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Unemployed Persons

Volume 959: debated on Tuesday 28 November 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment what are the latest figures for registered unemployed; and how the figure compares with February 1974.

At 9th November, the number registered as unemployed in Great Britain, seasonally adjusted and excluding school leavers, was 1,281,500. This was 731,700 higher than in February 1974.

Will the Secretary of State now try to answer the previous question? How many more people will now never get back to work with Labour as a direct consequence of the Government pushing up the lending rate to record penal levels to try to finance their extragavant overspending?

The largest part of the increase in unemployment, to which I referred in my original answer, can be accounted for by the increase which has taken place since 1974 in the working population. There are now more people in employment in this country than there were under a Conservative Government in 1972 and 1973. As to the effect of Government expenditure, in many cases it has been to sustain and increase employment.

Will my right hon. Friend explain in very simple language to the Opposition that the United States Government and most of the Governments in the Common Market are not Labour Governments? They are not Socialist in any way, yet their unemployment levels are as high as they are in this country. Will he further point out to the Opposition that the real problem is the nature of the capitalist system under which we live and that, despite that fact, the Government have put more people to work than did the Tories? Would he also accept that there are areas—

Order. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman was present earlier when I told the House that if hon. Members were advancing an argument during Question Time I would intervene. We must try to get back to the normal character of Question Time. The hon. Gentleman will now ask a question.

I am trying to do so, if the Opposition will stop interrupting me. Is it not true that there are areas of high unemployment, such as Merseyside, which require special support and protection?

It is certainly the case that there are areas with special unemployment problems requiring special protection. I am rather reluctant to make comparisons between sets of international statistics since different countries compile their figures in different ways. What we can do is to compare the changing rates of unemployment in different countries. There are few countries, with the possible exception of the United States and West Germany, which have had a falling unemployment rate such as ours over the past 12 months.