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Volume 949: debated on Tuesday 2 May 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment what recent studies have been made by his Department into the incidence and scope, as well as the numbers involved, in unemployment lasting more than six months in the outer boroughs of the Greater London area; and how many people were in this category at the latest date for which official figures are available.

At January 1978, 25,059 people who had been unemployed for over six months were registered at those employment offices corresponding most closely with the Outer London boroughs. No special studies have recently been made into the features of long-term unemployment in the outer London boroughs.

Although Greater London has never had to endure the terrible unemployment figures of the North-East and North-West, is it not a colossal indictment of the present complacent and incompetent Government that for the first time deep-seated, long-lasting structural unemployment is actually now a feature in the outer London boroughs, including my own area of Harrow, as well as inner London? When will the Government really tackle this problem as well as national unemployment?

The hon. Gentleman is exaggerating very considerably the problems of the outer London boroughs. I accept, of course, that there are pockets of high unemployment and that there are structural problems, but I think that the hon. Gentleman is exaggerating very considerably.

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will ask his friends at County Hall, who now control that place, whether they think that their suggestion of axing about 10,000 public sector jobs will help employment prospects in London.

Is my hon. Friend aware that much of the responsibility for stripping London of its employment lies with the Opposition and the policies that they carried out when in power, including the sort of asset stripping that went on left, right and centre within London? Can my hon. Friend guarantee that none of the policies of his Department will inhibit the attempts of local authorities in London to bring industry back?

I certainly would not dissent from my hon. Friend's opening remarks. As for guaranteeing the future, I think that most of the efforts of my Department in this respect have been very helpful to London.