The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Eric Forth) : My right hon. and learned Friend meets Mr. Lineker regularlat meetings of the group of ten training and enterprise council chairmen. This group of regional representatives of all of the TECs considers the full range of TEC activities, including support for small firms. My right hon. and learned Friend expects to chair the next group meeting in mid-November.
Mr. Bellingham : When my right hon. and learned Friend meets representatives of Norfolk and Waveney TEC he will be told that the TEC regards the youth training scheme as an important priority. Does my hon. Friend agree that every youngster who wants to take a place on YTS should have the opportunity to do so? Does he also agree that, particularly in today's climate, it is crucial that TECs work closely with the enterprise agencies to help small firms? Will he applaud the Norfolk and Waveney TEC's decision to contract out to the enterprise agencies the enterprise allowance scheme?
Mr. Forth : My hon. Friend is correct. The TECs, my hon. Friend's in particular, the Department of Employment and the Government give total and absolute priority to youth training, and it is through the TECs and their excellent work that that guarantee is being delivered. We are giving young people the training that they need.
My hon. Friend also makes an important point about enterprise. TECs are a major part of the Government's continuing effort to encourage enterprise at all levels, particularly small firms which are a strong aspect of my hon. Friend's constituency. They make a decision based on local needs on how much work to give to enterprise agencies. I pay tribute to the work of the enterprise agencies and the TECs and, in particular, the work of my hon. Friend. I am sure that he keeps in the closest touch with his TEC to ensure that it does everything possible for the local community.
Mr. Patrick Thompson : When my hon. Friend meets the chairman of Norfolk and Waveney TEC will he take the opportunity to discuss with him business people's attitudes towards training? Does he agree that it is
Column 778important that business people and industrialists now set up training initiatives, particularly in engineering, to avoid future skill shortages before the problem arises?
Mr. Forth : Yes. It will be well known to my hon. Friend that the great bulk of training has been, is and will continue to be done in the private sector by employers. However, the TECs have, as one of their main tasks, to identify training needs in each locality and to work with doneemployers to identify how that can best be done, so bringing together the efforts of the Government through TECs and the private sector to deliver the best possible quality of training. That is done, and the new investors in people initiative, launched by my right hon. and learned Friend just a few days ago, is yet another important step in emphasising the importance in the private sector of a continuing training effort, and that will continue to be the case.
Mr. Riddick : Will not the proposals contained in the Green Paper continue the excellent work of the Government's previous trade union legislation and give more power and influence to individual citizens and individual trade union members? Does my right hon. and learned Friend believe that the Labour party's representations will be affected in any way by the recent election of a communist as the deputy general secretary of Labour's greatest paymaster, the Transport and General Workers Union?
Mr. Howard : I am looking forward to the Opposition's representations in response to the Green Paper. There is still time for those representations to be received and I assume that the Opposition Front -Bench spokesman will be rushing away from questions this afternoon to put the finishing touches to his representations. My hon. Friend is right on his last point. There may no longer be room for communists in Warsaw, Prague or East Berlin. They may have been ejected from the Kremlin, but there will always be a welcome for them at Transport house.
Mr. Skinner : Will the Minister answer this question? During the past few weeks, there have been statements that Britain has the lowest strike record for 30 years. But we have the biggest depression and recession since the end of the second world war. How can the unions, communists or any such people, be to blame?
Mr. Howard : As a result of the laws passed by the Government, we have the lowest number of strikes for about 60 years. Is the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) suggesting that the real remedy for any ills that we may be suffering at the moment is to make it easier for people to strike? Of course that is the remedy suggested by his Front-Bench spokesman.
Column 779proposal to give members of the public the right to stop unlawful public sector strikes? Does he agree that it is high time that Labour made clear its views on that?
Mr. Tony Lloyd : Will the Secretary of State tell the House about the representation received from Conservative trade unionists? In particular, can he say whether it is accurate that they said that the balance had already swung too far against trade unions and that they, like everybody else, regard the Secretary of State as a right-wing loony?
Mr. Howard : I am sorry to disappoint the hon. Gentleman. We have yet to receive representations on the Green Paper from Conservative trade unionsts. The hon. Gentleman is falling into the customary trap of relying on unsubstantiated newspaper reports, which on this occasion appear to have little basis in truth.
3. Mr. Win Griffiths : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many men and women were in full-time employment in the United Kingdom, and in each standard planning region, in June 1979 and at the latest date for which figures are available.
Column 780available. Total male civilian employment and full-time female civilian employment is available for each of the standard regions. As the reply contains a statistical table, I shall, with permission, arrange for it to be published in the Official Report .
Mr. Griffiths : I am not surprised that the Minister did not venture to give a figure. Is not it true that employment in the United Kingdom as a whole is down by almost 1 million compared with June 1979, that in Wales there are 116,000 fewer jobs for men and that overall there are 70,000 fewer jobs in the economy? Does the Minister think that this loss of jobs and the increase in unemployment is a price that is well worth paying?
Mr. Jackson : I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman's facts are wrong. Since 1979 there has been an overall increase of about 800,000 in the number of men and women in work. If we take as our starting point the end of the last recession, there has been an increase in Wales of 167,000. That is a 17 per cent. increase, which is well above the United Kingdom average.
Mr. Jackson : My hon. Friend is right. Part-time jobs are important. It is sometimes suggested that people with part-time jobs would prefer full -time jobs. That question has been canvassed in opinion surveys, and recent surveys of part-time workers show that only 6 per cent. of them want to work full time.
The following is the information :
Civilian workforce in employment<1> Thousands ------------------------------------------------------------ South East |4,839 |4,736 |2,006 |2,366 Greater London<2> |n/a |2,115 |n/a |1,137 East Anglia |481 |538 |178 |240 South West |1,032 |1,139 |417 |503 West Midlands |1,462 |1,329 |550 |590 East Midlands |1,013 |990 |393 |440 Yorkshire and Humberside |1,302 |1,197 |480 |521 North West |1,700 |1,485 |719 |692 North |802 |678 |314 |303 Wales |716 |661 |276 |287 Scotland |1,333 |1,228 |597 |582 Great Britain |14,677|13,981|5,934 |6,522 <1> The civilian workforce in employment comprises employees in employment, the self-employed and participants on work related government training programmes. <2> Included in South East.
Mr. Howard : Unemployment in the United Kingdom on a seasonally adjusted basis rose by 35,700 between August and September to 2,461, 000. No one should underestimate the human difficulties that lie behind the
Column 780figures and I certainly do not, but September's increase was the smallest for nearly a year and is further indication that the rate of increase is slowing.
Mr. Hain : Is the Secretary of State aware of the plight of one of my constituents, Mr. John Smith of Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen, who is aged 43 and has five children? Mr. Smith is an unemployed salesman with more than 25 years experience and has applied for 1,200 jobs in the past 19 months. Is not his plight testimony to the bankruptcy of Government policies in general and Howard's way in particular?
Column 781Mr. Howard : Everyone must have sympathy with the hon. Gentleman's constituent and those who find themselves in similar circumstances, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman will ask himself whether the policies advocated by his party--to make it easier to strike, to embrace the proposals of the European Commission's social action programme, which would add so much in costs and burdens to British employers, and to introduce a national statutory minimum wage, which would destroy countless jobs--would help his constituent and those in a similar position.
Mr. Andrew MacKay : Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that those who are rightly worried about unemployment should treat strictures from Opposition Members with some caution? Surely they will recall that under every single Labour Government unemployment has steadily risen rather than fallen. As my right hon. and learned Friend just confirmed, a national minimum wage would simply lead to more people on the dole.
Mr. Wigley : Does the Secretary of State accept that there has been a significant change in the pattern of unemployment during the past two or three years? By now some intermediate areas have higher levels of unemployment than some of those designated as development areas. In those circumstances, when will the Government reconsider the development area strategy to help those areas that are at present intermediate but certainly need more assistance?
Mr. Howard : These matters are constantly kept under review, but I doubt whether the hon. Gentleman's suggestion would represent the solution that he supposes to the difficulties that we are encountering at present. The answer lies in restoring our competitiveness, overcoming inflation and recreating the conditions that have led to a record creation of jobs--well over 2.5 million since 1983.
Mr. Batiste : Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that in constituencies such as mine, unemployment is significantly lower than it was at the time of the last election? Jobs would be put at risk if the Government adopted the policies to which the Labour party is committed, such as massive defence expenditure cuts above those already introduced, which would put the future of the Challenger tank at risk. A statutory minimum wage would also wipe out thousands of jobs in Yorkshire.
Mr. Howard : My hon. Friend is correct in what he says. What he has identified as true of his constituency and Yorkshire would be reproduced across the country. The policies that the Labour party advances would be disastrous for employment. That is understood by my hon. Friend and, indeed, by the country generally.
Mr. Blair : Is the Secretary of State aware of the chambers of commerce quarterly survey which will be out this Thursday and shows that jobs are continuing to be shed at an alarming rate in both the service and manufacturing industries? Does he also realise that as a result of rising unemployment and the cuts in his Department's budget, his Government are simply no longer meeting their guarantee of a training place to the
Column 782young and the unemployed who have been shunted in their thousands on to training queues? The Secretary of State may dispute that, but if we provide him with the evidence that these waiting lists exist, will he undertake here and now to provide the funds necessary to remove them and honour the Government's promises ?
Mr. Howard : The hon. Gentleman will know full well that the survey of the chambers of commerce of which both he and I have been provided with advance copies--it is to be published on Thursday--shows a substantial increase in business confidence on the part of those who responded to that survey. [Interruption.] Yes, I have read it. It will not do for the hon. Gentleman to deny that such encouraging evidence exists. It does him and his party no credit that he should constantly and obsessively seek to identify bad news and ignore the good news which exists in the very document that he cites as evidence.
On the subject of training guarantees, we are delivering and are committed to those guarantees. They will continue to be made good and implemented by the training and enterprise councils which are now responsible for their implementation.
Mr. Forth : Precise information on the number of people with more than one job included in the published work force in employment estimates is not available. However, the labour force survey estimated that 724,000 people held a second job as an employee in the spring of 1990.
Mr. Flynn : Does not the Minister's admission that some three quarters of a million people are counted twice in the employment figures-- as well as trainees who are counted as though they were in full-time professional jobs, and part-timers who are counted as though they were full -timers--prove that the Government's much-parroted claims about employment levels constitute a monumental lie? Instead of running away from the rigorous examination of his policies carried out in a television studio, and instead of attacking the BBC, should not the Secretary of State try something new? Should he not adopt a novel--novel in his case, that is-- approach to the employment figures, and tell the truth?
Mr. Forth : If the rather over-the-top strictures that the hon. Gentleman has tried to apply to the Government were remotely true, they would also be true of what was done by his party when it was in government. The House should be aware that the method of counting used in this instance is exactly the same as it has been for 20 years--since 1971, if not earlier. I did not hear any of the hon. Gentleman's colleagues make the same point when their party was in office.
When an employer-based survey method is used, as it has been in this instance, the sort of counting that I mentioned earlier will be adopted. Let me give another example. The same counting method is used in France, a country often held up by Opposition Members as a socialist ideal. Presumably, any strictures that the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) applies to us will also apply to that country.
Mr. Squire : Given the dismissive way in which the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) referred to part-time jobs a moment ago, will my hon. Friend confirm that only about 6 per cent. of those in part-time work claim that they are seeking full-time work? That means that 94 per cent. of people in part-time work who were looking for such work, have found it and are happy in it.
Opposition Members deliberately avoid the fact that the bulk of people in part-time jobs choose, and want, to work part-time. It is a matter of choice. I know that choice is anathema to Opposition Members, but Conservative Members rather want to defend choice wherever that is possible, in every aspect of Government policy. If Opposition Members do not like that, they should stand up and say so.
Mr. McLeish : When will the ministerial team apologise to the nation for its unique record, and its unique failure in regard to labour market policies? Will the Secretary of State and his team tell us why 790,000 people have joined the dole queue in a year, why 662, 000 have lost their jobs, why 43,000 fewer training places have been provided over the last year and why there are 53,000 vacancies? Will they also tell us why--most worrying of all--in a year in which unemployment rose by 800,000 in Europe, 700,000 of those people were unemployed in Britain? We have a unique recession. When will the Secretary of State start apologising to the country?
If the hon. Gentleman wishes to make European comparisons, by all means let us do so. Socialist France, for instance, has an unemployment figure higher than ours, and the socialist Government in Spain manage to continue in office with an unemployment figure some 50 per cent. higher than ours. The more that we make such comparisons, the less we can understand why Opposition Members keep trying to use them. They are simply no good.
Mr. Howard : I have received many favourable responses to this new programme from training and enterprise councils and others. The programme is now in operation. The first people joined it some three weeks ago. We are on course as planned to have 30,000 participants by March next year, with 60,000 helped in 1992-93.
Mr. Atkinson : Following yesterday's welcome announcement of a new allowance for disabled working people, can my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that there will be opportunities under his proposals for disabled people--including the mentally ill and mentally handicapped--to gain work experience? Does he agree that the TUC's boycott of his excellent programme is utterly callous and irresponsible?
Mr. Howard : I can indeed confirm that people with disabilities will be given preferential access to the employment action programme, and that they will not need a qualifying period of unemployment. Indeed, people with disabilities have generally been given higher priority on the Government's training schemes for some months now and, for the first time, have been part of the aim group.
On the second point, my hon. Friend is absolutely right. It was disgraceful that the Trades Union Congress should boycott employment action and turn its back on those unemployed people to whom this Government are giving hope.
Mr. Leighton : Is the Secretary of State aware that the Employment Select Committee has placed in the Library copies of letters that it has received from 60 training and enterprise councils, which tell us that they are struggling and finding it virtually impossible to implement the employment training and youth training guarantees because of a shortage of cash? In view of those letters, will the Secretary of State resist Treasury attempts to make further cuts and obtain a substantial increase in his budget from the public expenditure round so that the TECs can do their jobs properly?
Mr. Howard : The question is about employment action. That is securely funded. Places will be provided in the way that I have suggested. We are committed to the guarantees on employment training and youth training. Those guarantees are being delivered. There can be no question other than that the TECs will have the resources that they need to deliver those guarantees in the next financial year, which is the subject of the current public expenditure survey.
Mr. John Marshall : Does my right hon. and learned Friend find it surprising that Opposition Members are opposed to employment action that would help the unemployed, while, at the same time, they want to create unemployment through a national minimum wage?
Mr. Howard : Very little surprises me about the Opposition, but it is noteworthy that, despite the fact that they claim to care for unemployed people, they resist almost every initiative that is designed to help unemployed people. Despite the fact that they purport to care about training, they resist almost every training initiative that this Government have introduced. Their words do not match up, nor do their words match the actions for which they were responsible when they were last in government.
Mr. Wallace : The 30,000 places referred to by the Secretary of State pale into insignificance when compared with the rise of 230,000 unemployed since he announced employment action. When the Under-Secretary of State gave a written answer to the Chairman of the Select Committee, the hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) in June highlighting the differences between employment action and the old community programme, he omitted two very important distinctions--the difference in funding and the difference in the number of places available. If the Secretary of State is unable substantially to expand his scheme, does it mean that he lacks confidence in his scheme or that he has lost the battle against the Chief Secretary to the Treasury?
Column 785Mr. Howard : The hon. Gentleman totally fails to take into account the range of opportunities that are now available to help unemployed people--opportunities that were not available when the community programme was in existence. There was no employment training then, nor the range of ways in which we now help unemployed people through the Employment Service. This year we shall be helping 840,000 unemployed people, over and above the help that we give to every unemployed person when he or she comes into the job centre to sign on. That is what the hon. Gentleman has to take into account if he is to make a fair comparison.
7. Mr. Pawsey : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many people are now employed in those travel-to-work areas situated in or adjacent to Warwickshire ; and what was the comparable figure for 1983.
Mr. Jackson : It is difficult to make the precise comparisons sought by my hon. Friend, but using the information which is available there was an increase of employees in employment in the Warwickshire area from 1,064,200 in September 1984 to 1,118,300 in September 1989.
Mr. Pawsey : I thank my hon. Friend for his extremely helpful and interesting reply. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is pleasing that at a time of some unemployment we see the number of jobs growing in and around Warwickshire? Will he join me in congratulating local authorities, such as the Warwickshire county council, the Rugby borough council and the Warwick district council on pursuing an enlightened policy that has attracted business and industry to the county of Warwick, so reducing unemployment and increasing the number of jobs?
Mr. Jackson : I am happy to join my hon. Friend in congratulating those local authorities. I take this opportunity also to pay tribute to the excellent work, together with the local authority, of the Coventry and Warwickshire training and enterprise council under the leadership of Geoffrey Whalen. This year they are spending £31.28 million of taxpayers money on training and enterprise and are doing a very good job.
Mr. Nellist : Does the Minister accept that unemployed workers in the west midlands, adjacent to Warwickshire, face almost twice the unemployment to vacancy ratio, at 37.6 per cent., as in the remainder of the country? Is not it therefore twice as hard to escape from the dole queue? Was not that position made immeasurably more difficult last week when 1,300 mining jobs in Coventry and Warwickshire were axed by British Coal?
Will the Minister accept a short, sharp message from the miners, their families and others who face redundancy in Coventry and Warwickshire : that the best way to save jobs is to sack the Tory Government?
Mr. Jackson : Of course, we are concerned when there are any large- scale redundancies and the Employment Service stands ready to assist. I shall inquire about what is being done by the Employment Service in the case that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. I know that it is very active in any cases of large-scale redundancies.
Sir John Farr : Has my right hon. and learned Friend seen the report by UBS Phillips and Drew that the second stage of the Opposition's minimum wage policy would destroy 1.4 million jobs? Will my right hon. and learned Friend comment on that?
Mr. Howard : Yes, I have seen that report and I take it seriously. Just a few days ago, the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) said on the radio that the introduction of a statutory national minimum wage would not cost a single job. During our debate last Wednesday, I repeatedly offered him the opportunity to cite any independent survey that supported his assertion. Quite unaccountably, he declined to take that opportunity. He cannot cite a single survey that supports his assertion.
Mr. McAllion : Is the Minister aware that, even without the national minimum wage, another 155 Dundonians joined the dole queue yesterday following the announcement of yet more job losses in a local manufacturing company? The company explained that it had to axe the jobs because of the continuing recession, which the Minister tells us is now over. Whom are we to believe--hard-pressed companies faced with a savage recession and forced to put workers on to the dole, or Westminster-bound Ministers, probably high on magic mushrooms, who imagine that they see economic growth everywhere?
Mr. Howard : We are coming out of recession, but, sadly, unemployment is always one of the last things to turn as an economy comes out of recession. I regret that as much as the hon. Gentleman does, but how does it provide any justification for wantonly adding to the ranks of the unemployed by pursuing the policies advanced by the Labour party?
Mrs. Currie : Would not a national minimum wage, instead of helping the low paid--many of whom are women--simply make low-paid work illegal? Are not there two dangers in that? The first, which my right hon. and learned Friend has already highlighted, is that many such jobs would disappear. The second is that many of those jobs would slide into the black economy, with a loss of rights for the women concerned in terms of the protection of health and safety at work, much of which is Conservative legislation. Would not there also be the loss of income tax and national insurance contributions?
Mr. Howard : My hon. Friend is entirely right to draw attention to another real danger that would arise from the Opposition's lunatic proposals. It is far better to help those on low pay who need help by making family credit available to them, as we do.
Mr. Blair : Will the Minister confirm that not only does he oppose Labour's proposal for a national minimum wage of £3.40 an hour, but he plans to abolish the existing wages councils, making Britain the only country anywhere in Europe--this applies also to the United States--that has no minimum wage protection? Will not 2.5 million
Column 787people, mainly women, lose protection at law as a result of that policy? The Minister will irrevocably stamp his party not just as the party of mass unemployment, but as the party of poverty pay.
Mr. Howard : When I saw the hon. Gentleman rise to his feet, I hoped that he would at last provide some corroboration of his unsubstantiated assertion that his national minimum wage policy would not cost a single job. But of course he cannot do that. Instead he continues to make his misleading comparisons with countries in Europe that do not have the lunatic policy that his party wishes to foist on this country, because they know of the damaging consequences that would flow from it and because they have read the studies of the OECD, the International Monetary Fund and other bodies that have said how many jobs would be lost as a result of its introduction. We have made it perfectly clear that we do not see a permanent place for wages councils in the way in which our economy is regulated and, as the hon. Gentleman knows well, we made that clear a long time ago.
9. Mr. Battle: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment when his Department intends to (a) reopen a jobcentre in the Leeds, West constituency and (b) provide at least one job club in the Leeds, West constituency.
Mr. Jackson : I remember that the hon. Gentleman raised this matter in January. I have looked at it again, but, as he knows, we have no plans to reopen a jobcentre in Leeds, West. Clients in the area are served by the integrated jobcentre at Stanningley. Jobcentre facilities are available in nearby Pudsey, Yeadon and central Leeds. We do not have plans for a job club in Leeds, West because constituents can use the job club facilities at Pudsey jobcentre, which is within easy travelling distance, and in central Leeds, where facilities are being extended following my right hon. and learned Friend's announcement on 19 June about extra job club places.
Mr. Battle : Is the Minister aware that in a written question on 26 February 1981 one of his predecessors promised the House that he would defer the closure of jobcentres until unemployment fell? Is he further aware that unemployment in my constituency rose by 42 per cent. between last September and this September? Will he confirm that people who have to travel from my constituency to visit job clubs and jobcentres have to pay for that? What action will he take to provide a service to my unemployed constituents, or is he trying to pretend that they do not exist?
Mr. Jackson : We make no such pretence. For the enlightenment of the House, I must say that the nearest jobcentre at Stanningley is only one and a half miles away from the hon. Gentleman's constituency. I do not think that he has a good case. The services that are provided by jobcentres are being much improved. Hon. Members who visit their jobcentres--I hope that they all do--will know that that is true. They are being improved in the hon. Gentleman's area and I do not believe that he has a fair ground for complaint.
Mr. Forth : My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State has no immediate plans to visit the area. There were 3,851 unemployed claimants in the Crewe and Nantwich constituency in September 1991, which is more than 33 per cent. fewer than in September 1983, when unemployment was at its peak in the constituency.
Mrs. Dunwoody : Is the Minister aware that my constituency has one of the most rapidly rising unemployment rates and that, despite the desperate need for rolling stock, firms of the quality of British Rail Engineering Ltd. cannot fill their order books? Rolls-Royce Ltd., which has a history of providing high-quality engineering, shut down at extremely short notice without any indication that this would be the last layoff between now and Christmas. What hope does he have for the employees of those companies or for people who are desperately looking for employment?
Mr. Forth : I can well understand the hon. Lady's concern about the extent of the job losses that her constituents have experienced. That concern is widely shared, not least among my colleagues and myself. She asked for hope. Between April and September 1991, almost 80 per cent. of the 1,700 restart interviewees in the Crewe area found either jobs, training or other positive outcomes. Job clubs in Crewe have helped 98 people into jobs since April, and the South and East Cheshire TEC--one of the most dynamic and successful TECs--is fully operational in her area. It is well understood by Conservative Members that 50 per cent. of people who unfortunately lose their jobs, including in the hon. Lady's constituency, find themselves back in employment within three months. That is something positive for people to look for. We shall do all that we can to help them to do just that.
Mr. Amess : Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that 89 per cent. of the people who complete youth training go straight into jobs or on to further education--a far better start than Labour was ever able to provide? Will my right hon. and learned Friend also confirm that it is wrong for local socialists to say that the Government do not guarantee training places for our young people in Basildon?