £6 million this year, which varies between 9 and 16.3 per cent., according to where they work and their qualifications, and for a period of 18 months. That is a good offer. It is 16.3 per cent. for those with more qualifications because we want more ambulance men with more medical qualifications. I hope that they will return to the relevant Whitley council and accept the offer.

Mr. Aitken : When my right hon. Friend speaks of the need to preserve the right of this sovereign Parliament, is she fully aware of the disadvantage under which we are working because of the flow of documents from Europe? Is she further aware that during the past 12 months the European Commission sent this House 765 legislative documents consisting of 10,000 pages? That is an impossible total for the House to carry over and above its existing domestic legislation. Surely we need to reform our procedures as soon as possible.

The Prime Minister : I agree with my hon. Friend that there is an enormous amount of extra work involved in properly scrutinising the many documents that come before us. I hope that the report of the Select Committee on Procedure will soon be debated in the House and I hope that when all the arrangements are in place for 1992 that stream of directives will be infinitely less. As I have said frequently in the House, we have to remember that no other Parliament in the European Community is as central to the life of a nation as this one, and that is not surprising, because we are the oldest sovereign Parliament in the Community.

Q4. Mr. Andrew Welsh : To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 16 January.

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The Prime Minister : I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Welsh : Does the right hon. Lady agree with President Gorbachev when he says that the people of Lithuania have an absolute right to independence if they so choose? Does she know about today's opinion poll in Scotland, in which the Conservatives have gone down to 16 per cent.--a level at which they would be almost wiped out in the House--which adds to their annihilation at a European level? When the Scottish people say yes to self-government what will be the Prime Minister's reply?

The Prime Minister : It is for Mr. Gorbachev to make his views clear, which he does very competently. Expenditure per head in Scotland is 23 per cent. above the United Kingdom average, so Scotland does very well out of the Government. When the time comes, it will be for Scotland to consider whether it wants to throw over those advantages for something less.

Q5. Mr. Bendall : To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 16 January.

The Prime Minister : I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Bendall : Is my right hon. Friend aware that, under the block services grant, Redbridge will suffer? The national change is about 11 per cent., but in Redbridge we shall get 6.7 per cent., which is a shortfall of 4.3 per cent. Will my right hon. Friend comment on that?

The Prime Minister : I am not sure that I recognise all of my hon. Friend's figures. Redbridge will do well from the proposed grant settlements, and it will receive 27 per cent. more income from the Government grant and business rates in the coming year than it received this year from those sources. Many hon. Members would be very pleased with such a settlement.

Mr. Michael J. Martin : Six thousand people are unemployed in my constituency, and more than one third have been unemployed for more than a year. What will the right hon. Lady do about unemployment in Britain?

The Prime Minister : I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will take advantage of the new employment training arrangements which are very successful. He will be aware that it is vitally important that we train people for new jobs, and that we do not necessarily try to keep the old ones. That is why we have set up the new training and enterprise councils which I hope will give training and jobs

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to more of his constituents. It would also help if they welcomed private enterprise and co-operated to keep costs down.

Q6. Mr. Arbuthnot : To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 16 January.

The Prime Minister : I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Arbuthnot : Is my right hon. Friend aware that the system for compensating people who are affected by road and rail developments leaves something to be desired? Does she agree that if we did as the French do-- more than compensate people who are affected--we might find that we cut out some of the delays that we face when building the roads and railways that we so badly need, and in the long run we might save a great deal of money?

The Prime Minister : I know that the viewpoint put by my hon. Friend is popular as a way to get things done more quickly. He will be aware that we compensate people with the full market value at the moment, and there are certain other disturbance costs granted to people who have to move. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is considering whether we need to give more compensation, but that would mean legislation in a new Bill. Perhaps, if we come to that conclusion, there will be time in the next Session.

Q7. Mrs. Rosie Barnes : To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 16 January.

The Prime Minister : I refer the hon. Lady to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mrs. Barnes : Does the Prime Minister agree that health visitors are a vital part of the community health service, particularly in their role of screening families to identify vulnerable young children? Will she join me in condemning the action of the Greenwich health authority, which has curtailed the service severely?

The Prime Minister : I join the hon. Lady in paying tribute to the health visitors, and to the vital part that they play as they go around performing their duties. I uphold their service in every respect, but it is not for me to make a judgment that must properly be made by Greenwich council when it weighs expenditure on one service against expenditure on another. The hon. Lady must not provoke me to make a judgment that I should not make because I am not in possession of the full facts.

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