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Labour Statistics

Volume 113: debated on Tuesday 31 March 1987

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4.

asked the Paymaster General how many people in inner London have been unemployed for over a year.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The amplifier is still not working.

Order. I think that most of them are. Would the hon. Lady like to change her place?

I am well known to be a soft-spoken man, but I shall raise my voice.

On 8 January 1987 the number of claimants in the boroughs that make up inner London who had been unemployed for over one year was 86,300.

I put it to the Minister that every person who is long-term unemployed represents a human tragedy and that there is absolutely no hope for those people unless there is a change in Government policy. The waffle with which the Minister will answer my question is no response; he should be examining the long-term problems of those who have been unemployed for any length of time.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman's first point. Each individual who has been out of work for more than 12 months usually represents a considerable personal tragedy. I am therefore glad that the number that I have given is smaller than that of 12 months ago. The unemployment rate has begun to come down, as long-term unemployment has begun to do in the country as a whole. The hon. Gentleman should not be so dismissive of the Government's economic policy and the achievement of their programmes. Last month saw the largest fall in unemployment in the country as a whole since records began.

Is unemployment not falling all over the country? Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that in my constituency it has fallen faster than in almost any other area? Does that not demonstrate the Government's commitment to steel-closure areas and other areas of high unemployment, and the fact that Government policy towards the north in relation to regional policy is highly commendable?

My hon. Friend emphasised to me what was being achieved in his constituency when I last visited him and his constituents. That has lessons for inner London boroughs, because it shows that if a town such as Scunthorpe—which has been badly hit by necessary changes in the steel industry—can attract new industry and generate new types of employment, the same can be achieved in inner London boroughs. Indeed, it is being achieved, where local authorities co-operate with the sensible proposals that Government Departments have put forward to strengthen the economy.

Given the serious unemployment problem in inner London, does the Paymaster General accept that the further loss of long-standing industrial employment in the area is a potential disaster? Is he aware that British Gas plans to move nearly 700 staff out of the research station in Fulham? Will he make urgent representations to the chairman of British Gas that he should reconsider this proposal, which will have a devastating effect on the local economy and on local employment?

Decisions about the location of British Gas staff are for British Gas to determine. If a decision is pending that is likely to have an effect on Fulham, I trust that everybody will respond by creating conditions that will enable new employers to be attracted to Fulham to provide work there. Many major companies are moving work out of Greater London to provide it elsewhere in the regions. That is not altogether bad. London does not have a great manufacturing tradition. It is particularly strong in providing service industries and self-employment, and it is showing very substantial growth in all those areas across the whole of London.