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British Exhibition Contractors Association

Volume 961: debated on Tuesday 23 January 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment what increase in unemployment he estimates will result from Her Majesty's Government's sanctions against the British Exhibition Contractors Association.

None. Discretionary action against companies is no longer taken.

Does the Minister recognise that, if the Government had persisted in sanctions against the British Exhibition Contractors Association, all official work would have been placed with foreign contractors and inevitably British men would have been made redundant? May I turn to another of the Government's punitive policies? Does the Minister realise that at a time when unemployment is the second highest for January since the war, the safeguard regulations safeguard investment and jobs and should be upheld by any Minister who represents the interests of employment?

I shall deal with the hon. Member's second question first. I do not wish in any way to minimise the seriousness of unemployment. However, the hon. Member must recognise that January is the worst month of the year. Serious as the figures announced today are, they are significantly lower than the figures were at this time last year.

As to the first of the hon. Member's questions, I must tell him that I do not answer hypothetical questions. The behaviour of the Opposition when they attempted to pull the plug out of the Government's pay policy was irresponsible. They must carry a heavy share of the responsibility for what is now happening.

Does not the Minister realise that the real attack upon the Government's pay policy is coming from his hon. Friends below the Gangway? Is it not absurd to suggest that the vote of the House on sanctions had any significant effect on the present pay demands and industrial unrest?

If the hon. Member believes that, he will believe anything. By their repeated and sustained attacks on the Government's pay policy, culminating in the defeat of sanctions, the Opposition are heavily responsible for the present state of industrial relations.