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Areas Of High Unemployment

Volume 990: debated on Thursday 7 August 1980

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asked the Prime Minister if she will visit the areas of high unemployment in order to explain her policies at a local level.

I have visited many areas of high unemployment and my plans for the immediate future include other such visits.

I congratulate the Prime Minister on her smart outfit. Obviously I cannot say the same about her policies, which have created vast unemployment and inflation.

Does the Prime Minister appreciate that she is creating disaster for this country, particularly for working people? Does she also appreciate that the day of reckoning must come? While she may win votes in the House, the real fight will take place elsewhere. Indeed, during the winter the Labour Party will be organising opposition to the very policies in which she believes. Is that not one of our democratic rights?

I recognise that the hon. Gentleman feels deeply about unemployment and the industrial recession. There is a world recession and unemployment is rising elsewhere. In fact, the recession has bitten more deeply in the United States. Industrial production there has gone down more rapidly and deeply than in this country. At this stage of the cycle, industrial production has not gone down by as much as it did at a similar stage under the previous Labour Government, in the six months to May 1975.

In the course of visits to areas of high unemployment during the recess, will the Prime Minister confirm that the control of the money supply is the beginning, the middle and the end of the Government's economic policy? If so, and if the money supply is not under control, what is left of her policy?

I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman can have read the speech by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry entitled "Monetarism is not enough'.

The Prime Minister will doubtless have seen the disturbingly self-confident assertion by the Japanese in The Times this morning to the effect that they intend to lead the West in the application of high technology by the end of the 1980s. Will she seize every opportunity to emphasise, not least where our unemployment is associated with a deliberate decision not to adapt to and adopt this technology, that this kind of obstruction is self-defeating and that we must do everything in our power to follow the same course as the Japanese?

I accept that the Japanese are making immense strides, not only in research and development in technology, but in the speed with which they get it translated into industry and with which those working in industry accept the new equipment and operate it to the peak of efficiency. If we wish to compete, we must do the same.

As the steeply rising unemployment level is the worst problem facing the country and the Government, why has not the right hon. Lady and her Government brought before the House, before Parliament departs for the recess, fresh proposals to restore the £170 million cut that they made in the Manpower Services Commission budget? When will they carry out and bring before the House an expanded programme to deal with this problem?

Will the right hon. Lady now tell us, when the Government have failed to bring forward a programme before the departure of Parliament for the recess, how soon those proposals will be announced to the nation?

Already, about 324,000 people are affected by and benefit from special employment and training measures. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment has given an undertaking that if the youth opportunities programme is not sufficient it will be enlarged, so that every school leaver has the offer of a place by Easter 1981.

But what about the long-term unemployed? What about the cuts that the right hon. Lady's Government imposed on the programme of the Manpower Services Commission? What about the necessity of mounting a bigger programme to deal with the much heavier unemployment that we shall face? When will the Government bring forward those measures?

Dealing with long-term unemployment depends on getting British industry competitive. The right hon. Gentleman conspicuously failed to do that during his term of office in the previous Labour Government.

Will my right hon. Friend take steps to sweep away even more of those stupid rules and regulations that inhibit small firms, especially in rural areas, from taking on unemployed people?

We shall certainly do our best to sweep away many of the remaining regulations. My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer did a good deal for small businesses in the last Budget, and our policy on enterprise zones will be of particular advantage to small businesses starting up in them. However, I do accept that many of the other controls and regulations should go.

Does not the right hon. Lady accept that the Government have a duty to create jobs in high unemployment areas such as Scotland, or does her devotion to the principle of mobility of labour lead her to join those who advise the unemployed of Scotland that their best chance of getting a job is to move to areas such as the prosperous South-East?

If the hon. Gentleman had either listened to my speech during the censure debate or if he had looked at the amount of regional assistance that has been given, he would know that the question is superfluous. During that debate I made an announcement about Inmos and other firms. We are trying to do two things. First, we are trying to move investment to areas where there is a reservoir of skilled labour. Secondly, we are continuing to operate the employment transfer scheme, which the hon. Gentleman's Government also operated.