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Coal, Petroleum And Chemical Industries

Volume 929: debated on Tuesday 29 March 1977

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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.