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Oecd Employment Levels

Volume 19: debated on Tuesday 2 March 1982

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3.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment when next he expects to discuss employment levels in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries with European Economic Community Ministers.

I shall be discussing current employment issues with my European Community colleagues and other OECD Labour and Social Affairs Ministers at a meeting of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Manpower and Social Affairs Committee on Thursday and Friday of this week.

At that meeting, will my right hon. Friend point out how the level and rate of increase of unemployment in the United Kingdom compare favourably with other countries?

Yes. My hon. Friend makes a valid point. The rate of increase in many other countries, including Germany, the United States of America and Sweden, is now rising very much more quickly than here, as those countries hit the problems that we are already resolving.

Why does the Secretary of State not give the true facts about United Kingdom unemployment compared with other leading OECD countries? For example, during the two and a half years or more that the Government have been in office, has not unemployment in the United Kingdom risen much more quickly and sharply than in any other leading industrial country? Is that not because the Government, in every economic and industrial decision that they have taken during the past two and a half years, have attacked jobs and investment?

The right hon. Gentleman must not confuse shouting and being aggressive with making a sensible point. If he considers the figures for the last three months on the previous three months, he will find that the rate has increased more quickly in Germany, the United States of America, Sweden, Canada, Austria and Ireland, to name but a few. Those countries are now running into some of the problems with which we have been dealing for some time, some of which we inherited from the Labour Government.

Will the Secretary of State point out to those at the meeting on Thursday that the one person who kidded the British public that once we entered the Common Market everything would be lovely and the land would flow with milk and honey, and the only person who has benefited and done well from the Common Market, is the so-called leader in anticipation who will fight the Glasgow, Hillhead by-election—Mr. Roy Jenkins?

I shall not mention that in Brussels, because very few Hillhead electors will be there to listen to me. I am sure that what the hon. Gentleman said has been heard in Hillhead. I do not share his view that no one except Mr. Jenkins benefited from our entry into the Common Market, but I certainly noticed that he did.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one reason why the unemployment figures in Germany are changing is that, until now, the position was disguised by the fact that the Germans returned their guest workers? Therefore, only now is the true unemployment position beginning to emerge.

My hon. Friend has made a good point. Perhaps another reason is that our export performance is extremely good and we are taking back orders which formerly were won by the Germans.