asked the Prime Minister what proportion of the letters he receives regarding unemployment is from women.
I have been asked to reply.Statistics are not kept which classify letters by particular categories of correspondent.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, whatever the proportion may be, it is likely to increase sharply in the next week or two because last weekend thousands of women in Scotland took part in a demonstration against the present level of unemployment and that, as a result, the Prime Minister will be receiving scores of letters from them protesting against the present situation in which thousands of men in Scotland must face the degradation of the dole queue for the first time in their lives? Do the Government accept responsibility for the present level of unemployment? Can we look forward to new and imaginative measures in the near future to improve the situation?
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is always happy to receive positive suggestions as to how to improve the situation—[HON. MEMBERS: "Resign."]—I would call that a negative rather than a positive suggestion.
Nevertheless, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite should do it.
That suggestion comes ill from the Labour Party, who left behind a legacy of growing inflation.
Would my right hon. Friend accept the positive recommendation that he should look at the discrimination against the employment of women in certain professions? Is he aware that they are still not able to serve in either the ministry of the church or membership of the Stock Exchange, and so are prevented from serving either God or Mammon?
Without accepting the dichotomy put forward by my hon. Friend, I must say that the Government have taken a number of measures to reduce discrimination against women in this country, and no doubt further measures will be introduced.
If the right hon. Gentleman is looking for positive suggestions about unemployment, both for men and for women, has he had drawn to his attention the proposal by a number of Labour councillors in Liverpool, who have suggested that if the Government are prepared to give financial aid to the City of Liverpool, instead of that which is now being paid out in unemployment and other benefits, they could almost immediately create 10,000 jobs in Liverpool, where at present 53,000 are unemployed, including 8,000 building operatives?
I have not seen that particular suggestion. I am always a little sceptical about any plans which suggest that they will immediately create more employment.
Would the right hon. Gentleman revert to the earlier question whether the Government will now accept responsibility for the present level of unemployment? His only answer to that question is that he hopes to get some suggestions from several thousand letters. It is his responsibility, and if he wants a constructive suggestion, will he follow the negative one and resign, so that we can take his place?
The Government are responsible for all aspects of economic policy. But we inherited a situation—[HON. MEMBERS: "Not again."]—The Leader of the Opposition was dining out for seven years on the £800 million deficit. We inherited a situation in which inflation was causing great difficulties. One of the main causes of unemployment is the pricing out of the labour market of many people whom industry cannot afford to employ at the rates necessary at the moment.