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Employed Persons

Volume 959: debated on Tuesday 28 November 1978

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the Secretary of State for Employment how many people were in employment at the latest date for which figures are available and on the same date five years earlier.

At June 1978, the provisional number of employees in employment in Great Britain was 22,213,000, compared with 22,182,000 in June 1973.

Is it not now reasonable to assume that we shall very soon see more people in employment than ever before in the country's history?

If the country continues to support the Government's anti-inflation policy, and if British industry continues to improve its competitiveness, this will occur.

Is the Minister aware that there are 14 employment exchange areas in the United Kingdom which have unemployment rates in excess of 13 per cent. and that six of the 14 are in Wales? In these circumstances, will the hon. Gentleman set in motion a comprehensive review of the effectiveness of regional policy?

Since decentralisation, my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Wales has accepted responsibility for these matters. I shall draw his attention to the remarks of the hon. Gentleman.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the two factors which affect the level of employment more than anything else are the advance of technology and the vast increase in the available labour force? Is it not time that there was purposeful discussion with the trade union movement with a view to reducing the length of the working week?

The discussions with the trade unions have to take place, first, on the development of technology and the need to protect and increase jobs and, second, on how the wealth created by that technology can be used in the public service sector to provide services and employment, both of which are badly needed.

The Minister will recall that we were promised 100,000 current placings under the youth opportunities programme. Can he tell us how many people were on the programme at the latest date?

I can say that at present the Manpower Services Commission says that it is on target. There is a great need for employers, voluntary bodies and trade unions to offer places to the youngsters most disadvantaged.