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United Kingdom

Volume 531: debated on Tuesday 27 July 1954

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asked the Minister of Labour how the present employment position in the United Kingdom as a whole compares with that of a year ago; and how far he anticipates that full employment can be maintained during the rest of this year.

The number of persons in employment in Great Britain at the end of May was the highest ever recorded in peace-time and over 200,000 more than at the end of May last year. Unemployment in June was 58,000 less than a year ago. There are at present no indications that employment is likely to fall below a satisfactory level in the second half of this year.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there will be widespread satisfaction that under a Conservative Government the principles of full employment are being so magnificently upheld, and will he do his utmost to ensure that this happy state of affairs continues?

Can the hon. Gentleman say to what extent this wonderful full employment situation is due to the large number of factories built during the period when the Labour Party were in office?

If the right hon. Gentleman wants the right answer as to why we have achieved full employment, it is because the Government have provided the right kind of economic background which enables people in this country to be competitive and productive in the export market.

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that for over 10 years between the wars when the Conservative Party was in power there were over two million unemployed and South Wales was a distressed area?

Is my hon. Friend aware that, in fact, he has not answered the Question fully, because it refers to the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom includes Northern Ireland? Will he bear in mind the high level of unemployment there?

I think my hon. and gallant Friend would be the first to object if my right hon. and learned Friend were to undertake the direct responsibility for this problem, which properly belongs to the Northern Ireland Government.

Are we to take it that the Government take credit for full employment but refuse to take responsibility for unemployment?

The hon. Gentleman has not kept himself up to date, or he would have known that last week my right hon. and learned Friend and my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary had a meeting on this very matter of Northern Ireland unemployment with their corresponding colleagues from the Government of Northern Ireland.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that a good deal of the improvement is due to the fact that the trade unions have encouraged their members to develop human relations in industry?

Certainly, and, if this is my last word at this Box on this subject, I would say that this is surely something about which the whole country—[Laughter.] I know the Opposition find great amusement in the fact that this country is more prosperous than it has been at any time since the war.