asked the Secretary of State for Employment what proposals he has to reduce unemployment among women.
The Government's measures to reduce the level of unemployment are intended to benefit men and women alike.
That is not a very communicative reply. Is my hon. Friend aware that there are about 1 million women unemployed, although only about one-third bother to register as unemployed? Does he accept that many women wish to work and that many have to work to meet the problems of inflation? Is he further aware that in connection with the Job Creation Programme, which is supposed to cater for young people of both sexes, it has been found that so far very few schemes cater for girls. Will he look at the prospects for both girls and women in job creation schemes?
I shall try to be more communicative to my hon. Friend. I accept her analysis about the needs of working women, particularly in terms of keeping pace with inflation. I do not want to minimise the problem, but if we look at the figures it appears that women's employment has suffered less than men's during the present recession, particularly if we take into account the extra number of women coming on to the register and the increased inclination by women to register.On my hon. Friend's second point, about the Job Creation Programme, it is true that about 75 per cent. of the jobs involved have gone to male workers, but this is a question very much of local initiative, and many of these jobs are for manual workers. Nevertheless, we shall look at the matter. I should add that the work experience programme has placed about four women to every three men.
Will the Minister confirm that recent legislation designed to improve the conditions of work for women has made it much more expensive for employers to employ women, and has thus only created more unemployed women?
No. I certainly will not confirm that, because it does not happen to be the case. Of course there is extra cost for the employers involved but there is no evidence to show that it has resulted in the sort of situation described by the hon. Gentleman.
Does my hon. Friend accept that one way of preventing further unemployment amongst women would be to save the 350 jobs threatened at the Plessey factory in Kirkby, in my constituency? Does he further accept that many of these women, because of high levels of unemployment in the area, are the breadwinners for their families? Will he impress upon his right hon. Friend the urgency of taking all measures possible to save these jobs?
My right hon. Friend will have noted my hon. Friend's remarks, and we shall certainly see that they are noted by other Ministers involved.
Coal, Petroleum And Chemical Industries
asked the Secretary of State for Employment to what extent the labour force in the coal, petroleum and chemical industries has increased or decreased during the last 10 years.
Between June 1966 and June 1976 the numbers of employees in employment in Great Britain in the coal mining and general chemicals industries fell by 214,000 and 19,000, respectively. For the petroleum and natural gas industry the latest figures are for June 1975. Between June 1966 and June 1975 the numbers in this industry increased by 2,000.
Does my hon. Friend agree that despite that quite staggering drop in the number employed in those industries there has been substantial investment and massive improvements in output? Would he deduce from this the fact that it is not by investment in industry that we shall resolve the problem of unemployment? Is he aware that we must turn to the public service sector for this effect?
I have seen the interesting paper about these problems—a paper of which my hon. Friend is co-author—in which he continues to express and expand on these interesting ideas. It may be true that increased investment alone will not result in a significant drop in unemployment; there is also the question of aggregate demand and its expansion. Perhaps we ought to continue to look carefully at the ideas put forward in my hon. Friend's paper.
Job Creation Programme
asked the Secretary of State for Employment what further measures are proposed as a part of the Job Creation Programme.
A further allocation of £25 million has been made to the Job Creation Programme to enable applications to be received up to 31st August 1977. A working party, set up by the Manpower Services Commission to study all the current measures to help unemployed young people, will be reporting to it in April, and the long-term future of job creation will be discussed between the Government and the Commission thereafter.
Has my right hon. Friend considered the proposals of the TUC, contained in the 1977 Economic Review, which talks about the Job Creation Pro- gramme being capable of substantial expansion? Will my right hon. Friend consider particularly the proposal that all young people between the ages of 16 and 18 who are not in employment should have the opportunity of receiving training through taking part in a Job Creation Programme or in work experience activities?
I can assure any hon. Friend that I have given careful consideration to that proposal. I have discussed it with representatives of the Manpower Services Commission and I expect consideration of the issue to be reflected in its report, which I shall receive in April.
Is the Secretary of State aware that I hope that the Job Creation Programme will be expanded? When this happens will the right hon. Gentleman consider simplifying it, because I find that there is some reluctance on the part of companies to take on all the documentation and regulations involved for what may be a short period of employment?
We are considering the possibility of simplifying and even operating a narrower range of measures. The advantages gained through simplicity have to be carefully weighed against the wide range of opportunities that exist now when we are able to tailor specific schemes to specific employers or even to the needs of special areas. It would be unwise to jump to the conclusion that we have to simplify this without having regard to the great advantage of flexibility over the wide range of unemployment problems particularly for young people.
When this review takes place will my right hon. Friend give consideration to an assessment of the value of the scheme, particularly its effects upon long-term prospects for employment and upon the development of industry in areas? Will he consider whether too much influence is exerted by the Civil Service and whether more authority should be vested in the local authority for the use of funds, so that they find the right target?
I am not, as of now, convinced that the Civil Service is having any undue influence on the selection of job creation schemes. The area action committees are examining the schemes and recommending them in the light of their local knowledge. I cannot give a general answer to this. I shall be glad to hear from any hon. Member who has a particular problem in his area or who feels that there is a complaint to be laid against an area action committee for refusing a project. At present I feel that we should maintain this control in the hands of the local area action committees.
Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that when he last made his statement on the Job Creation Programme he informed the House that he was hopeful that it would have a beneficial effect in the West Country? Is he aware that male unemployment in the Exeter and East Devon areas is now 8·5 per cent. and is continuing to increase? We are dissatisfied with what is happening. What new steps does he propose to take?
The seasonally adjusted figures for unemployment in the South-West area show a fall of 600, to a rate of 6·5 per cent. in the last period. That was not as good a drop as was experienced in many other parts of the country at that time. There is therefore a need to examine how effective these measures are in the South-West. I hope that I reflected that feeling to some extent when we debated employment problems in the South-West.
Railways (Closed Shop)
asked the Secretary of State for Employment what discussions he has had with the British Railways Board about the operation of the closed shop.
Is the Minister aware that of 31 employees of the nationalised British Railways Board who have been dismissed for refusing to join a union seven had more than 29 years' service to the board? In view of the events of last Wednesday, does the Minister not understand that even the Liberals believe that there is a crucial issue of individual freedom involved here? Will the hon. Gentleman make a better statement to the House than that which he has just made?
I must tell the hon. Gentleman again, as I have done many times, that the Government's policy on these matters is one of neutrality. We leave these issues for determination by employers and trade unions. I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman is advocating a return to the conditions that existed under the Industrial Relations Act—conditions that were emphatically rejected by the electorate in 1974 and which had had disastrous results.
Does my hon. Friend agree that there is another way of looking at this matter, namely, that a man who has not paid any trade union contributions for 29 years but has during that period allowed the trade unions to negotiate wages on his behalf and has taken the money, has been freeloading all of his life?
The freeloader is a cause of genuine concern to all trade unionists. I do not want to take sides, because we adopt a position of neutrality. It is worth bearing in mind that if the persons to whom the hon. Gentleman refers have been in employment with British Railways for the period that he suggests they ought to have looked at their contracts of employment, which made provision for trade union membership.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that while a closed shop can be organised—as some are—to take account of deeply-held personal convictions and the length of service of existing employees, it is deeply offensive and intensely unfair when these considerations are overridden and people with long service are sacked as a result? Is he aware that we cannot accept that in standing by and doing nothing in such circumstances the Government are being fair? They are being intensely partial. They are not being neutral.
The hon. Gentleman persists in his inability to recognise the realities of the situation. The Opposition are under a duty to make their position clear. If they say that there ought to be a statutory right for an individual not to belong to a trade union, clearly they are once again moving along the disastrous road of the Industrial Relations Act, with all its harmful and ineffectual consequences.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the disgraceful nature of the Minister's reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.
asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether he has proposals to improve the employment prospects of those who are suffering from mental or physical disability.
asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is the current level of unemployment amongst registered disabled workers; and what percentage of such workers this represents.
asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is the latest figure of unemployment of registered disabled people; how this compares as a percentage with the national average; and if he will make a statement about Government policy for the employment of disabled people.
I am informed by the Manpower Services Commission that on 10th February, the latest date on which information is available, 77,951 registered disabled people were unemployed, representing 14·4 per cent. of the disabled persons register. The general unemployment rate was 5·9 per cent. I have nothing to add to the statement about the employment of disabled people which I made in reply to the hon. Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers) on 7th March.
In view of the large number of mentally and physically disabled people among the long-term unemployed, amounting to one-third of the overall total in my constituency, may I ask the Government to reconsider this matter? In particular, will they ensure that no training facilities for the mentally disabled are lost as a result of the transfer of training facilities from the Social Services Department to the Education Department?
The plight of the disabled who are unemployed for long periods is under active consideration. We hope to be able to do something about them soon. We shall certainly look into the point raised by the hon. Gentleman in the latter part of his supplementary question.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the best way to improve the employment prospects of disabled people is for Government Departments to mend their ways and to employ a reasonable number of disabled people? Is he aware that at present every Government Department, except two has less than 3 per cent. of disabled people on its staff?
I accept that an unsatisfactory situation is revealed by the figures that we published recently. The fact that we published those figures was a major step in the right direction. I have been in touch with my ministerial colleagues about this to ask them to review their procedures. I have also asked them to approach the nationalised industries, where appropriate, and I have written this week to the chairmen of all disablement advisory committees so that they can take local initiatives in the public and private sectors.
Will the hon. Gentleman accept that one of the most important factors in this respect is the ability of disabled people to get to and from their place of work? Is not the Government's decision to take away vehicles from disabled people a retrograde action? Will the Minister press the Secretary of State for Social Services to reconsider this decision?
I am conscious of this problem and have had discussions with my hon. Friend who is responsible for the disabled on the issue of travel to work. The Employment Services Agency's fares-to-work scheme is under active review. We hope to make improvements there. I would not want to mislead the House into thinking that that is a solution. There are other possibilities that we are examining. I shall press the views of the hon. Gentleman further.
Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that where there are severely handicapped people the DRO gets to the home very quickly and gives good advice? Is he aware that the suppliers of equipment supply quickly but that there is a three-months' administrative gap in his Department between examination and distribution? Will he please give his attention to that matter?
I shall certainly look at that. I think that that is probably a little unfair, as in many cases equipment is available but it requires special adaptation to suit special needs. However, in view of my hon. Friend's comments I shall examine the matter and give consideration to any point that he wants to draw to my attention.
asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is the number of men and women unemployed in travel-to-work areas in Calderdale, expressed in numerical and percentage terms and compared with the same period last year.
At 10th March, 2,289 males and 810 females were unemployed in Calderdale and the unemployment rates were 4·7 per cent. for males and 2·4 per cent. for females. These figures are provisional. The corresponding figures for March 1976 were 2,532, 729, 5·2 and 2·1.
Do those figures include the large-scale redundancies of textile workers that have recently occurred in my constituency? Will my hon. Friend give an indication of the present trend of vacancies within the same area?
Obviously the figures include all those who have been declared redundant, have finished work and have registered as unemployed. They cannot reflect any future trends.
Collective Bargaining (Disclosure Of Information)
asked the Secretary of State for Employment when he proposes to implement the provisions of the Employment Protection Act concerning disclosure of information to trade unions during the course of collective bargaining.
My right hon. Friend has approved the draft code of practice sent to him by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service and proposes to lay it before both Houses as soon as printed copies are available. I expect this to be within the next four to six weeks.
I welcome that announcement. In the circumstances, will my hon. Friend confirm that as the days of secre- tive and authoritarian industrial rule are clearly numbered, managements that are not making disclosures to trade unions should start doing so?
Yes, I think that is sensible. The code will have to be approved by both Houses. It will be for the House to make a decision. In the recognition that this was one of the less controversial aspects of the Employment Protection Act, it will probably be welcomed by both Houses. It will make sense for all employers to study ways and means of anticipating and fulfilling the provisions of the Code.
Although I accept that this move is probably now inevitable, will the hon. Gentleman take on board the real fears of certain firms that information circulated to trade unions for the purpose to which the Question refers might some-how gain wider circulation, to their commercial disadvantage? Has the hon. Gentleman been able to take on board in any way these genuine fears?
If the hon. Gentleman reads the Employment Protection Act he will see that protection is provided in respect of matters of a confidential nature, of the kind to which he referred. On that ground he will find that his fears are unjustified.
Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that full account has been taken of the representations that have been made and that the many criticisms that the first draft attracted will have been met in the final draft? As I understand it, this is something that is broadly acceptable within industry.
Yes. By the very nature of ACAS it carries with it support from both sides of industry. The hon. Gentleman will find that this is a matter that has the backing of both sides of industry. There has been wide consultation. More than 140 organisations have expressed views to ACAS. In the last resort it will be for the House to make a decision.
Mexborough And Wombwell
asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many men, women, boys and girls, respectively, were registered as unemployed at the Mexborough and Wombwell employment exchanges at the latest available date; what were the corresponding figures for the years 1974, 1975 and 1976; and if he will make a statement on what action he intends to take to find jobs for these unemployed persons.
At 10th March there were provisionally 1,632 males and 780 females. In March 1974 the figures were 1,399 and 218, in March 1975 1,234 and 281, and in March 1976 1,629 and 633. Separate figures are not available for men, women, boys and girls. Mexborough and Wombwell should benefit from the extensions of the Job Creation Programme, Work Experience Programme and Youth Employment Subsidy Scheme, which were announced early this month. We have also provided more support for training and for a further expansion of Community Industry.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the population in Mexborough and district is smaller than it was four decades ago? Is he further aware that that decline is mainly due to young people having to leave the district to find jobs elsewhere? Will he now take another look at this area? If my hon. Friend cannot include the whole of South Yorkshire, will he make this area a special development district? Does my hon. Friend appreciate that although an advance factory was built in the area three years ago not one job has been provided as a result?
Development area status is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry. I appreciate the problems of the area. I shall consider them personally and carefully with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and draw the attention of the Secretary of State for Industry to my hon. Friend's concern.
asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will initiate studies into the human diseconomies of very large factories.
The Work Research Unit of the Department of Employment is concerned with the implications of problems of job satisfaction in factories of all sizes. It is co-ordinating and monitoring a research programme on this subject. The unit is aware of the particular difficulties in large factories and it offers managements and trade unions advice on ways of reducing the problems that arise.
Will the hon. Gentleman take on board the fact that it is becoming more and more evident that bigger is not beautiful, and that we get a stepped function of disincentive for the individual, in terms of lack of job satisfaction and identity, as factories grow beyond a certain size?
There is a good deal of truth in what the hon. Gentleman says. I shall certainly take his remarks on board. It is also true that in many larger industries and plants there is no industrial trouble.
Does the Minister accept that in factories where the number of employees is fewer than about 1,000 industrial relations tend to be more harmonious than in factories with a larger number?
That is rather too much of a sweeping generalisation. Such matters vary considerably between industries, as well as between factories.
asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is the latest total number of unemployed; and how this compares with February and October 1974.
At 10th March the provisional number of registered as unemployed in Great Britain, excluding school leavers, and seasonally adjusted, was 1,268,100, compared with 549,800 in February 1974 and 608,400 in October 1974.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that these are disgraceful unemployment figures? Are they what the Government had in mind three years ago when they conned the electors into believing that it would be "back to work with Labour"?
The figures reflect in part the efforts that the Government have successfully made to retain the level of employment in this country to a greater degree than most other countries in Western Europe. In the period to which the Question relates—namely, between March 1974 and March 1976—the fall in the number of people working was only 233,000. The fact that the rise in unemployment was three times that is largely due to the fact that many more people are seeking employment. That will continue to be the case for some time to come. It is against such an objective assessment that the House must judge the measures that the Government bring forward to deal with an appalling problem.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that the working people of Stechford are fully aware that there would be twice as many unemployed if the Tories were in power? Will he take note that the Tories themselves clearly recognise that fact? Does my right hon. Friend discern any trend that shows that in the near future more people are likely to be employed?
If Opposition Members were as assiduous in their study of what is happening in industry as they are in focussing on the particular problems of unemployment they would realise that such a trend exists. The number of people employed in vehicle manufacturing rose by 16,000 between January 1976 and January 1977. The number employed in the textile industry increased by 9,000 in the same period. The number of people employed in chemical manufacturing increased by 7,000. There is every evidence that the support of the industrial strategy for manufacturing industry is resulting in many more jobs.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware how much avoidable unemployment is caused in many instances by the refusal of the Department of the Environment to give local authorities permission, under Section 42 of the Community Land Act, to sell land to employers who are willing to go to areas as long as they can buy the land, so creating local employment.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Too long."]
Order. The hon. Gentleman is just concluding.
Will the right hon. Gentleman take over from the Department of the Environment the question of the release of land under Section 42 of the Community Land Act, so that employment can be provided?
I am not aware that this is by any means a general problem. I know of only one or two very isolated cases of employers seeking to purchase land in which there is difficulty in creating new employment. In the overwhelming number of cases in which employers are prepared to move into areas and to obtain land to create employment they receive nothing but great assistance from Government Departments.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that these unsatisfactory unemployment figures are largely due to inflation of long duration, precipitated by the reckless monetary policies of the last Conservative Government?
I agree with my hon. Friend that our inflation problem is one of the major constraints in dealing with unemployment. These "disastrous" figures which are being referred to arise at the end of two months which have seen successive drops in total unemployment, one of which was a drop of 38,000 in four weeks.
How does the Secretary of State reconcile what he has said about his concern for employment and what one of his colleagues said about the neutrality of his Department on the closed shop issue with the disclosures in the Business News of The Times this morning of the deplorable episode involving Tattersall Advertising Limited, in which an organisation in his Department—ACAS—was used to enforce a closed shop on that company?
The rôle of ACAS is to conciliate and avoid disputes. That includes any disputes arising from breaches of closed shop agreements.
Is not the Secretary of State's statement today and his answers to Questions a shameful indictment of the Government's pathetic employment record? Is he not aware that our figures are now above the average for EEC countries? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I have the latest figures here: ours are above the average. Is he not further aware that the Prime Minister said last Wednesday in the House that he thought that the trend in unemployment over the next few months would certainly not be downwards? Would he now tell the House, the country and the electors of Stechford the Government's forecast for unemployment over the next year?
I sometimes wonder what the right hon. Gentleman's programme is before he comes into the House to utter some of these phrases like "shameful indictment". If he would only pause to consider what I have reported, he would see that it includes a drop of 26,000 in the number of unemployed between January and February, a drop of 38,000 between February and March and an increase in the numbers employed in vehicles of 16,000, in textiles of 9,000 and in chemicals of 7,000. I hardly think that figures like that justify such phrases as "shameful indictment" of the Government, especially against a background of a major recession.
Employment Protection Act
asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether the Employment Protection Act is achieving the objectives outlined by the Government.
I am satisfied that the Act is achieving its purpose to the extent that it has been implemented so far.
Is the Minister aware that his Government have suspended free collective bargaining, which ACAS is bound under the Act to develop? Will he resolve that contradiction and tell us what steps his Government have in mind or what consultations are in progress for the reform of collective bargaining?
If the hon. Gentleman thinks that this Government have suspended collective bargaining, he will believe anything.
Does the Minister agree that the Employment Protection Act and the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Amendment) Act do need amendment so as to restore protection against unfair dismissal to those thousands of people who work partly in the United Kingdom and partly overseas, or who have fixed-term contracts with provision to terminate them before their end —all of whom have lost their protection as a result of judicial interpretations?
Yes, there is a problem here, and my hon. Friend has put a Bill before the House in an attempt to remedy it. However, he will recognise that this is not a simple matter, because the words that have given rise to difficulty appear in a number of protective statutes, and it would be necessary to look at them all. However, one of the cases dealt with by the Employment Appeal Tribunal is still to be ruled on by the Court of Appeal, and I think that it would be wise to await the outcome of the Court of Appeal's decision.
With regard to ACAS, what action is the Minister taking to draw attention to the disgraceful happenings in a number of Surrey hospitals, which are causing immense suffering and are absolutely disgraceful? What action is his Department taking to bring this matter to the attention of ACAS and the appropriate union, and to call for an immediate halt to what is going on?
The right hon. Gentleman will know that the Secretary of State for Social Services has made a forthright statement, addressing his remarks to both the union involved and its members. I hope that there is a speedy return to normal working. Undoubtedly, this situation is causing the gravest hardship to a number of people, which should not be allowed. The services of ACAS are ready and available to help in this situation. I hope that if it cannot be speedily resolved by other means, the parties will have quick recourse to ACAS.
The whole House will be grateful for what the Minister has said. Will he see that his Department and ACAS play a full part in bringing this dispute to a speedy end? If there are any further developments, will he report back to the House, perhaps tomorrow?
On the first question, the right hon. Gentleman knows that in connection with industrial disputes we in the Department, having established ACAS as an independent body, want to preserve its independence. Nevertheless, I am sure that his remarks will be brought to the attention of the Chairman of ACAS. The second question would perhaps be more appropriately addressed to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services. I shall certainly draw the right hon. Gentleman's request to his attention.
School Leavers And Graduates
asked the Secretary of State for Employment what assessment he has made of the likely shortfall of jobs for school leavers and graduates at the end of the current academic year.
No forecasts of the incidence of unemployment for particular groups have been made, although it is clear that many leaving school and university this summer to seek employment will have considerable difficulty in finding it.
In order to prevent further anxiety, will the Minister say now what steps he proposes to take to help those people who have been on a job creation project for a year and whose term is now coming to an end? They are likely to be swelling that number, whatever it turns out to be.
It is because the Government have had particular concern for this group that they are waiting for the Manpower Services Commission's report on the future development of services in this field and have decided to continue the youth employment subsidy of £10 a week for 26 weeks for those unemployed for a long time. I appeal to employers to take up that subsidy and give long-term unemployed youngsters a chance.
Would the Minister be prepared to have discussions with the Secretary of State for the Environment about the serious development in West London, particularly in Ealing, of industrialists selling sites for massive profits followed by planning authorities allowing the mushrooming of warehouses on those sites? With this practice, any attempt to get industry to return to London is already jeopardised. This will have a serious effect on young people about to leave school to work in any Job Creation Programme.
I always find discussion with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment stimulating and fruitful. I shall certainly have discussions with him after I have visited Ealing on 13th April to assess the whole problem of unemployment in that area.
Does the Minister agree that those still at school who have jobs to go to should be encouraged to leave early and to continue their education by part-time studies?
I am not absolutely clear what is meant by that question, but Labour Members believe that it is in the interests of young people to continue their education as long as it is practicable to do so.
asked the Secretary of State for Employment what steps he is taking to reduce unemployment in Wales.
In addition to the further allocation of £46 million for training purposes throughout Great Britain announced on 3rd March, the Government are continuing the special measures which they introduced to alleviate the worst effects of unemployment. These measures have so far benefited nearly 29,000 workers in Wales. Other assistance is being given through the Department of Industry.
Does the Minister agree with the Manpower Services Commission's recent prediction that the present record level of youth unemployment, which affects Wales like other parts of the country, is likely to persist for another five years? Does the hon. Gentleman further agree that the best thing that he and his Government can do is to take the pressure off the private sector so that employers are free to employ?
We do believe that there will be a persistent problem of youth unemployment because of the increased number of young people wanting jobs and the disappearance of jobs for young people. That is why we are awaiting the report of the Manpower Services Commission, a report which will lay before us proposals for the long-term solution to this problem.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government's approval of the building of the new general hospital in Bangor, of the new roadspan over the Britannia Bridge and the continuation of the hydro-electric scheme in Llanberis will enormously relieve unemployment in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, and my home, and will give new apprenticeship opportunities for young people in the area?
The Government are doing all that they can for that part of North Wales, which deserves attention because of the severe unemployment problem that it faces.
Does the Minister accept that the situation is quite unacceptable in Gwynedd, where unemployment is now between 10 per cent. and 12 per cent? That is something that we cannot tolerate, and it will worsen substantially because of the deliberate decision of the Government to do away with the regional employment premium. Will the Minister now say what alternative new proposals the Government have to replace the regional employment premium in order to encourage the development of manufacturing industry in areas like Gwynedd?
You, Mr. Speaker, would be impatient were I to make the Budget Statement at this point in time, but we agree with Members on the Opposition Benches that the level of unemployment in North Wales is intolerable. That is why we were pleased to see the relief of Shotton, and that is why this morning I have been discussing the possibilities of giving additional community industry places to North Wales, because of the problem that the area faces.
asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether he will take urgent action to offset the decline of jobs in manufacturing industry in the Greater Manchester area by the allocation of a higher proportion of funds for the Job Creation Programme and general Government policy in relation to contracts and industrial development.
The amount of help that Manchester receives from the Job Creation Programme will depend on the number of suitable projects that are devised and put forward by local sponsors.As far as manufacturing industry is concerned, qualifying firms can benefit from both the regional and national schemes of assistance for intermediate areas administered by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry. In addition, the Government will continue to bear in mind the employment needs of Greater Manchester, along with other areas, in relation to the placing of contracts.
Is my hon. Friend aware of the quite dramatic fall in job opportunities in the inner Manchester area—the area of the Manchester district? Will he accord to that area no less a priority in consultation and in the provision of finance than he already does to development areas, and concentrate funds specifically on inner urban regeneration of industry rather than trying to spread the load thinly?
That question would be more appropriately directed to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry. Certainly, in terms of special measures, we in the Department of Employment give a fair share to Manchester.
Prime Minister (Engagements)
asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 29th March.
asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 29th March.
Roberts asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 29th March.
asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 29th March.
In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be holding meetings with ministerial colleagues and others.
If my right hon. Friend discusses phase 3 with any of his ministerial colleagues, employers or trade unionists will he emphasise that, although there may be a need for some flexibility, if better-paid workers begin leapfrogging one over the other they may damage the interests of lower-paid workers and possibly destroy the social contract?
I completely agree with my hon. Friend about this. It is part of the Government's economic policy for this year to seek, if at all possible, to get agreement with the trade unions on another phase of wage policy. As my hon. Friend says, that could be destroyed if there were leapfrogging of the sort that he has outlined. With regard to differentials, it has always been the Government's policy to recognise that the rigidities of phases 1 and 2 cannot be extended into phase 3, but that there must be more flexibility, so that differentials can be recognised.
Now that the Prime Minister has abandoned Socialism as his price for a Liberal coalition, will he today explain to his beleagured candidate who is besieged in the Stechford by-election and those of his few Labour supporters who are still there why, if they wish to support Socialism, they should vote for the Labour candidate?
When I read the Question I somehow thought that the hon. Gentleman was not really asking about my engagements for 29th March. The hon. Gentleman has had the opportunity of making his point. I shall not boast about the result of Stechford. I shall leave him to do that and we shall see on Friday morning.
Can the Prime Minister take some time off to study the contradictory statements made by Ministers and Members of the Liberal Party about the recently concluded pact? Will he confirm that he is still leading a Government dedicated to the pursuit of Socialism and that he has not abandoned a single legislative commitment?
I do not think that it is of particular concern to the Conservative Party what arrangements are made between other parties in the House. I would not regard it—[Interruption.] When the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Warren) joins the Labour Party, if he ever does, I shall be glad to account for myself to him. Meanwhile, despite this eagerness on the part of the Conservative Party, I do not propose to assume ministerial responsibility for these inter-party arrangements. I am afraid that the curiosity of Conservative Members will have to remain unassuaged. The Government's programme will continue to be carried through as we get a majority in this House for it.
Could the Prime Minister find time in his busy day to sit quietly and contemplate who is responsible for continuing in office a Chancellor of the Exchequer who has seen the retail price index rise, on a three-month basis, from 8·4 per cent. to 21·6 per cent.? Is this inflation not destroying all the plans and hopes of those who have tried to do their best for their retirement?
The degree of inflation in this country has undermined many things. That is why the Government are resolutely determined to reduce it, and are succeeding—without much help from the Opposition. It is our view, which I have expressed in the House many times, that if we resolutely pursue the policies that we have embarked upon inflation will start to turn down in the second half of this year and will go down faster in the first half of the following year.
Is my right hon. Friend aware this morning in Standing Committee A, which was considering the Coal Industry Bill, the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South East (Mr. Rost) advocated a policy that the price of gas should be—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order."]
Order. I think that hon. Members are mixing up a Select Committee and a Standing Committee, but I would also remind the hon. Gentleman that the giving of information is not the purpose of this period—[Laughter.]—except—let me put myself right—by the Front Bench.
I hope that in the course of one of his engagements today my right hon. Friend will send a message to our candidate at Stetchford, informing him that the Tory Party is advocating price increases in excess of the 10 per cent. proposed by the Government and that that has not been repudiated by Tory Front Bench spokesmen.
I am aware that the Conservative Party's policy would be to increase prices substantially, and I hope that that message is well understood in the country. That is why my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has not accepted the Conservative Party's proposals in Brussels. He has not accepted the view put forward by the Conservative Front Bench on this matter, which would have had the effect of raising food prices. He has steadily resisted both their proposals and those of the other countries.
Is the Prime Minister aware that when it comes to rising prices we could not begin to rival his record and that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in increasing them? Is he aware that when we left office their maximum was 13·2 per cent. per annum, a record that he has not begun to rival during the whole time that he has been in office?
I know that the right hon. Lady's intentions are of the best, but I was wondering why the Conservative Front Bench spokesmen on food and agriculture should have put forward a proposition that would have the effect of raising food prices in this country by 1¼ per cent., by their proposed devaluation of the green pound, without anything in exchange for it.
How can my right hon. Friend expect any congratulations from the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition on the valiant battle that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is putting up in Europe when that is only one more bit of bad news for her in a very bad week?
I hope that my hon. Friend is not intimating that he has had any sight of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor's Budget, because that would be extremely serious. As regards the other news of this week, it is certainly true that what my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is doing in Brussels is to show that a determined fight on behalf of the British housewife will bring results.
asked the Prime Minister when he next plans to fly in Concorde.
I have at present no plans to do so.
Nevertheless, does the Prime Minister now feel more optimistic about the possibility of New York landing rights being granted? In that context, will he undertake two things? First, will he undertake from now on to press the case as hard as France has pressed it? Secondly, if success is achieved, will he undertake to take the inaugural flight into New York?
It is proposed to submit more evidence on noise levels to the Port of New York Authority. The French authorities and our own are considering when this information should be submitted. There is a lawsuit in the background, about the date of which no final decision has been taken. We are continuing to work in close co-operation with the French on this matter. President Giscard d'Estaing and I had an exchange of views about the matter bilaterally in Rome last Friday.
Will my right hon. Friend make a renewed request to the Americans for a quick decision on the entry of Concorde into New York? The jobs of aircraft workers in my constituency are threatened, and all this is taking place when the new Aerospace Corporation is coming into being. A speedy decision is long overdue.
The American authorities are aware of our anxieties about the matter. If Mr. Cyrus Vance comes to London later this week, as I understand he will, I or my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary will make it our business to acquaint him of our views about the urgency of the matter. We have a battle to fight here in relation to noise and we must proceed by offering more evidence to the Port of New York Authority in the first place.
Evans asked the Prime Minister when he last met the TUC.
I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Corbett) on 3rd February.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the improving economic situation in this country, despite the world recession, has been brought about by the co-operation that this Government have had from the trade union movement? Will he seek to ensure the continuation of that co-operation by meeting the trade union leaders soon after the Budget and considering the positive proposals that they are putting forward in their economic review to deal with the question of unemployment?
Yes, Sir. I certainly undertake to do that, because there is no doubt that the TUC's co-operation in these matters is vital. We also need the co-operation of the CBI on prices and other matters. A Bill concerning this will be brought forward very shortly. I think that it is fair to say that the Government have carried this country through the deepest world recession, from which the world is now beginning to emerge, with less hardship and less poverty than has ever before been known in the history of these islands.
To what extent will the Liberal Party be involved in the Government's talks with the unions over phase 3 of the incomes policy?
If you care to arrange a period of Question Time for the Liberal Party, Mr. Speaker, I am sure that its Leader will be very happy to answer.
Can my right hon. Friend confirm that every Government Department and every Minister has been told to try to take seriously the Liberals, especially the Bunny Girl manager?
Like many of my hon. Friends, I was very happy to have Liberal support in the Lobbies last week. It has preserved the Government in office and will enable us to continue to carry out our policies.
Has the Prime Minister been able to tell the TUC why it is that, to use the right hon. Gentleman's expression, in the Government's carrying Britain through the world recession the standard of living has fallen consistently in Britain whilst it has not so fallen in other Western European developed countries? This is a matter which is of interest to all of us, but especially to the TUC.
As always, the hon. Member has put his finger on a very important point. What is at stake is the level of Britain's industrial performance—whether there is sufficient productivity, whether investment is high enough, whether our managers are sufficiently good and whether our trade union practices are not too restrictive. These are the important issues and upon these—and in a major sense only upon these—our standard of living over the next decade will depend.
When my right hon. Friend next meets the TUC will he discuss with it the latest TUC economic report, which clearly points out that only by direct intervention in our economic affairs in a Socialist fashion can we deal with the intolerable level of unemployment that is facing this country today?
The Government never have any hesitation in intervening, because the free market economy is not capable of providing unaided the total level of life that is satisfactory, or the appropriate level of unemployment that is acceptable. This is being accepted increasingly throughout Europe today, and we shall intervene whenever it is necessary to do so in order to maintain the standard of living of our people.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Just before you joined the Chair the Prime Minister said that he would hope to assist in making a period of time available for questioning Members of the Liberal Party. Despite the fact that the Liberal Party has just appointed more Shadow Ministers than it has actual hon. Members in this House, it would be for the convenience of the House if we could question them. Would it be possible—I am sure that all parties would be in favour, particularly the Liberals, who would like a Question Time of their own—to make these arrangements after Easter? Could you facilitate this and through your good offices help to set it up?
That is not a matter for the Chair.
That the matter of the Health Service in the North West be referred to the Standing Committee on Regional Affairs.—[Mr. Foot.]