asked the Secretary of State for Employment if, pursuant to the Under-Secretary of State's reply to the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe on 27 March, concerning the proposed study of local employment rates in Manchester, he will publish in the Official Report his letter to Manchester city council on this matter.
[pursuant to his reply, 2 April 1980, c. 216]: Following is the text of the letter sent to the Manchester city council:
"At the meeting on 21 February I promised to look into your suggestion about deriving 'residence-based' unemployment figures for Manchester from Departmental records.
There has been close consideration over some period between local authorities, the Department of Environment and this Department with regard to 'residence-based' unemployment figures. In particular, there have been detailed discussions of the issues in the National and Local Government Statistical Liaison Committee, which is chaired by the Department of the Environment.
At the suggestion of that Committee a feasibility study was made in a number of employment offices in different parts of the country to see whether it was practicable to re-classify the individual records of registrants into local authority areas. It was found to be practicable, but costly. Bearing in mind that the present compilation is largely a manual exercise, we could not contemplate on economy grounds re-coding individual records to local authority areas for the local authorities who would be interested in having such data. In fact we have been unable to agree to similar requests from the Liverpool and London local authorities who, it must be recognised, are in some respects facing even greater problems than those of Manchester.
However, there is some prospect of securing progress on another front. My Department and the Manpower Services Commission's Employment Services Division will be carrying out trials towards a planned computerisation of the unemployment and vacancies statistics. Should these prove successful, and there is every prospect of this, it will be possible to provide computerised analyses according to areas other than employment office ones by use of the post-code which is gradually being introduced into addresses in individual records. It is hoped that this planned computerisation will be complete, ie cover the whole country, by mid-1983.
In advance of that, investigations are in hand at the moment, between officials here and at the Department of the Environment, to see whether the existing computerised system for the payment of unemployment benefit can be used to provide earlier information by a comparable method, ie by using post-codes. The information may be less complete than from the computerisation plans referred to above, but it is hoped that they may provide a useful guide to unemployment by local authority areas. A progress report on this approach will probably be made to the National and Local Government Statistical Liaison Committee at its next meeting this summer. You may wish to write to the secretariat of the local authority side of the Committee to ask to be kept informed about progress on both these computer-based developments."