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Unemployed Persons

Volume 979: debated on Tuesday 19 February 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many people have entered unemployment since the beginning of the current year.

Between 6 December 1979 and 10 January 1980 the number of people registered as unemployed in Great Britain rose by 43,700 from 1,233,700 to 1,277,400, excluding school leavers and seasonally adjusted.

Is it not clear that that relatively modest increase will be dwarfed by the increase we shall experience in the next six or seven months unless Government policy is changed and in particular, unless the level of sterling is reduced? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the present level of sterling allows other countries to export unemployment to us in ever increasing numbers?

I accept the seriousness of the hon. Gentleman's last point. However, there is a long way to go before we reach the increase of 600,000 in the number of unemployed for which the previous Labour Administration was responsible.

In view of the lag of 12 to 18 months between the time when measures concerning unemployment are taken and when they have an effect on the levels of unemployment, will my hon. Friend confirm that the level of unemployment would have been just as high if the Labour Party had remained in power?

Given the prospects of employment for next year, why are the Government cutting back the budget of the Manpower Services Commission by £130 million?

The Manpower Services Commission cannot be exempt from overall expenditure cuts.

The Government have ensured that the MSC budget is more effectively used. No apprenticeship places have been lost and, as a result of special measures, efficiency has been increased.

Does the Minister realise that the commercial facts surrounding British Leyland mean that if the company does not receive further Government subvention, it will inevitably go to the wall? What proposals does the Minister have in mind to cater for such a catastrophe?

British Leyland is the concern of the Department of Industry. However, we already have a temporary short-time working scheme that will be made available to British Leyland should it need to use it.