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Labour Statistics

Volume 116: debated on Tuesday 12 May 1987

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asked the Paymaster General what is his latest estimate of the net loss of full-time jobs and net gain in part-time jobs since 1979.

We estimate that between June 1979 and December 1986 full-time employment in Great Britain decreased by 1,359,000 and part-time employment increased by 719,000. Since 1983, however, the total employed labour force has grown by 1,130,000.

Is it not a fact that, even now, full-time jobs throughout the country are disappearing? Yesterday, the written answer to my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) showed that in the northern region, for instance, in 1986, which is a comparable figure for any year from 1979, there were more than 19,000 redundancies. Does not the introduction and development of part-time jobs take away from the employee the rights of national insurance, unfair dismissal and wage protection?

No. The hon. Gentleman's first assertion is definitely not a fact. He quotes figures for redundancies, and, unfortunately, some redundancies are still occurring. However, the rate at which jobs are now being created is exceeding the rate at which jobs are being lost. We have a process of industrial change and industrial revival. I am glad to say that, given that unemployment has now been falling strongly for eight months, it has been falling most strongly in the northern region.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that the work done by the action for jobs team is to be welcomed? Could he arrange a new date for the team to visit Bolton? When the team does come, will it persuade Bolton council to let common sense prevail and stop its boycott of the new job training scheme?

We find that the action for jobs programme is welcomed by those to whom it is presented, and I am delighted to say that when we present the full range of policies to local people up and down the country we get a much increased level of involvement from employers, local people and local authorities in helping us to deliver the schemes. I hope that the local authority abandons its ridiculous objection to the job training scheme. It is a pity that, in this pre-election mood, parts of the Labour party and the Trades Union Congress appear to be opposed to extending training to the unemployed. I trust that common sense will ultimately prevail.

Does the Paymaster General accept that his announcement that every two full-time jobs lost since 1979 have been replaced by one part-time job is a searing indictment of eight years of this Government, who were elected to reduce, not treble, unemployment, and a further example of the fraudulent claims of Tory election promises? Can he now tell the House whether he accepts the common assessment that if the policies continue we will see more reductions of full-time manufacturing jobs, to be replaced by more part-time, low-paid, low-skill, skivvy employment schemes?

I do not agree with that. The figures from 1979, of course, take account of the enormous job losses that took place in the recession of 1979, 1980 and 1981.

No. A combination of international conditions and the policies of the previous Labour Government were responsible for that. It is absurd for the Opposition to ignore the fact that there has been a steady increase in the number of jobs in the British economy, since 1983 in particular.

It is not true that they are part-time and low-paid. Between June 1983 and December 1986 there has been an increase of more than 250,000 full-time jobs; the number of part-time jobs has increased by more than 400,000; and the number of self-employed positions has increased by nearly 500,000. The Opposition are trying hopelessly to distort the figures by going back to 1979 to deny the strong recovery.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that the picture painted by the hon. Member for Wansbeck (Mr. Thompson) of the north of England is completely out of kilter? Only today Nissan has announced that it is taking on 300 additional workers, and the National Coal Board has announced, for the first time for many years, that it is to take on 500 apprentices in the coal industry. We need no lessons from any Opposition Member about how well we are doing in the north of England.

The Government are supporting that by putting money into the new northern development companies, setting up new urban development corporations, establishing new inner city task forces in the most depressed parts of the region and supporting a new spirit of enterprise and initiative, which is producing results in the northern region.