Skip to main content

Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 21: debated on Tuesday 30 March 1982

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


School Leavers


asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many people who have left school since 1979 are now unemployed.

The precise information is not available, but at 14 January there were 386,920 people registered as unemployed in the United Kingdom who were under 19 years of age.

Does the Secretary of State agree that among those unemployed school leavers are a large number who have never had the opportunity of training? Does he also agree that they may reach the age of 19, and therefore be too old, before the new training initiative comes into force? Has he any proposals to help those young people, especially the physically handicapped who constitute the largest proportion of those unemployed?

I find it difficult to believe that such people have not even had the opportunity of entering a YOP scheme. I share the hon. Gentleman's anxiety that youngsters should receive better industrial and vocational training—that is the purpose of the youth training scheme. Unfortunately, we are not in a position to create for people opportunities that should have been created in the past—perhaps because the previous Government did not have enough money to do anything about it.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that although some 70 per cent. of handicapped school leavers are unemployed, the Manpower Services Commission in London has just turned down the only project advanced for setting up a workshop for disabled school leavers? Will he look into the matter and ask the MSC to reverse that decision?

I was not aware that the MSC had done that. I shall certainly look into the matter and write to my hon. Friend to tell him what the MSC gives me as its reason for doing that. Clearly, this is a time when we should do all that we can to protect those least able to protect themselves.

Does the Secretary of State agree with what the present Home Secretary said in February 1978—when there were 39,000 unemployed school leavers, compared with 139,000 now—that unemployment among school leavers was a major contributory factor to the increase in juvenile crime? Does that apply today?

I should like to consider more closely what my right hon. Friend said, rather than take it from the hon. Gentleman, who does not set it in context. I do not doubt that the devil makes evil work for idle hands, but I also remember that in the soft early 1960s it was suggested that juvenile crime increased because people were too well off. I suspect that original sin has at least as much to do with the problem as do economic circumstances.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the unemployment figures highlight the importance of the Government's new training initiative and the need for the final scheme to be on the broadest and most imaginative scale possible?

Yes, I hope that it will be on the broadest and most imaginative scale possible, so long as it is practical, deals with all the 16-year-olds, to whom I have given a guarantee, as well as the 17-year-olds, and is within the restraint of £1 billion per year expenditure.

Market Harborough


asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on employment prospects in the Market Harborough area.

Future job prospects in Market Harborough, and elsewhere, will depend on the development of a soundly based economy, which means, among other things, bringing down inflation and continuing to improve productivity and competitiveness. That is the only way to create the new and secure jobs that we all want to see in Market Harborough and throughout the country.

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for his reply, and I am glad that unemployment in the Market Harborough area declined again last month, but is he aware of the drift of jobs and companies towards the nearby enterprise zone of Corby? Will he bear in mind the possibility, as is happening in other parts of the country, that enterprise zones may attract old-established companies away from their existing sites?

Corby is facing a particularly difficult unemployment problem as a result of the closure of the steelworks. I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that it was necessary for the Government to do everything possible to help. I believe that enterprise zones there and elsewhere will attract new industry. My hon. Friend is right to point out that what is happening in Market Harborough gives us room for cautious optimism, as the unemployment rate there has reduced in the last quarter compared with a year ago.

Is the Minister aware that there is no optimism whatever in the county of Leicestershire, where it has been a catastrophic week, with redundancies at British Aerospace and Metal Box, and wicked decision and indecision by the Secretary of State for the Environment on the Belvoir mines? Will he consult the right hon. Gentleman to see what can be done to bring back employment to what will otherwise become an area of ghost towns?

I think that the statement made by my hon. Friend was very welcome. With regard to the situation in Leicestershire, it is true that there have been redundancies at British Aerospace. How British Aerospace distributes its work between different factories is a matter for the corporation, but in the country as a whole Ministry of Defence work given to British Aerospace has increased steadily in the past three or four years.

Does the Minister recognise that today's statement will be received with hollow laughter in Market Harborough in view of the announcement in the past week of the loss of 1,600 jobs in Leicestershire? When will he realise and inform his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that it is the Government's economic policy that is driving firms to make redundancies, not any lack of efficiency in the Leicestershire firms which have announced those 1,600 redudancies?

I am sure that it will not have escaped the notice of the people that the remedy suggested by the Labour Party in its alternative strategy is precisely the recipe that the Labout Government put into effect in 1974 and 1976, which doubled unemployment and brought the IMF on to the scene.

Women (Unemployment)


asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will list the number of women registered as unemployed for the last month for which figures are available; and what was the figure for 12 months previously.

At 11 March 1982 the provisional number of women registered as unemployed in the United Kingdom was 842,504. The corresponding figure for March 1981 was 701,544.

Bearing in mind that those unemployment figures exclude large numbers of women who are not eligible to be included in them and that the new method of compiling figures from October will exclude other women who are not receiving benefits, will the Minister estimate how many women will in future be excluded from the unemployment register? What arrangements is he making to include them when the unemployment figures are announced so that we have a real assessment of the level of unemployment?

It is difficult to give an accurate estimate, but I would judge that in the last category about 10,000 who are at present registered at jobcentres as seeking work will not henceforth register at unemployment benefit offices because they will not be entitled to unemployment benefit. We shall certainly try to estimate the numbers and to relate them regularly to the unemployment figures.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, as many women are employed in textiles and in other industries which are suffering particularly from the world recession, emphasis should be placed on training women in the new technology, and schools should encourage girls to take up such opportunities?

I agree with my hon. Friend that women in manufacturing industry have probably suffered disproportionately because they have been concentrated in the lower-skilled work. Taking the economy as a whole, however, women—many of whom are engaged in the service industries—have done rather better than men. Nevertheless, I take my hon. Friend's point that the need for training and retraining is essential, and we are pursuing that policy.

Textile And Clothing Industries


asked the Secretary of State for Employment what has been the percentage change in the level of employment in the textile and clothing industries over the past six months.

Between June 1981 and December 1981 the numbers of employees in employment in Great Britain in the textile and clothing industries decreased by 1·6 per cent.

When my hon. and learned Friend considers the plight of the textile and clothing industries—I remind my hon. and learned Friend and my hon. Friend the Minister of State in relation to his reply to the last question that women in the industry are not unskilled or lower skilled, but are highly skilled—will he give attention to the problems of the textile machinery industry and particularly to the position of Ernest Scragg and Sons Ltd., which produces some of the most modern high technology draw texturising machinery in the world and exports 95 per cent. of its production to markets throughout the world but which is now in the hands of the receiver? What assistance is he prepared to give that company, and what advice can he offer me to pass on to the employees threatened with redundancy?

I was, of course, very sorry to hear that the receiver had been called in by Stone Platt Industries Ltd., and I know that a number of redundancies have already been announced, but it must not be assumed that all employees of Stone Platt will lose their jobs. That will depend upon the success of the receiver in selling off various parts of the company. What I have said also applies to Ernest Scragg, which is a part of Stone Platt Industries. My hon. Friend's question would have been more properly directed to the Department of Industry, but I shall pass on all that he has said and it will be noted.

Does the Minister agree that workers in the textile industry are probably the best example of moderation in industrial relations, wage restraint and good productivity, and that they have been very poorly rewarded for practising the virtues continually extolled by Ministers?

As I said to the House not long ago, the textile industry has been facing problems not just for the past few years. It has been contracting for very many years. Hon. Members should address their minds to whether the industry would have been in any better shape if its workers had demanded wages of the level demanded, for instance, by car workers in the Midlands. My bet is that it would have been in far worse shape.

Will the Minister take time to consider some of the suggestions made in yesterday's debate on textiles and to consult his colleagues in the Department of Industry so that instead of writing off the industry, as the Government seem to have done, we may have some new initiatives in training, marketing and exporting to help the industry to reinvigorate itself?

I shall, of course, give great attention to what was said yesterday. The hon. Gentleman is wrong to say that the Government have written off the textile industry. No industry in this country is given greater protection. The hon. Gentleman knows that the Government took a tough line in the multi-fibre arrangement negotiations. We wanted quotas to be based on actual 1980 imports and not on 1982 quotas, but we were not successful in sustaining that negotiating stance.

Unemployment Statistics


asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the most recent unemployment figures.


asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the latest unemployment figures.

Unemployment fell this month by over 52,000—the largest fall for the month of March since the current series of figures began in 1948. Following the slowing in the underlying rate of increase in recent months and the fall in inflation, prices and interest rates, there are some grounds for hope that the increase in our competitiveness has begun to arrest the growth in unemployment.

Does the Minister agree that the fall of 52,000 and the drop to below 3 million have been produced by doctoring the figures and persuading about 30,000 men over 60 to go on to long-term supplementary benefit on the basis that they are then removed from the unemployment figures? Instead of twisting the figures, will the Secretary of State devote his energy to creating the real jobs that were promised in the Government's massive advertising campaign in 1979? When do the Government expect unemployment to fall to the level that they inherited from the Labour Government in 1979?

The answer to the hon. Gentleman's first question is "No". The answer to his second question is that Governments do not create jobs. Customers create jobs when they buy goods. When customers come forward to buy the goods offered by British industry, British industry will have an increasing number of jobs to offer, but not before.

Is the Secretary of State satisfied with the current level of unemployment in the construction industry of 25 per cent. in England, Scotland and Wales and 47–5 per cent. in Northern Ireland? Will the right hon. Gentleman get on his bike and bring his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment—the Minister for Merseyside—to Liverpool, where unemployment stands at 45 per cent., to examine the state of the industry there?

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his original wit. I assure him that I am not happy about the level of unemployment in the construction industry. We have helped to reduce interest rates, although this is not understood by the Leader of the Opposition, to assist particularly the house building section of the construction industry. When other aspects of Government and local government expenditure, especially wages in local government, are better under control, there will be improved prospects for new construction work in local government services.

Has my right hon. Friend studied recently the OECD unemployment statistics? Will he confirm that over the last three months the rise in unemployment in this country has been markedly and indeed dramatically lower than in almost every other OECD country? To what does he attribute this development? Does he agree that it would be helpful occasionally if, while not denying our problems, people were made more aware of the extent to which other countries are suffering simultaneously?

My hon. Friend is right. The increase in unemployment in a number of other OECD countries is very much greater than in Great Britain. The reason, I suspect, is that our economy is becoming more competitive than theirs. Some countries—especially those that are pursuing Socialist policies—are finding their currency flat on the floor, their interest rates roaring up and their rate of inflation much higher than ours.

Is the Secretary of State not concerned about the major growth in long-term unemployment in this country? Is he not also concerned that his present handling of manpower services may result in the TUC commissioners on the Manpower Services Commission reappraising their participation in these services?

Of course I am concerned about the growth in long-term unemployment. It is part of the longterm problems that previous Governments did not successfully tackle. The consequence is inevitable. On the issue of the MSC and the trade union commissioners, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not believe every piece of tittle-tattle that he reads in the newspapers. I, for my part, hope that the TUC commissioners will remain, alongside the CBI commissioners and the others, within the MSC. It would be extraordinary, at a time when the Government have made available more money than ever before to the Manpower Services Commission to implement, in particular, the new training initiative, about which there is virtually unanimous agreement, for anyone to suggest that any part will walk out of the commission.

Is my right hon. Friend able to explain why the Opposition are so displeased that unemployment Ls falling? Is he aware that his hon. Friend the Minister for Industry and Information Technology is visiting my constituency today to inspect one of the largest computerised traffic control systems to be exported by Plessey Controls Ltd. to South America? Does this not show that if one gets out and gets export orders, and that if one produces the right goods at the right time and the right price, one can succeed?

My hon. Friend is right. That is the way to save jobs. It is extraordinary that the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Varley) should have referred to a fall of 52,000 in the level of unemployment as a tiny number. I wonder what he would have said if it had gone up by 52,000. Would that have been a tiny increase?

How long does the Secretary of State expect registered unemployment to stay below the 3 million mark?

I think probably for a month or two until young school leavers come on to the register. That is the time, as every year, when we expect an increase in unemployment. The right hon. Gentleman will obviously take great delight in seeing an increase in the number of people out of work, but he should not laugh too much about it. It is clear that the underlying rate of increase is slowing. The right hon. Gentleman might have to laugh on the other side of his face before the general election.

No one is laughing about this matter. We on the Opposition Benches are taking it seriously. Will the right hon. Gentleman admit that the White Paper on public expenditure published at the time of the Budget contains a Government forecast that registered unemployment will stay well above the 3 million mark for the rest of this year at least? Is that not shameful?

As the right hon. Gentleman will recollect from his days in the Cabinet, such figures are most certainly not a forecast. The right hon. Gentleman will also recollect that my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer made the point that provided inflation continues on its downward path—the signs are very good—provided that interest rates continue on their downward path, which means better control of Government expenditure—that is being achieved—provided there is increasing productivity, which is also being achieved, and provided that there is resonableness in wage demands, the prospects will be much better than the line in the White Paper to which the right hon. Gentleman refers.

Manpower Services Commission (Adminstrative Bodies)


asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will ensure that representatives of Church and other voluntary orgarisations are included in the Manpower Services Commission administrative bodies.

Voluntary organisations, including the Churches, are already represented on most of the commission's advisory bodies. I will ensure that this continues to be the case.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his helpful reply. Is he aware of the increasing and welcome involvement of local churches and voluntary organisations in youth and training employment schemes? Is he aware that, whereas local authorities are represented on the area MSC boards, the Churches and voluntary organisations do not necessarily have places? Will he try to ensure that these are provided?

I am very much aware of the role that voluntary organisations, including the Churches, play in the Manpower Services Commission's special programmes. In the community enterprise programme, 30 per cent. of places are provided by voluntary organisations, and in the youth opportunities programme the figure is 10 per cent. Each of the 29 special programme area boards has a representative of voluntary organisations. At the present time, six of these members and three chairmen are from the Churches.

Is the Minister not aware that, in south London, representatives of community organisations, who already serve on MSC committees, are becoming increasingly frustrated and angry about the manner in which their views are ignored by officials who arbitrarily redefine what is meant by community benefit. I give two examples? First, the Lambeth Tiles project in my constituency, which the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam) has mentioned, would have employed physically and mentally disabled people. Secondly, the Elephant Jobs project has for eight years been employing people. If closed, as the MSC proposes, 142 youngsters in south London will be out of work. Will the hon. Gentleman investigate these matters?

The hon. Gentleman will have heard what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said about the Lambeth Tiles project. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we shall keep him informed on the matter. The Elephant Jobs project is a matter of whether the scheme fits within the rules of the community enterprise programme.



asked the Secretary of State for Employment what initiatives he has in mind which will promote jobs in the Preston travel-to-work area.

Jobs in Preston and elsewhere depend upon the ability of producers to meet the needs of customers. The Government will continue their successful policy of reducing inflation and encouraging increased productivity towards that objective.

As the customers in Preston in the instance that I have in mind are homeless people, will the Minister arrange for one of his "oppos" in the Department of the Environment to bring building trade workers and building materials together in Preston to produce much-needed houses?

The hon. Gentleman should have addressed that question originally to the Department of the Environment and he will no doubt now do so.

Does my right hon. Friend not agree that Preston, with its motorway and rail connections, is well placed to benefit to an even greater extent when the recession ends than it is now doing? Does he agree that the development of the dock site, originally planned by the Conservative-controlled council in Preston, will go a long way towards providing new jobs and new hope to people who would otherwise not have a chance?

Yes. I take my hon. Friend's point. The positive emphasis that he puts on the prospects for Preston is the right kind of psychological and practical impression that one should convey to give people hope for the future. It also tends to increase job opportunities.

Youth Training Scheme


asked the Secretary of State for Employment what representations he has received regarding his proposals for a new youth training scheme; and what general response he has made to those representations.

We have received a significant and widespread response to our training proposals, which has generally been welcoming. I have been very happy to learn of such support.

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that the timetable for this excellent scheme can and will be met by the MSC? Will he keep a close watch on progress in that regard?

I appreciate that the aims and goals of the MSC are ambitious. I am satisfied at this stage that it will be able to achieve the time scale of 300,000 to 350,000 places by September of next year. I assure my hon. Friend that I shall keep a close watch on the matter.

Does the Minister agree that the task group has shown a marked disdain for the Scrooge-like £15 a week? Will the Minister permit and encourage an employers' exercise of topping-up the £15 to a much less insulting figure?

The hon. Gentleman is obviously aware of facts that I am not aware of. The task group has not yet come forward with its proposals. We shall view them as they come forward, but at this stage it would be wrong for me to answer a hypothetical question.

The important point is that per 16-year-old trainee per week we shall be spending £53 a week—and that is for the whole year—as opposed to just under £40 on the youth opportunities programme.

Has the Minister had time to consider the information that I have sent to his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment about youth training centres established in Liverpool and elsewhere by the Workers' Revolutionary Party? Is he aware that Miss Vanessa Redgrave has launched an appeal for £100,000 following the opening of the latest of these centres in Nottingham?

I assure the hon. Gentleman that we shall make certain that no money goes to the Workers' Revolutionary Party.

In responding to this representation, will my hon. Friend emphasise that the proposed weekly allowance of £15 per young person is only about a quarter of the total resources being made available for each young person, and that the remainder represents a commitment to the training of young people that is far in excess of anything achieved either by the Labour Government or by any of our industrial competitors in the EEC?

I could not agree more with what my hon. Friend says. The Government are doing for the unemployed school leaver what successive Governments have failed to do—providing a proper training scheme at the rate of £53 per trainee per week. That is a substantial advance.

National Community Service


asked the Secretary of State for Employment what representations he has received pressing for the introduction of a form of national community service; and if he will make a statement.

We have received several representations about national community service. The details of the new youth training scheme are currently being considered by the Manpower Services Commission, and the commission will take account of the contribution that service in the community can make.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask whether he is aware that there is a growing body of opinion in the House and in the country that favours a form of national community service? Does he agree that such a form of service should be compulsory, should apply to men and women and should allow a choice between military and community service? Does my hon. Friend agree that it should be not a training scheme but an opportunity for young people to serve the community and become adult and responsible citizens?

I cannot support my hon. Friend's contention that a compulsory scheme of communiry service is appropriate or desirable. However, a community element in any training scheme that we propose in the future is important and will feature as such a part. My hon. Friend will no doubt agree that industrially relevant education and training that is equipping youngsters for work in factories, offices or businesses, is making a big, overall contribution to the community benefit.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that while community service can play an important part in arrangements made for the 16 to 18-year-olds it is still important that the overall emphasis should be laid on training towards an industrial society?

I fully agree with my hon. Friend. It is crucial both for the consumer and for the producer that relevant skills should be imparted to youngsters, particularly when they are in their formative years.

Is not the notion of a compulsory community service scheme simply an echo of the bankrupt economic policies that the Government have perpetrated on the country because they do not know what else to do with young people? When will the Government produce a change in their policy to bring the level of unemployrneni down to the level that they inherited from the Labour Government, and create the real jobs that they promised in their fraudulent general election campaign in 1979?

The hon. Gentleman misheard my answer—we are not backing any scheme for compulsory training. With regard to the hon. Gentleman's phoney indignation about unemployment, he was in the House when the Labour Government opened the gusher of unemployment by letting it go up to 1½ million, and should know that it will be a great deal more difficult to turn off the gusher than it was to start it.

West Midlands


asked the Secretary of State for Employment what action he intends to take to reduce the high levels of unemployment in the West Midlands.

The Government's policies are aimed at developing a soundly based economy, which means, among other things, bringing down inflation. As this is achieved and productivity continues to improve, British firms will become more competitive. This is the only way to create new and secure jobs, not only in the West Midlands but throughout the country.

I had hoped that the Minister would have some definite proposals to ease the problems of the West Midlands. Is he aware that the unemployment among building and construction workers generally is three and a half times what it was in 1979? Does he accept that one of the quickest ways of injecting jobs, which will combat inflation, is to do something about that figure?

The hon. Lady asked whether the Government have any proposals. The Government have policies that are succeeding. The hon. Lady knows of the fall in unemployment. In each of the last eight months vacancies in the West Midlands have been higher than they were a year previously. That should give hope to all those in the West Midlands. I hardly need remind the hon. Lady that the policies espoused by her party do not have the slightest relevance to the problems that we are now facing, and if they were to be put into effect they would no doubt lead to a worse catastrophe than that which hit this country in 1976.

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that people on the shop floor in the West Midlands are far more realistic in these matters than the hon. Lady, who is always moaning? These workers know very well that as their firms become more efficient and attract more customers, so unemployment will come down.

My hon. Friend is right. One has only to see the massive export orders that have recently been won to realise the gains that have come from improved competitiveness. It is through that that industry will recover in the West Midlands.

Is the Minister aware that the increase in unemployment from 5 per cent. when the Government took office to over 15 per cent. in the West Midlands now is an appalling indictment of Government policies? Is he also aware of the great personal suffering caused to countless families in the region as a result of the Government's policies?

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman used equally strong language against his own Government when unemployment doubled between 1974 and 1976.

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that in Coventry the new enterprise allowance scheme has been a great success? In its first month of operation over 114 redundant workers applied to the scheme, over half of whom were rapidly processed and approved? Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that the scheme offers the best chance of liberating people from the dole queue and giving them a new start in life in their new venture?

My hon. Friend is right when he says that the new enterprise scheme has received a warm welcome, and rightly so. It is proper that people who are prepared to set out on their own should be given some help when they do so.

South-West Assisted Area


asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is the current level of unemployment for the South-West assisted area; what was the corresponding figure in March 1980; and if he will make a statement.

At 11 March 1982 the provisional number of people registered as unemployed in assisted areas in the South-West region was 59,351 compared with 34,770 in March 1980.

Future job prospects in this area, as elsewhere, will depend largely on continuing improvement in the country's economic performance. Our special employment and training measures continue to protect those hardest hit by the recession, and the Government's policy of focusing regional assistance specifically on areas in greatest need, such as Cornwall and parts of Devon, is of general benefit to the South-West.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the South-West assisted area is essentially non-industrial in character and therefore more dependent on the level of public investment than most? Therefore, does my right hon. Friend agree that there is a strong case, notwithstanding the Chancellor's recent announcement, for further assistance, particularly for the building and construction industry? Is he aware that this is especially the case since 90 per cent. of those contracts to the public sector go straight into the private sector, which means that there should be no worry on doctrinaire grounds on this point?

I take note of my hon. Friend's penetrating and analytical point. I remind him that, apart from the good news in the Budget, which he himself noted, nearly £30 million worth of Government assistance has gone to the South-West over the past three years, and that about 90 Government factory units have been completed in an attempt to redress the balance in the direction of manufacturing.

Is it not a fact that there has been a calculated neglect of the South-West by this Government over a long period, and do not the figures show that? Is it not also a fact that Government policy is to deprive the South-West of real work in an effort to keep wages low? Will the Minister take account of the lobby that was made of this Parliament by construction workers, and yesterday by the group of eight, calling for a massive injection of capital goods into the South-West?

I can only assume that the hon. Gentleman composed his question before he heard the reply that I gave my hon. Friend, which showed that an enormous amount of Government expenditure is going into the South-West.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that this Government have done more for the South-West than the Labour Government ever did? Does he also accept that there are parts of the South-West and Devon where there is 13 or 15 per cent. unemployment—much more than in parts of assisted areas? Does he realise the strong feeling that exists because work is siphoned away from those areas into assisted areas? What can he do to assist certain parts of my constituency, which have 15 per cent. unemployment?

I know that my hon. Friend is clearly taking a close interest in the assisted area problem because of the high unemployment in his constituency. He should pursue the matter, as I am sure he has done in the past, with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry, who is responsible for assisted areas.

Industrial Tribunals


asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will consider seeking to consolidate the statutory and other provisions relating to industrial tribunals.

The regulations relating to industrial tribunal procedures were consolidated some 18 months ago. My right hon. Friend has no plans at present for any further consolidation.

Does the Minister accept that the present industrial tribunal system does not provide adequate protection for employed people? Does he know that 74 per cent. of all claims for unfair dismissal compensation fail, and that at a time when most people who are unfairly dismissed do not bring claims because to do so would be a passport to permanent unemployment?

The fact that 27·7 per cent. of applications succeed does not mean that justice is not being done. About two-thirds of the total number of complaints are withdrawn or settled at the conciliation stage. It shows that ACAS is doing a good job and that the burden on the tribunals is being relieved.

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the statement that he has just made springs directly from the tightening of the tribunal regulations, which were deliberately designed by the Government to make it more difficult for people who are unfairly dismissed to obtain compensation from the tribunal?

I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman for a moment. There were 35,747 applications last year, and the 27·7 per cent. success rate is not out of line with what one would expect, bearing in mind the large number of cases that were settled.

Wages Councils


asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement as to the extent to which the United Kingdom's membership of the International Labour Organisation might restrict the Government's rights to propose to amend or abolish wages councils.

The United Kingdom's ratification of International Labour Convention No. 26 requires the Government to maintain minimum wage-fixing machinery in trades or parts of trades in which no arrangements exist for the regulation of wages by collective agreement or otherwise, and in which wages are exceptionally low; but partiular wages councils can be changed or abolished where appropriate under the provisions of the Wages Councils Act 1979.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the wages councils' regulations are making a mockery of the Government's attempts to create jobs for school leavers under the young workers schemes? As the ILO presumably has an interest in reducing unemployment, will the Government consider approaching that organisation to see whether it will agree to take 18-year-olds and under out of the jurisdiction of the wages councils? If not, will the Government take unilateral action and turn a Nelsonian blind eye?

I have no intention of trying to make myself heard over barracking from the Opposition.

Order. The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) must stop shouting all the time. I do not believe that anyone should have to fight to be heard in this House.

As I was saying, I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that excessive wages among youngsters or among older workers put people out of work —

The right hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker) may not understand that, but the Ford Motor Company, in cutting the prices of its products, understands it well enough. I shall certainly consider what my hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) said, and I am seriously studying how we can best avoid wages councils putting youngsters out of work and preventing others from coming into work. I notice that, in the light of representations made by employers, and perhaps in the light of the letter written by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, some wages councils have recently changed their provisional recommendations.

Prime Minister



asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 30 March.

I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend is attending a meeting of the. European Council in Brussels.

In the light of yesterday's debate on Trident, will my right hon. Friend take time today to consider the need for this country to maintain adequate surface forces? In particular, in view of what is happening in the South Atlantic, will he say that Her Majesty's Government realise the benefits and value of HMS "Endurance", and tell us what steps the Government now propose to take, in view of the value of that ship, either to replace her or to keep her in service?

Certainly the Government accept the value of HMS "Endurance". In answer to my hon. Friend's other question, after all the changes that have been made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, the Royal Navy will remain one of the largest and best equipped navies in the world, apart from those of the two super Powers.

Does the Home Secretary realise that many of us deplore the continued failure by the Prime Minister to accept the link between rising crime in London and the inner cities and the Government's economic policies, but that on the other hand we also deplore the kind of remarks that were made yesterday by Mr. Ken Livingstone, when he attacked the new Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis before that gentleman has even got his feet under the desk at Scotland Yard? [HON. MEMBERS: "Too long".] Does he accept that the new commissioner should be given a fair run and that he should be given the support of the people at large—

Order. Hon. Members should be able to put their questions succinctly and to come to a conclusion.

May I remind the House that the new commissioner was a London bobby on the beat in the London borough of Islington?

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, I and many other Ministers have always said, unemployment is a factor, but it is not the only factor, and it is certainly no excuse for the increase in crime. I find Mr. Livingstone's remarks about the new commissioner most deplorable and exceptionable in every way. The new commissioner has been appointed and will take office in October. He has an excellent record as a police officer in this country and in Northern Ireland. The hon. Gentleman is right. He was a considerable figure in London's police force before he went to Northern Ireland and has been a bobby on the beat. I deeply resent Mr. Livingstone's implications.

Will my right hon. Friend draw to the Prime Minister's attention the speech made yesterday by the Governor of the Bank of England, and the CBI report, which both show that our economy is picking up? Does he agree that we should cheer and not jeer about that news, which proves that our policies are working and that it would be folly to change them?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I, too, find it extraordinary that Opposition Members jeer rather than cheer at good news.

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us when the Prime Minister said that she accepted the connection between the rate of unemployment and the crime rate, as he said that all Ministers had done so? Will he take account of the fact that a few minutes before he began to answer these questions the Secretary of State for Employment acknowledged that unemployment was soon likely again to be over 3 million and that a major contributory factor would be the number of young people coming on the register? What effects does the right hon. Gentleman believe that that fact will have this summer in Toxteth, Brixton and in many other places? [HON.MEMBERS:"Disgraceful"].

I find the right hon. Gentleman's last question highly deplorable. I should have thought that every hon. Member would wish to see peace on our streets and no more riots of any sort this summer. For the right hon. Gentleman to suggest that riots might occur is highly irresponsible.

I repeat that the Prime Minister, I and other Ministers have always made it clear that unemployment is a factor. But many other factors play a part in the problems of crime. There are many other difficulties and a great many other factors, for which every hon. Member has a responsibility. The right hon. Gentleman knows that very well.

If the right hon. Gentleman finds anything deplorable in what I have said, why does he not go away and do his duty by again reading the Scarman report, which justifies up to the hilt everything that I have said?

I simply find it deplorable that the right hon. Gentleman should suggest that there is any excuse whatever for crime or riots on our streets.

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that he knows perfectly well that there is a connection between mass unemployment, particularly among young people, and the riots, which is what the Scarman report said? Does he not accept that the Government should wake up and do their duty to prevent mass unemployment?

The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that the Government have taken many very important steps, following the Scarman report. Such steps will continue to be taken. But nothing that Lord Scarman or anybody else says can excuse violence or riots on our streets. The right hon. Gentleman knows that very well.

In view of the importance to the Highland economy, will my right hon. Friend do everything within his power to make a suitable power contract available to an operator for the Invergordon smelter?

That matter is being considered by my right hon. Friends. I have nothing further to say at this stage.


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 30 March.

I have been asked to reply. I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

On behalf of the Prime Minister and the Government, will the right hon. Gentleman admit to the disgraceful folly of selling five battleships to Argentina, which are now being used against us in our British protectorate in the Falkland Islands?

During a week in which my right hon. Friend successfully routed his critics and confirmed his authority as Home Secretary, may I ask whether he had time to notice the application of stop and search powers by certain pickets at the Massey Ferguson factory? Can he explain why, when stop and search powers are exercised unlawfully by pickets they are supported by certain Labour Members, whereas the proposition that the police should have stop and search powers, approved by the House, is opposed by them?

What explanation do the Government have for the failure of their law and order policies?

The hon. Gentleman and many others on the Opposition Benches who now propose that there should be more bobbies on the beat should realise that they removed them in the first place.


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 30 March.

I have been asked to reply.

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that in recent years we have had great difficulty in controlling costs on civil engineering contracts, such as those for the Isle of Grain power station and the Humber bridge? Will the Government reconsider their decision to go ahead with the new British Library? Will my right hon. Friend comment on the views of the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) that the likely total cost will be £600 million?

It was decided to go ahead with that major project because it was the most cost-effective way to preserve the priceless heritage of books and manuscripts that the library holds. I understand that only the first phase has so far been attempted at a cost of £88 million at current prices. The timing and cost of future phases will be considered, but the estimate is totally out of accord with what the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) said.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are now many hundreds of thousands of young people under 25 who have been out of work for over 12 months? Is he further aware of the simmering anger and despair of the large number of young people who regard the society created by his Government as one of no hope and no future? What is he prepared to do about that?

I find it extraordinary that the hon. Gentleman should imply that the Government have created the situation. The unemployment problems that we face, particularly for our young people, have been growing for many years. The Government have taken many steps to alleviate them. We should all welcome that fact.

Will my right hon. Friend ask the Prime Minister, both as Prime Minister and a London Member, to reflect upon the disgraceful waste of ratepayers' money by the Greater London Council in trying to explain the muddle over London Transport? Will she consider whether there is any useful service now performed by the Greater London Council?

I agree with my hon. Friend that the behaviour of the leader of the Greater London Council is quite extraordinary in any democratic society. I hope that it will be widely condemned on both sides of the House.

Will the Home Secretary, in his dual capacity today, look into the fact that constituents of mine have written to the police and had no answer? Is he aware that they have written to me as their Member of Parliament; that I have written to the police and had no answer? Is he further aware that I have telephoned and had no answer, that I raised the matter in the House last night, and have now received a telephone message without details from the police at Scotland Yard, who do not even know the number of their own police station? As this is a case of people complaining of racial harassment, where racial murders have been committed, will he look into this and see why the police—who are now larger in numbers than they have ever been, with a better organisation and with every facility—cannot answer a Member of Parliament's letter, or do not want to, whereas the Prime Minister can? Will he have a word with me? If he will not I shall cause a disturbance here—[Interruption.]—to draw attention to the fact that the ratepayers, who pay those police, cannot get proper treatment. It is no good the Home Secretary—[Interruption.]

The hon. Gentleman has asked me if I will look into those matters. The answer to that is 'Yes". He has asked me if I will talk to him about those matters. "Yes," but not under the threat of duress by his causing a disturbance.

I shall take the hon. Gentleman's point of order after I have heard the hon. Member for Keighley.

In view of the highly unsatisfactory nature of the Secretary of State's reply to question 14, I give notice that I reserve the right to raise this matter on the Adjournment, in view of the very strong expressions of dissent from the Labour Benches.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I think that the Home Secretary has been here long enough to know that if I say I shall cause a disturbance in the House, that has nothing to do with him; it is to do with Mr Speaker.

Not for the first time, the hon Gentleman is quite correct. The Home Secretary cart look. after his own affairs.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply given by the Home Secretary to my question, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.