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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 774: debated on Monday 25 November 1968

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Employment And Productivity

Blind Persons

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity if she is satisfied with the arrangements by which blind people are employed in industry and with the assistance which her Department gives to the blind to find employment and to retrain them; and if she will make a statement.

There are 30 blind persons resettlement officers and six blind persons training officers who specialise full time in assisting blind persons to find employment in industry. There is close co-operation with welfare authorities and voluntary organisations and, whilst I am satisfied that these arrangements are working well, continuous efforts are being made to improve the service. The number of blind persons placed in ordinary employment has been increasing recently and the training facilities provided by my Department are at present under review to ensure that they keep abreast of employers' requirements.

Is my hon. Friend aware that his Answer is most welcome? Is he also aware that many blind people are capable of highly-skilled work? Is he satisfied that employers are making sufficient use of the work of blind people and that his Department is sufficiently publicing the work that blind people are capable of doing?

We are well aware of their capacity. To show how up to date we are in that respect—my hon. Friend will be glad to know that we have blind people who have been trained in computer programming. Most of those who have had training have been placed, and some have had promotion since they were placed.

Young Persons (Scotland)

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity what was the number of young persons unemployed in Scotland in October, 1968, the number of vacancies for young persons at the same date, and the corresponding figures for October, 1967.

At mid-October, 1968, 3,392 young persons were registered as unemployed at youth employment offices in Scotland and there were 5,828 unfilled vacancies for young persons. The corresponding figures for October, 1967, were 4,460 and 4,723 respectively.

Is this favourable comparison due to fewer school leavers, or is it a real improvement?

We could say that this is a real improvement, because there were over 2,000 more school leavers last July-August than in the corresponding period last year.

I recognise that the position for Scotland as a whole has improved dramatically, but can my hon. Friend say whether the Government bear in mind the special problems of drift from the rural areas of Scotland, and from the Highlands in particular? What steps has he in mind for improving this situation?

I would have thought that my hon. Friend would appreciate that the whole of the Government's development area policy is designed to prevent this drift, which has now been taking place for over a quarter of a century.

Apprenticeships

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity what percentage of boys leaving school took up apprenticeships in the last full year for which figures are available as compared with 1964.

42·6 per cent. in 1967 compared with 36·4 per cent. in 1964.

Can my hon. Friend say whether this very gratifying improvement is general throughout the economy, or are some industries lagging behind? If there are laggards, what steps are contemplated for improving their performance?

The improvement is general for those industries for which industrial training boards have already been created as a stimulus to such efforts. Two industries whose performances are not so gratifying—the clothing industry and the footwear and leather industry—will have industrial training boards formed in the near future, and we hope that they will then respond in the same way.

I welcome and recognise that this is evidence of the growing effectiveness of the Industrial Training Act, but is the hon. Member also aware of the need for moving away from the traditional concept of apprenticeship as a once-for-all training for life, and is he keeping a special watch on this?

I am conscious of that, and am also conscious of the progress in this field made by the Engineering Training Board, numerically the largest of the training boards. It is my right hon. Friend's wish that the progress that that has made should be reflected in other industries.

Young Persons (Unemployment)

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity how many school leavers and young people were unemployed at the latest date for which figures are available; and what was the corresponding number of vacancies.

At mid-November. 1968, 23,316 young persons were registered as unemployed at youth employment offices, including 3,554 school leavers, and there were 73,230 unfilled vacancies for young persons.

I thank my hon. Friend for those figures, which show some progress and a considerable improvement since October. Does he agree that unemployment among young people at the start of their careers is a serious matter? I hope that these figures will not give rise to any complacency in his Department but, rather, will spur it to greater efforts.

My hon. Friend may rest assured that I shall never be complacent about unemployment among young people, because I know what the cost will be if they become anti-social as a consequence. I can, however, say that there are 4,000 fewer unemployed school leavers in November this year as compared with November last year.

Can the Minister say how many more he expects to be unemployed because of the Chancellor's latest measures?

All that I can say to the hon. and learned Gentleman is that perhaps his hopes in that respect will be as disappointed as his hopes were following the April Budget.

Development Areas (Training Grants)

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity to what extent assistance is being given by her Department by way of training grants to encourage the provision of additional jobs in development areas.

Up to the end of September, 1968, the direct grants paid out by my Department for this purpose amounted to £2,619,000.

Grants are also available from my Department through the industrial training boards towards the training of semi-skilled workers, apprentices and technicians in the development areas.

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that there is sufficient incentive to firms and that the community is receiving the best possible value for this expenditure?

I am certainly satisfied about the second part of the question. As to the first part, my hon. Friend will be aware that the rate of direct grant was doubled just over a year ago. I hope that he will be reassured to know that, during the last year, there have been 960 applications as opposed to 520 in the preceding year, which I at least take as evidence of the fact that sufficient stimulus is now available.

Will the hon. Gentleman accept that the unemployment figures in the Northern Region are now higher than in any November for many years? As this development area groans under the possible effect of the Chancellor's latest decisions, will he do everything possible to increase the number of available new jobs?

The Government's entire regional policy is intended to stimu- late jobs in areas like the one the hon. Gentleman represents. I hope that he will be conscious of the effects of the Regional Employment Premium and welcome its beneficial effects in the North-East.

Government Training Centres (Places)

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity what increase has taken place in the number of Government training centre places in development areas between October, 1964, and October, 1968.

The number rose from 1,340 in October, 1964, to 3,574 in October, 1968.

This is a very welcome increase. Is my hon. Friend satisfied that it is sufficient to cope with areas, for instance like my constituency, where there is a total run-down of the mining industry?

This would not be sufficient, were it all that the Government have in mind. I hope that my hon. Friend is reassured by the knowledge that over the next three years Government training places in the development areas will increase to 5,700. This is only part of the training programme, much of which in development areas, as in other parts of the country, must be run by the industrial training boards.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that a number of new industrialists in the Northern Region are dissatisfied with the type of training course available? Will he take note of my request to his right hon. Friend recently to instigate an inquiry among these industrialists to determine the kind of training courses they require?

We are in close touch with the industrialists in the development areas, particularly in relation to their demands upon Government training centres. We have issued a general invitation for local employers to talk to our G.T.C. managers about the sort of training they would like to see. There has been a good response to that invitation and I hope it will continue.

Remploy Limited (Labour Force)

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity the average number of registered disabled persons employed by Remploy Limited in each year from 1964 onwards.

In the last five financial years Remploy's severely disabled labour force has averaged 6,406; 6,687; 6,893; 6,852 and 7,017. The forecast average for 1968–69 is 7,390, which would be the highest ever.

While thanking my hon. Friend for giving news of this gratifying trend in the employment of the disabled, may I ask whether there is any possibility of even further expansion?

It is the Ministry's objective to expand the service. First of all, we want to increase production and sales. We hope in 1971–72 to have the labour force of disabled people up to approximately 8,000.

Can my hon. Friend state what is the average wage paid in Remploy factories?

I cannot say what the average wage is, but as my hon. Friend has a Question down about the hourly rates, I will be giving him them later.

Industrial Training, Sheffield

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity how many Government industrial training places are now available in Sheffield; how many are currently taken up; and what are the main trades covered.

On 11 th November, 1968, 183 training places were available at the Sheffield Government Training Centre, of which 156 were occupied. The main trades covered are brick-laying, carpentry, electric welding, motor repairing, contractors' plant repair and maintenance, heating and ventilating fitting, general fitting, capstan setting/operating and milling setting/operating.

While thanking my hon. Friend for that welcome information, may I ask whether he is aware that Sheffield is a natural training centre for men displaced from the South Yorkshire coalfield? Will he therefore refrain from resting content, and have a further plan ready for the expansion of training, particularly in engineering and electronics, if possible?

Further plans are ready. My hon. Friend already knows that by mid-1969 the Sheffield training centre will expand to 263 places. As to the South Yorkshire coalfield, there will be another centre to meet its demands, in Wakefield, which we anticipate will be finished in about 1970.

Humberside

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity what estimate she has made of the number of new jobs which will be provided in the Humber area during the construction of the Humber Bridge.

No estimate has been made of the total number of new jobs, but the construction of a Humber Bridge would be likely to require on average about 250 workers, over a period of about five and a half years.

As no decision has yet been taken on whether to build this bridge, nearly three years after the right hon. Lady the First Secretary of State misled the citizens of Hull about it at a by-election, will it now be made even more remote by the economic freeze, which the right hon. Lady was unable to foresee at Bassetlaw a short time ago?

The hon. Gentleman has been here long enough to know that the question of fixing a date for the building of the Humber bridge is not one to be addressed to me.

We all know that this is the usual political gimmick of a staggering, stagnant and moribund Opposition—it cannot even win by-elections. However, may I ask the Minister whether he is aware that, with unemployment on Humberside, we are at a disadvantage in competing with development areas, particularly in shipbuilding? Will he please turn his mind to this question of getting industries to Humberside, particularly to Hull?

I am well aware of the real problems of Humberside. As my hon. Friend knows I have received a deputation, including my hon. Friend and his colleagues, and I have also met the local employment committee. We will do what we can to help in the circumstances he has outlined.

Are we to understand that the Government no longer believe that the Humber Bridge is important for the development of employment in this area?

The right hon. Gentleman is not to understand that. He knows perfectly well that building bridges is not a matter for the Department of Employment and Productivity, but for the Minister of Transport.

Employment (Scotland)

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity what have been the reasons for the reduction in the total number of jobs in Scotland since 1964.

It is provisionally estimated that the number of employees in employment in Scotland decreased by 35,000 between June, 1964, and March, 1968. Some of this decrease may be seasonal. In several sectors the number of jobs has been reduced as a result of technical advance. This effect has been reinforced in agriculture by the consolidation of farms, in coalmining and transport by some fall in demand and in the distribution trades by rationalisation.

Is the Minister aware that up to the end of 1964, on the Government's own figures, the number of jobs in Scotland was increasing? Will the latest economic measures, known as the "touch on the tiller", have the effect of causing additional unemployment in Scotland?

The hon. Gentleman knows that if the previous Administration had been as generous in financial grants and as determined to solve the deep-seated, long-standing unemployment problems of the development areas as this Administration, he would have no need to ask that question.

Can the hon. Gentleman explain then how it was that in the last four years of the Conservative Government the number of actual jobs in Scotland increased by 30,000 whereas in the last four years the number has gone down by over 30,000?

I think that it is obvious that some of the measures which we have had to take have affected Scotland, but the significant point is that Scotland has been affected less by these measures than has the nation as a whole. In other words, unemployment has grown less in Scotland than in the rest of the country.

Is the hon. Member aware that the only credit which the Government can claim for success in respect of employment is in creating a vast number of new jobs in the Civil Service?

If the noble Lord believes that, he needs a new pair of spectacles so that he may see what is being done in Scotland, as I saw it the weekend before last.

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity what were the unemployment figures for Scotland in the years 1952 to 1968, respectively, for October; and if she will provide a breakdown of the figures for male, female and juvenile unemployment in each year.

As the reply consists of a table of figures, I will with permission circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Does my hon. Friend not agree that if we consider unemployment in Scotland in the past, the least that we can say is that my hon. Friends on this side of the House have not cultivated the bad habits of hon. Members opposite? Is he aware that in 1963 under the Conservative Government there were 136,000 unemployed in Scotland?

I am well aware of what my hon. Friend said. It is one of the unpleasant facts which hon. Members opposite like to forget.

Will the Minister indicate whether in his opinion the figures for unemployment in Scotland between now and next October will go up or go down? Is he aware that as a direct consequence of the Government's policy of increasing the petrol duty so savagely there will be a particularly harsh effect on employment in Scotland?

I am aware that the hon. Gentleman thought that the last Budget would send the unemployment figures up. Indeed, some of his hon. Friends suggested that they would rise to between 750,000 and 800,000. Their hopes in this respect have not come about. I have a feeling that expansion in Scotland will continue because we are now laying a firm industrial base—something which should have been done when the Conservatives were in power.

TOTAL NUMBERS REGISTERED AS UNEMPLOYED IN SCOTLAND
MenBoysWomenGirlsTotal
13th October, 195239,9041,18325,2401,81168,138
12th October, 195335,2771,20719,4621,17157,117
11th October, 195432,4911,29917,6781,11652,584
10th October, 195528,5211,24615,04996345,779
15th October, 195630,2301,04416,62095848,852
14th October, 195731,7471,03214,75291448,445
13th October, 195858,0082,80723,3041,69885,817
12th October, 195959,7403,38921,9331,55586,617
10th October, 196051,3842,07217,9081,14572,509
16th October, 196144,5961,78117,6661,24165,284
15th October, 196258,2703,41420,9242,18984,797
14th October, 196361,4563,92523,1182,25390,752
12th October, 196448,1042,63618,9371,57171,248
11th October, 196540,8051,84015,7081,23359,586
10th October, 196648,3842,27915,2011,41667,280
9th October, 196760,5142,66618,8591,79483,833
14th October, 196860.0412.11815,7201,27479,153

Miners, West Lothian (Retraining)

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity how many applications she has received for retraining from miners who are being declared redundant from Riddochhill Colliery, Blackburn, West Lothian.

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that the National Coal Board lets his Department know of these redundancies in advance and at the earliest possible opportunity?

There are problems for the National Coal Board in these cases, some of which are exemplified in this colliery. Some of them concern the fact that so many of the men who are made redundant are, in fact, retired early on substantial pensions or are offered employment at other collieries. But we need to

Would the hon. Gentleman explain what he means by expansion in terms of employment, since when replying earlier he said that the number of jobs in Scotland were now 35,000 less than the number four years ago? What sort of expansion is this?

The right hon. Gentleman should understand that many jobs have been lost in coal mining and various other industries. If many of them had not been replaced by jobs in other industries, the position would have been immeasurably worse. If he does not understand that, he does not understand anything about the subject.

Following is the information:

liaise very early with the National Coal Board and we are pursuing the operation of that policy.

Engineers (Pay)

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity whether she will now make a further statement on the threatened national engineering strike.

Executive representatives of unions affiliated to the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions are meeting this afternoon to give further consideration to their attitude in the light of the offer made by the employers on 18th October.

Is it not a fact that the right hon. Lady has given her blessing to this proposed settlement? If so, will she explain to the House whether she regards it as a model settlement and, if so, why she will not grant, on less favourable terms, the application of the banks' employees and operatives? Why is she straining at a gnat and swallowing an elephant?

The hon. Member should know that until the Confederation executive has decided its attitude this afternoon there is no final proposal in front of me. But it is a fact that I personally hope that the Confederation will accept this offer, as the A.E.F. National Committee did last Friday. I hope that it will accept it, because it is within the ceiling and is accompanied by productivity concessions which make it acceptable.

Is it not true that my right hon. Friend's efforts have met with a large measure of success for which she deserves our thanks? Does she realise that the trouble with hon. Members opposite is that they are very disappointed by that fact?

I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend that hon. Members opposite are undoubtedly bitterly disappointed that once again we have avoided a strike.

Will the right hon. Lady answer the first part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question: is this settlement in line with the incomes policy and, if so, can it be taken as a model by other industries?

As the right hon. Member knows, this is a settlement covering 31 years. If an agreement is reached on the lines of the employers latest offer, it would be at the rate of 11½ per cent. over 3½ years and would be accompanied by very tough productivity conditions. The problem in the case of the banks was that the settlement for men was twice the ceiling and that for women three times the ceiling, without it being possible exactly to cost the productivity return. That is why reference is to be made to the Board.

On a point of order. Will the right hon. Lady tell the House whether a reference has been made to the Board—

Prices And Incomes Policy

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity to what extent in applying the Government's prices and incomes policy she takes account of the need to reduce personal consumption.

Individual prices and incomes cases are assessed in the light of the criteria and considerations set out in the current White Paper on productivity, prices and incomes policy.

Cannot the right hon. Lady now grasp the fact that every time she bullies a manufacturer into freezing his prices she is undermining the Chancellor's strategy of lowering the standard of living? Because she continues in that policy, is she not personally responsible to a very large measure for the additional £250 million of taxation imposed by the Chancellor on Friday?

I hope that one day the hon. Member will realise, in face of the repetition of this point both by myself and by the Chancellor, that the Government's policy on prices and incomes has a prices side to it and that that side is intended to see that price increases which are unjustified do not take place. On that the Government are united. It is an integral part of our economic strategy.

Is it not extraordinary that only a few days ago in this House, in the light of the supposed prices policy, arguments were being advanced to restrain the public bar prices charged by brewers in Wolverhampton, and yet this week those prices will inevitably have risen as a result of Government action?

It is equally obvious that the prices side of the policy has been extremely effective.

Productivity Agreements

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity how many of the productivity agreements which formed part of an increased pay agreement in the last 12 months have failed to come up to the agreed level of productivity.

Information is not available in the form requested. It is the practice of my Department to make inquiries to see how experience corresponds with forecasts but productivity improvements often represent only a part of the benefits flowing from a comprehensive agreement embodying other desirable features.

I thank the Minister for that long piece of gobbledegook. May we not have details, as I requested, of how many of these productivity agreements are being kept? Surely that is the essence of the incomes policy. Cannot the Ministry wake up and do something about this and tell the House about it?

The Ministry are anything but asleep on this matter, contrary to the implication in the hon. Member's question. The Ministry's procedures ensure that the agreements are kept. It is not always appropriate or necessary to do the follow-up for which the hon. Member asks, but we follow up where necessary.

20.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity how many productivity agreements have been notified to her Department since its creation; how many have been verified, modified, and rejected, respectively; and how many civil servants have been employed in such work.

A total of 988 productivity cases have been dealt with by the Department since it was formed in April this year. In 964 cases the proposals were approved, often after modification in consultation with officials of the Department; in 24 they were rejected. Twenty-three headquarters' officers are engaged entirely on the examination of pay claims and settlements. A number of other headquarters' officers and about 60 staff in the regions may spend varying proportions of their time on such work.

When one compares the figures of those employed on this task and the number of agreements examined, is it not clear that all the solemn Ministerial talk about productivity agreements has been so much of a gigantic hoax? Is that observation not borne out by the fact that the right hon. Lady the Minister informed me a few days ago that not one additional officer would be employed to look after the productivity agreements negotiated under the engineering settlement a settlement which this afternoon the right hon. Lady said has involved some very tough productivity agreements?

I can only tell the hon. Gentleman that. whether or not the productivity policy has been effective, between 1st October, 1967, and 1st October, 1968. productivity went up by 7 per cent.

Would my hon. Friend agree that in industry today over an increasingly wide front people are realising that, if wages are to increase, productivity must also increase? Has not one of the latest examples of this been achieved among shipbuilders on Clydeside?

There is, without question, a growing awareness of the need for productivity as a justification for wage increases. If the policy has achieved nothing other than to establish the atmosphere of this awareness, it has achieved a considerable amount. I suggest that it has achieved that and very much more besides.

Occupational Pension Rights

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity what plans she has made to ensure that rights accrued under private occupational pension arrangements are made fully transferable on changes of employment by the beneficiaries; and whether she will make a statement as to the method by which such rights are to be valued.

The White Paper on the new earnings-related pension scheme will outline the Government's proposals for the safeguarding of occupational pension rights. I cannot anticipate what will be said in that White Paper.

Why are the Government taking so long to act about this urgent matter? Will the Minister undertake that, when these steps are finally introduced, he will clarify the position between transferable pensions and frozen pensions and go the whole way to transferability?

I can assure the hon. Member that I shall clarify the two positions. I am afraid that I cannot give the House any assurance as to which of those two positions the Government favour

Industrial Retraining (Scotland)

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity what representations she has had about the administration and organisation of industrial retraining in Scotland; and what reply she has sent.

There have been no recent representations about the running of Government Training Centres in Scotland. I have, however, written to my hon. Friend about his constituent who raised questions about a course at an industrial rehabilitation unit.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the need for confidence in the training methods being adopted at the various establishments? Considering the difficulties faced by people wishing to readapt themselves to new techniques, will he give consideration to these people in the retraining programme?

I agree with every word of that supplementary question, and I hope that my hon. Friend will accept my assurance that that sort of rule operates in Scotland, as elsewhere.

Is the Minister now denying that the object of the measures announced last Friday was to increase the pool of unemployment, presently 560,000, until it reaches the Government optimum figure of 750,000 for the entire United Kingdom?

I am neither denying nor confirming that—[Interruption.]—mostly because it has nothing to do with the Question.

Vickers' Shipyard (Dispute)

18.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity whether she will intervene in the 16-week old dispute over apprentices at Vickers' Barrow-in-Furness shipyard.

Officers of my Department, who have been in close touch with the company and the union since the dispute began, had discussions with both sides last week. A basis for settling the apprentices' dispute has been worked out, but this dispute has become linked with a demarcation issue at the same plant between A.E.F. and the plumbers' union, as a result of which 2,000 engineering workers are on strike. Efforts are now being made to refer this issue to a demarcation court to be set up by the parties, and my Department will continue to give every assistance in settling the outstanding difficulties.

I am glad to hear that the right hon. Lady's Department is now busily trying to sort out this strike, but would not she agree that this is one of the most fatuous examples of imbecility and stupidity in industrial relations, stretching over 18 weeks, that this country has experienced for a long time? Will she conduct a full inquiry into the whole circumstances of it and publish a White Paper so that all may know how badly conducted this exercise has been?

What the hon. Gentleman has suggested would not be exactly helpful, particularly as we believe that a settlement is now possibly within reach. Of course, one deplores the loss of production as a result of protracted disputes. However, I believe that hopeful developments are now taking place; and I do not want to say anything which might jeopardise them.

Low-Paid Workers

19.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity what steps she is taking to secure regular and reliable information about low pay and its causes in particular industries.

A new type of survey of earnings of a random sample of one in every 200 individual employees was launched in September. This will provide information on the incidence of earnings below particular weekly or hourly levels within particular industries, occupational groups and regions, with some indications of special factors, such as income in kind or physical handicap, effecting earning capacity. The question of obtaining such information in this way on a regular basis will be determined in the light of the experience gained in the present survey.

In view of the importance of giving priority, wherever possible, to the lower paid, will this survey reveal the causes of low pay in individual cases?

It is because my Department is anxious to tackle the problem of the lower paid and because it is essential for us to have more information to this end that the sample survey has been launched. While it will not explain why all workers are low paid, it will give an indication of the numbers who may receive low pay for certain reasons; for example, whether they are apprentices or trainees, whether they lack experience and whether they are mentally or physically handicapped. This information will be invaluable to us in helping to tackle this problem.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that a constituent of mine has just received one of these vast Domesday forms, which I hold in my hand, and that it will take him at least half-an-hour to answer all the questions on it, most of which are totally irrelevant? Would she instruct her Department to conduct a first-hand inquiry to discover the reaction of busy people when they receive these piles of nonsense?

My answer is, "Most emphatically no, Sir." Everybody concerned with the study of the problem of the low-paid worker is well aware that up to now we have had an inadequate breakdown of the incidence of low pay. Past surveys have merely provided information about average earnings but not about the spread of individual earnings around the average. If we are to tackle this problem—which the Labour Party cares about, even if hon. Gentlemen opposite do not—we must have more detailed information.

Retail Price Index

21.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity what is the estimated effect of the prices and incomes policy on the retail price index; and what this represents in additional available consumer expediture at annual rates.

It is not possible to make a precise estimate of the amount, nor of the policy's contribution to the policy of import substitution.

Cannot the hon. Gentleman confirm that the avowed intention of the Government's prices policy is that the retail price index should be lower than it otherwise would be if no such policy existed, even if only to give the Chancellor the occasion subsequently to put on consumption taxes to raise that index?

It is the intention of the prices policy to limit unnecessary and unjustifiable price increases. As I have explained, that is an integral part of our economic policy in terms of import substitution.

Has the hon. Gentleman forgotten the algebraic appendix to Mr. Aubrey Jones's last report which suggests that the policy has had no effect on prices?

I have not forgotten that, nor the hon. Gentleman's peculiar gloss on the appendix, nor the shouts from hon. Members opposite before he came in that the prices policy was being too successful.

25.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity what were the increases in the index of retail prices for nationalised industries, for food, for housing, for fuel and light, for durable household goods, for clothing and footwear, for transport and vehicles, for miscellaneous goods, for services and for all items in the index since October, 1964, since July, 1966, and since November, 1967, respectively, to the latest convenient date.

As the reply contains a table of figures, I will, with permission, circulate a statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Do not the figures show that the £ in our pockets at the time of devaluation is now worth only 19s.?

As the hon. Gentleman is so certain of what the figures would show, I am not sure why he asked me the Question.

Following are the percentage increases:

13th October, 1964 to 15th October, 196819th July, 1966 to 15th October, 196814th November, 1967 to 15th October, 1968
Nationalised industries25·113·56·1
Food14·36·24·4
Housing23·510·03·9
Fuel and light25·415·05·8
Durable house-hold goods11·77·25·1
Clothing and footwear8·43·82·1
Transport and vehicles18·210·26·2
Miscellaneous goods21·213·411·1
Services26·713·57·0
All items17·18·45·0

Notes:

1. The items included under the heading "nationalised industries" are—

  • Coal
  • Coke
  • Gas
  • Electricity
  • Road and rail passenger transport
  • Postal and telephone services

2. These items are also included in other groups as follows:

  • Coal, coke, gas and electricity in Fuel and light.
  • Road and rail passenger transport in Transport and vehicles.
  • Postal and telephone services in Services.

Unemployment (Portsmouth Area)

22.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity what are the latest figures for the unemployment rates in the Portsmouth area, the South-East Region and the country as a whole; and what were the rates at the same time last year.

At 11th November, 1968, the percentage rates of unemployment in the Portsmouth travel-to-work area, the South East region and Great Britain were 2·9, 1·6 and 2·4, respectively. These figures are provisional. The corresponding rates for November 1967, were 3, 1·7 and 2·5.

While it is right to be concerned with the percentage of unemployment region by region, total numbers also matter, and in this respect the numbers for the South-East are disturbing. May we have an assurance that there will be full consultation with the Ministry of Defence about the implications to a city such as Plymouth of the forthcoming dockyard review?

I can give the assurance that when the review of the future of the dockyards is completed, the House, the local authorities and the trade unions will be informed and consulted.

Equal Pay

24.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity how many discussions she has initiated on equal pay for equal work; and if she will make a statement.

There is nothing I can usefully add to the statement supplied by my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Under-Secretary on 8th November, 1968, in reply to a Question from the hon. Member for Clapham (Mrs. McKay).—[Vol. 772, c. 174–5.]

Is it still Government policy that equal pay for equal work will be reached in industry and commerce by June 1975? When will a start be made towards implementing the policy?

I announced to the House in June that we were proceeding to work out a timetable for the phased introduction of equal pay with both sides of industry. In accordance with that statement, I immediately started those discussions with both sides, and work on them is continuing.

Will my right hon. Friend look at the problems of towns like Great Yarmouth, where women find work much more easily than men and where it is essential that women's wages should be made more equal to men's so that men's wages are not depreciated?

I think that there is general realisation by men in industry that their interests can only suffer if women are discriminated against on the question of wages.

Will the right hon. Lady bear in mind that the move towards equal pay in the banks is being asked to be specially reported on by the Prices and Incomes Board, to which she has referred bank pay today?

The Board will be examining the whole of the settlement and how it conforms as a whole with the ceiling and with the policy. The relative distribution of increases between men and women within the ceiling and within the policy is a matter for the negotiating parties.

Employment (Edinburgh)

26.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity how many factories and workshops in the Edinburgh, Leith and Portobello Employment Exchange districts have reported to her that they expect to close their premises or to reduce permanently the scale of their operations in the course of the next year; and how many of these are associated with nationalised undertakings.

My Department has received reports from three manufacturing firms and is aware of nine others which expect to close their premises or reduce the scale of their operations in the course of the next year; none of these are associated with nationalised undertakings.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that a black cloud of uncertainty in employment hangs over Edinburgh, almost entirely due to the wickedly unfair anomalies as a result of Government policy for development areas? Is he further aware that Edinburgh is the only place excluded from John o' Groats nearly to York?

I understand how the hon. Gentleman feels, but Edinburgh has an unemployment percentage of 2.1 as against Scotland's 3.7 and 2.4 for Britain as a whole. I want to see the figures for Scotland and for Great Britain brought down to Edinburgh's level.

We have always been told that the governing factor which has kept Edinburgh out of the development area has been its low unemployment rate. Is it not the case, however, that the unemployment rate there is now higher than that in a large number of places within development areas, and that it is rising?

Industrial Training Boards (Levies)

27.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity what industrial training boards already operate differential levies; and what consultation she is having with the Central Training Council concerning their extension.

Two boards operate differential rates on a sector of industry basis, and nine boards operate differential rates, sliding scales or exemptions based on the size of the firm. Other boards too are considering the appropriateness of differential arrangements for their industries. The Central Training Council has this and other questions concerning levy and grants systems under review.

Since in most industries the majority of firms employ fewer than 100 people, and since, therefore, their training needs are likely to be only modest, will the hon. Gentleman give special encouragement to the establishment of differential rates?

I am strongly in favour of a policy which does not ask from small companies levies out of proportion to their genuine training needs. But some small companies employing appreciably fewer than 100 people still have substantial training needs and, therefore, should make an appropriate contribution to their training boards.

Will the hon. Gentleman consider the extreme case of the one-man company in my constituency from which a training levy has been demanded?

I have already given the hon. Gentleman that undertaking, and, indeed, I intend to make a rather wider examination than that.

28.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity what proportion of the money raised in training levies is currently being spent on the administration of the various training boards.

For the year ended 31st March, 1968, 1.8 per cent. of total levy income was spent on administration and a further 1.9 per cent. on the provision of training services.

Will the hon. Gentleman watch this closely? Is there not a danger, with a multiplication of training boards, of some overlapping here? Does not he agree that the need it not to create a new bureaucracy but to get on with retraining in new skills?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman's judgment, and I hope that he in turn will agree that a new bureaucracy—in the pejorative sense of the word—is not in fact being created and that the boards are in the main doing the jobs he seeks that they should do.

Food Handlers (Protective Clothing)

29.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity if she will introduce legislation requiring employers to provide and maintain protective clothing for food handlers in the service, distributive and allied trades.

I have no evidence of the need for such legislation so far as the safety and health of food handlers is concerned. As regards the food hygiene aspects, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services and I have noted the point for consideration when the Food and Drugs Act is next amended.

This is an extremely disappointing Answer, which fails to meet the demands of the situation. Does not my hon. Friend agree that the interest of hygiene demands the introduction of new legislation now?

Under the safety, health and welfare legislation, my Department is only concerned with the protection of food handlers. The protection of public health is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services.

Disabled Persons

30.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity what proportion of private employers with a staff of over 20 employees is failing to meet their statutory obligation to employ their quota of 3 per cent. of disabled persons; and what action she proposes to take against them.

The figure on 31st May, 1968, the date of the latest count, was 53.7 per cent. Employers with less than their quota are not committing an offence but are subject to restrictions on the engagement of fit workers. They are contacted regularly to remind them of their quota obligations and action is taken as the circumstances warrant where failure to comply with the provisions of the Act is revealed.

Since the figure of unemployed amongst the disabled is four times above the national average, does not my hon. Friend agree that his Answer reveals a highly unsatisfactory and undesirable situation where half our employers are flouting their obligations? Although I accept his assurance that he is reminding employers of their obligations, with the present lamentable results, will he consider taking special action and if so, what kind of action?

I do not think that it is accurate to speak of employers flouting their obligations. The great majority go out of their way to cooperate. But it is not always possible for registered disabled persons who are unemployed to match up to the vacancies that exist, either because their particular disability makes them unsuitable, or because they lack the required skills or because of one of a variety of other reasons.

31.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity what proportion of Government employees is disabled; and what action she intends to take if it is below the statutory requirement of 3 per cent.

On 1st October, 1967, the proportion of registered disabled persons employed in Government Departments was 2.95 per cent. My officers lose no opportunity of bringing unemployed registered disabled people to the notice of Government Departments which have suitable vacancies.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the figure he has quoted is in agreeable contrast to that concerning private employers, but is a sad decline from the figure of 5 per cent. employed by the Government some 10 years ago? Will he tell the House whether this is due to a change in Government policy or simply to apathy?

No, the number of disabled has declined as a number of men who were wounded in the wars have passed away. I can assure my hon. Friend that the Treasury has written to all Departments reminding them of the Government's commitment to meeting the 3 per cent. quota whenever possible.

Standard Industrial Classification

32.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity what representations she has received concerning the publication of the revised version of the Standard Industrial Classification; whether it is proposed to adopt the new Standard Industrial Classification for the purposes of the Selective Employment Payments Act, 1966, in advance of the Reddaway Report; and if she will make a statement.

Since the publication of the revised edition of the Standard Industrial Classification on 7th November, we have received no representations about its adoption for the purposes of the Selective Employment Payments Act, 1966. It is our intention to adopt the revised classification as a basis for payments under the Act during the course of next year.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the revised S.I.C. by no means removes all the anomalies of this extremely controversial tax? Would it not be better to hasten the Reddaway Report and, if possible, to remove all anomalies or end the tax itself?

I am aware that the revised S.I.C. does not remove what are said to be anomalies by people who regard the tax as controversial. As to removing the tax, my hon. Friend will understand the benefit which the tax brings to the nation, not least to development areas, through the regional premium

Will the hon. Gentleman recognise that it is totally inadequate to refer to Professor Reddaway's investigation of this tax and that Professor Reddaway does not hold himself open to representation as to whether particular trades should be in- cluded under particular headings of Standard Industrial Classification?

If the hon. Member wants to ask a Question about that subject, he must put it on the Order Paper. I did not mention Professor Reddaway in my Answer.

Unemployment

33.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity if she will make a statement on the current unemployment situation.

The trend in the seasonally adjusted figures of wholly unemployed, excluding school leavers, has turned downwards since August. The figure has fallen by 56,000 over the past three months from 585,000 or 2·5 per cent. in August to 529,000 or 2·3 percent. in November. The total number of persons registered as unemployed on 11th November, the date of the latest count, was 561,000. The seasonally adjusted figure of unfilled vacancies for adults rose by about 16,300 between October and November, and now stands at 211,000. It has increased on average by about 10,700 a month in the three months August to November.

While I am glad that there is some progress in the figures and leaving aside the crocodile tears of hon. Members opposite, will my right hon. Friend accept that unemployment is of the utmost domestic concern to the Labour movement nationally and that there can be no complacency or acceptance of high unemployment figures by this side of the House?

Is not this about the twentieth month in 1967–68 when unemployment has been above 500,000? Can the Minister say what level of unemployment is acceptable to this Government within the meaning of the term "full employment"?

The hon. Member knows perfectly well that the purpose of our policy is to continue reduction in unemployment, which we are now glad to see taking place. [Hon. Members: "Oh."] The answer to his question is that a level of unemployment acceptable to me is the lowest possible level consistent with this country's survival on the balance of payments side.

The House will have been interested to hear the right hon. Lady say that the Government's policy is to continue a downward trend. Can she therefore confirm that the Chancellor's latest measures are calculated to bring about a continuance of the downward trend of unemployment?

The Chancellor's latest measures are designed to secure a sound foundation on which the expansion movement which has begun can continue. [Hon. Members: "Answer."] As the right hon. Member is perfectly well aware, the new measures will to a large extent reduce imports and set resources free for exports rather than reduce output and employment.

Norfolk (Industrial Training)

34.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity what organised training in practical skills has been established in Norfolk by the Agricultural, Horticultural and Forestry Industry Training Board.

This is primarily a matter for the Board. But I understand that courses of practical training have been arranged for Norfolk agricultural workers both off the job and on the job. Instructors have been trained and are now giving practical instruction on their holdings. To help the smaller employer the Board has encouraged the formation and growth of group training schemes.

Is my hon. Friend aware that many Norfolk farmers complain that they are not getting value for the levy and that it is more worry and bother than it is worth? If he disagrees with that attitude, will he say why?

I fundamentally disagree with that attitude, not least because of the great deal of time I have spent investigating complaints from Norfolk and other farmers in the recent past. There is a great need for improved and extended industrial training in the industry, and the Agricultural Training Board is a cheap and effective way of providing it.

Building Industry (Labour-Only Sub-Contracting)

37.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity if she will announce the Government's intentions in relation to the Phelps Brown Report on labour-only sub-contracting in the building industry.

57.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity what is her policy regarding the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into labour in the building and civil engineering industries; and whether she will make a statement.

The important and diverse recommendations of the Phelps Brown Report are being taken up with those concerned through appropriate channels. In particular, the Government are consulting with the industry about the proposal for legislation to regulate self-employment.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that the Report gives as one of the causes for the increase in labour-only sub-contracting the Selective Employment Tax? Will she now consider giving that too a touch on the tiller?

It is perfectly correct that the Phelps Brown Report has suggestions for dealing with Selective Employment Tax in the context of the industry, and this is one of the proposals which will be examined.

Is not the Secretary of State aware that the Phelps Brown Committee states quite plainly that Selective Employment Tax is one of the causes of the increase in labour-only sub-contracting? Is not that yet another jolly good argument for abolishing S.E.T. at once?

The hon. Gentleman should read paragraph 436 of the Phelps Brown Report, which makes the point that the matter could be dealt with by making S.E.T., or an equivalent amount, payable in respect of the self-employed no less than the employed, which is an entirely different picture from that which he has been trying to give.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, whatever the Phelps Brown Report may say, when in 1964 I took over the Ministry of Works labour-only sub-contracting was already an evil in this industry and was growing long before S.E.T. appeared on the horizon?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is why it is important for us urgently to study the proposals in the Report, as we are, to see what we can do to meet this evil.

Livestock (Public Roads)

36.

asked the Attorney-General if he will make a statement on his plans for changes in the law of liability in relation to livestock straying on public roads.

The Government accept the need for legislation in this branch of the law and are in general agreement with the Law Commission's proposals. However, as my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor stated in another place, the prospects of the Government's introducing legislation for England and Wales on this subject must depend on the Bill's acceptance as a Second Reading Committee Bill.

Has the Attorney-General gained any estimate of the staggering increased cost to agriculture if a Bill on these lines were implemented? Will he confirm that it will not apply to Scotland, and has he the agreement of the N.F.U?

There have been discussions with the National Farmers' Union. The proposals by the Law Commission seem to be both reasonable and practicable. As for the Scottish position, I understand that the Law Reform Committee of Scotland has made proposals similar to those of the Law Commission for amending the law of Scotland, which are now being reviewed by the Scottish Law Commission whose report my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is awaiting.

Why is my right hon. and learned Friend not bringing in legislation to implement the Law Commission's proposals, particularly in view of the fact that a number of Bills have been presented to this House on this subject and he could very easily implement part if not the whole of the Report?

The answer, I fear, is lack of Parliamentary time and the fact that this proposal, important as it is, cannot claim any particular priority.