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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 116: debated on Tuesday 12 May 1987

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Employment

Job Club Programme

1.

asked the Paymaster General if he will make a statement on the job club programme.

Job clubs are a very effective means of helping longer term unemployed people back to work. Sixty per cent. of those who leave job clubs go into jobs, and 13 per cent. find places on the community programme, a training course or the enterprise allowance scheme. In order to build on this success we have recently expanded the number of job clubs to 1,000 and are opening a further 300 by September. This will enable around 175,000 people to enter job clubs this year.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply and note, as usual, the sneering comments from the Opposition Front Bench. Will my hon. Friend accept from me that the job clubs in Christchurch and Ferndown in my constituency already fulfil a valuable role in bringing together people who want to find work and employers who are looking for staff? Will he please be encouraged to continue with the scheme and let the Government give it every possible consideration and support?

My hon. Friend is right. Job clubs are an excellent concept. The progress being made in Christchurch and Ferndown by the job clubs there augurs well for the future. I wish that Opposition Members had visited their local job clubs to see the good work that is being done. Perhaps they are at the job clubs already, because I suggest that after 11 June many will be using job clubs for real.

Will the Minister explain why the Manpower Services Commission has been paying £37,000 a year to a luxury hotel in Bradford to house two temporary job clubs, when last week the MSC announced that it was going to withdraw a smaller amount of money from Fashion Services for the Disabled, which allows disabled people to play a more active part in the community, and that in December this year it will withdraw an even smaller amount of money from the Bradford Playspace scheme, which provides poor children with holidays that they would not otherwise receive and some activity for 40,000 poor children in Bradford? Will the Minister ask the chairman of the MSC to reverse those heartless decisions?

I cannot comment on the project that the hon. Gentleman is talking about. Job clubs are a very effective concept. The total cost of a job club is about £23,000 per annum and, given the success rate of getting people into jobs, it is extremely good value for money.

I confirm every word that my hon. Friend the Minister has said about the efficacy of job clubs. The one in my constituency, which we are very glad to have, has an immensely positive attitude. It is extremely well run and the atmosphere is very good. Many people go on to immediate employment, or very shortly thereafter get jobs.

I am grateful to have the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman). I have not visited the Lancaster job club, but I have seen 15 or 20 on my visits round the country. They are an excellent concept, and one finds that the individuals are motivated to look for work.

The Minister is right that job clubs are popular, because they assist a very small minority of people and give them intensive help in obtaining a job. Does he not understand that, as the numbers of job clubs grow, the percentage of those getting jobs will fall, because the problem is not that people do not know how to look for jobs, but that there are not enough jobs available? Under this Government, since 1979 1·6 million jobs have been destroyed in the British economy. Is it not time for the Department of Employment to concentrate on developing jobs and solving unemployment, rather than developing schemes and ways of fiddling figures to create a camouflage over the jobs problem?

The hon. Lady talks about small numbers. I repeat that this year about 175,000 people will pass through job clubs. There is no indication that the numbers of those who go into employment are reducing. The 60 per cent. figure is a national average, and some job clubs have figures well above that.

Is my hon. Friend aware that I have visited the Orpington job club and found it to be of inestimable value to the local unemployed, ending their sense of isolation and giving them practical help in the process of getting fresh jobs?

Once again, I appreciate my hon. Friend's support in talking about his experience of the job club in his area.

Labour Statistics

2.

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.

Training Schemes (Liverpool)

4.

asked the Paymaster General if he will make a statement on the success rate of training schemes in Liverpool.

The Government spent over £26 million in 1986–87 on a wide range of training schemes in Liverpool to enable young people and adults to acquire the skills that they need to compete for jobs. Well over half of those leaving YTS between March and September 1986 entered work or further training. Sixty-six per cent. of those leaving the job training scheme between April and October 1986 entered work or further training, and 74 per cent. of people leaving training for enterprise courses in the period April to October 1986 entered work, 58 per cent. of them in a self-employed capacity.

Is the Minister aware that a Liverpool university survey showed that one third of all school leavers on Merseyside failed to find a job and that 60 per cent., as the Minister said, entered training schemes? Is it not therefore important that the quality of those schemes is maintained? Does he agree that schemes like that run by the North Liverpool Music Resource Centre have brought training schemes into some disrepute? While I thank the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment, the hon. Member for Pendle (Mr. Lee), who has helped to ensure the quality of that scheme and the prospects for the young people involved in it, does the Minister agree that it is important, if schemes are to be successful, that quality must be maintained and the people who run the schemes must be above the claims of disrepute that have been thrown around?

I agree that we are searching for quality in all our schemes, particularly YTS and JTS. I would have thought that the hon. Gentleman would start by referring to the figures that I gave in my substantive answer, although perhaps that is asking too much. However, I am sure he would agree that they are impressive. The percentage of those finding work, as a result of taking advantage of the schemes, is very high. There is no difference between the hon. Gentleman and the Government on the matter of quality.

On the specific point about Liverpool, has my hon. Friend seen any sign of an increase in applications from ex-Militant Labour councillors for training places?

Certainly in my region, the north-west region, we have seen a considerable number of applications from those Militants to be parliamentary candidates at the forthcoming election. We shall make hay of that come election day.

Tourism

6.

asked the Paymaster General what information he has on the amount of income that has been generated by tourism in the East Midlands tourist board area in each year since 1978.

In the East Midlands tourist board area, spending increased from £145 million in 1978 to over £375 million in 1985.

A table giving full information has been placed in the Library.

As Leicester currently has an underdeveloped potential as a major tourist area, it is not surprising that it still needs those grants. As I intend to be re-elected, may I ask my hon. Friend to ensure that Leicester receives the full status of a tourism development action programme area? That would bring additional jobs to the area and ensure that the 1·5 million jobs in the tourist industry would be increased, particularly in Leicester.

After all the hard work that he has done, I am quite certain that my hon. Friend will be re-elected. As we all know, he is a very assiduous and able advocate for his constituents.

My hon. Friend asked about the tourist development action programme. It is for the English Tourist Board to decide, but I can tell him that it welcomes applications of that kind.

Is the Minister aware that women, including women in the east midlands, who represent two thirds of hotel and catering workers are being paid poverty wages? Full-time workers receive just over £80 a week and part-time workers receive £2·03 an hour. In view of the very high profits in the tourist industry—and we are not sorry about those profits—does the Minister agree that it is about time that some of those profits were directed towards the low-paid?

It is important that the hon. Lady is heard loud and clear not to be knocking the tourist industry or the jobs in it. That is the last thing that we want when we are trying to raise its status.

The hon. Lady referred to low pay. That is precisely the reason why, when we were considering the Wages Bill, now an Act of Parliament, that we decided to retain wages council protection. She obviously welcomes that protection, as do many Conservative Members, for those aged 21 and over.

Job Release Scheme

7.

asked the Paymaster General if he will make a further statement on the operation of the job release scheme.

The job release scheme enables older workers to retire early with an allowance on the condition that their employers agree and replace them with people who are unemployed.

At the end of March, 24,000 people were supported under job release.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the job release scheme is one of the best schemes for alleviating the present unemployment, in that it does not involve commitments when we return to full employment? Does he further agree that not nearly enough people are involved in it and that it should be expanded?

My hon. Friend is right. It is an excellent scheme, and I am grateful for the constructive interest that he has taken in it. Expansion of the scheme would be expensive, but obviously all our schemes are under constant review.

Will the Minister confirm that the job release scheme enjoys all-party support and is popular with employers and with those who participate in it? Can he explain why the Tory Government cut this scheme, and will he acknowledge, as his hon. Friend said, that the scheme should be increased and improved, not reduced?

Over the years there have been a number of changes in the job release scheme and, if I remember correctly, some of them took place under the Labour Government. It is an excellent scheme, and I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman draws on the whole range of organisations that support it. As regards further expansion, as I have said, it is an expensive scheme; but I repeat that all these schemes are kept under review. I have heard what the hon. Gentleman has said.

While agreeing that this is an excellent scheme, and hoping that Ministers in their review will look at the payments made to people who take advantage of it, may I ask my hon. Friend whether he is aware that there is some bitterness among people who have taken advantage of it, because payments have not increased in line with inflation? Will he please look again at this important point?

We take that into account when we adjust the rates of allowance, and that is normally done annually. We also take into account the tax aspects, because some of the allowances are taxable whereas, others are tax free.

Tourism (Job Creation)

8.

asked the Paymaster General how many jobs he estimates will be created by tourism in 1987; and if he will make a statement.

The Government do not produce forecasts of future employment levels, which depend on many factors. However, if present trends in tourism continue, I would expect to see further significant growth in employment in 1987.

Does the Minister agree that there would be more job creation in the tourist industry if the Government implemented the Select Committee's suggestion in its report of extending the tourist season? That could be done at low cost, or even negative cost. Does he further agree that the refusal to do this could only be interpreted as a sort of doctrinaire approach, because it would assist the regions in their job creation efforts?

I agree that it is important that we should do all that we can to extend the tourist season. In fact, we responded positively to that when the Select Committee report came out. The hon. Gentleman should be careful not to quote too much from that report, because if we had implemented all it, recommendations, that would have been disadvantageous to Scotland.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government have done a great deal to extend the season by encouraging especially business tourism and conference trade, and that the contribution of that to employment has been largely underestimated by Opposition Members? Does he share my hope that they will change their attitude in the next Parliament?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. In fact, one of the conditions that we have introduced alongside section 4 of the Development of Tourism Act 1969 is that those who apply for the grant should devise means whereby they can extend the tourist season.

Does the Minister agree that many extra jobs would be created in tourism in Wales if the Welsh Tourist Board was able to advertise itself directly overseas as its Scottish equivalent does? Does he agree also that the promotion of Wales overseas should not be left to the British Tourist Authority? Will he urge the Government to bring forward the necessary legislation to enable that to happen?

That would mean that Wales would get two bites at the cherry, because the principal job and responsibility of the British Tourist Authority is to bang the drum abroad and encourage inward tourism to the United Kingdom. The Welsh Tourist Board does have an opportunity from time to time to exhibit with the BTA at various exhibitions. I am certainly not averse to the hon. Lady's suggestion. However, I must point out to her that the principal responsibility for that must rest with the BTA.

As my hon. Friend knows, the office of the East Midlands tourist board is in Lincoln, which is quite right, because Lincoln is the most historic and beautiful city in the region. Does he agree that, given imagination, professionalism and co-operation between the public sector and private enterprise, many thousands of jobs could be created by the proper development of the eastern tourist group of Cambridge, Peterborough, Lincoln, York and Durham, and that all of us should give our minds to developing that?

I endorse what my hon. Friend has said and agree with him completely that the headquarters of the East Midlands tourist board is in the right location. We are trying to encourage areas further north of Watford to make application under section 4, given the new policy, so that we can try to assist the dispersal of tourists away from London and the south-east.

The Minister, who has some knowledge of the north-west region, will know that the north-west is developing tourism. Everyone will welcome jobs in that area. However, does he accept that that is only scratching at the surface of the 300,000 people who have been thrown out of work in the manufacturing sector and the 32 per cent. reduction in jobs in that sector since the Government came to power?

I love the back-handed compliment that the hon. Gentleman pays me by saying that I have some knowledge of the north-west. I was born, brought up and have lived there all my life. I dare say that I might know it better than he does.

On tourism, again I caution Opposition Members not to be so quick in rubbishing this industry. I cannot find another sector of the British economy that is showing such an increase in wealth and job creation. That should not be discouraged. The hon. Gentleman knows very well that in manufacturing, in which we are seeing an increase in profitability the like of which we have not seen for a long time, it is possible for many companies to take on 10 per cent. more work without taking on one more person. We must look to the sectors that will produce the jobs.

Does my hon. Friend, agree that job creation in tourism owes a great deal to sensitive developments? Will he congratulate and further encourage the English Tourist Board in its efforts to promote environmentally acceptable and international standard projects?

Yes, I do. I am glad to have this opportunity to pay a warm tribute to my hon. Friend, who has specialised in this since he was elected to this House, and I am sure that he will continue to specialise in it in the next Parliament.

Northern Region

9.

asked the Paymaster General how many people found work in the northern region in the first quarter of 1987.

The Government have no means of knowing exactly how many people find work in any given period. But between 9 January and 6 March 1987, 23,600 people in the northern region were placed in jobs by jobcentres alone, and we estimate that jobcentres account for only about a quarter of all engagements.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm, before any electioneering starts, that more than 1 million people are in paid employment in the north-east, which is 29,000 more than in 1983, that self-employment has increased by 16,000 since then and that unemployment is falling fastest in the northern region?

I would happily confirm that, both before and during the election period which is upon us. I am glad to say that the position seems likely to be sustained, because the number of unfilled vacancies at jobcentres in the region has increased by 24 per cent. on a year ago and our jobcentres are placing 12 per cent. more people in jobs than they were a year ago.

Surely what is important is how many of those who find work find real jobs with permanency, as distinct from those who are on short-term, part-time, trainee operations?

I am sure that the bulk of them did. At present there is a growth in the total amount of employment and a corresponding decline in unemployment. There are people between jobs, but the fact is that more and more people are finding jobs in the north and the number of those out of work is steadily decreasing.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend take it from me that we in Cumbria are not aided in our job creation prospects by the doom and gloom coming from Opposition Members from further south, such as. Liverpool and Manchester? In Cumbria, unemployment is falling and in my constituency it is below 10 per cent., business is booming, we are creating jobs and we could do without the whingeing from the Opposition parties.

I am sure that my hon. Friend could also add that the commitments of the Labour party, the Liberal party and the Social Democratic party to cut the Trident programme and stop our nuclear power programme pose the biggest threat to jobs in the northern region of any single policy of any party.

Labour Statistics

10.

asked the Paymaster General what percentage of the total unemployed are aged 25 years or less; and what initiatives the Government are pursuing in order to provide full-time employment at average rates of pay for those affected.

On 8 January 1987, the latest date for which figures are available, 34·4 per cent. of unemployed claimants in the United Kingdom were aged under 25 years. All of the employment, training and enterprise measures run by my Department and the Manpower Services Commission are part of the Government's strategy for encouraging enterprise and employment.

Does the Paymaster General agree with the MSC report that of the 200 job training scheme contracts signed at the beginning of May, only 20, or 10 per cent., were with colleges or local authorities in combination with colleges? Is he further aware that the National Audit Office, in a report on the MSC training strategy, said that colleges of further education were good value for money? Will he ensure that there is more public involvement in these job training schemes?

The new job training scheme is coming along well and we welcome the participation of further education colleges. One big problem is that some Labour-controlled councils are misguidedly refusing to allow further education colleges to take part, and I would be delighted to join the hon. Gentleman in asking them to change their policy.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that British trade unionists have something to learn from their counterparts in Western Europe, who have not priced young people out of jobs?

They certainly have. Although young people's pay in the United Kingdom is still high relative to adults' pay compared with the early 1970s, there has been some movement, so the relationship is rather more sensible. The recent fall in youth unemployment has followed from 1982, when youth wages dropped somewhat in relation to adult pay.

Is the Paymaster General aware that youth unemployment is notably grievous in south Yorkshire, which has been transformed into a wasteland in recent years? Has he studied the latest report of the Child Poverty Action Group, which points out that high unemployment and low incomes have made the Yorkshire and Humberside region one of the poorest areas?

Again, fortunately, the position is improving, most particularly for youth employment. The number of unemployed people under the age of 25 fell by 80,000 last year and has decreased by 120,000 in the past two years. The level of youth unemployment in the United Kingdom is well below the European average and our young people are starting to see the benefits of economic revival, partly because of our schemes, rather in advance of the rest of the population.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that unemployment, whether in the west midlands or elsewhere, is too high? How is that allied with the fact that the Birmingham Evening Mail carries 20 pages of full-time jobs every Thursday and Friday? Does he agree with the West Midlands Industrial Development Association, which says that jobs in the west midlands are growing faster than anywhere in the country? How does that tally with Socialists trying to scare people about jobs?

We all accept, as my hon. Friend has said, that unemployment is too high and poses considerable stress and hardship for individuals. That is why we are so pleased to see the growing number of vacancies advertised in local newspapers and jobcentres and the growing number of jobs in the community, all of which is derided by the Opposition, who are extremely concerned.

Does the Minister know that making comparisons with Europe in that sense fails to recognise that many more apprenticeship schemes have been formed in Europe than in this country? What will the Government do about encouraging apprenticeships in the manufacturing, engineering and building industries?

We do not have so many traditional apprenticeships as we used to have, but we are developing systems of training which are more akin to those in Western Europe, where one measures people's ability by the skill they can achieve, rather than the number of years they have served in a trade. Nowhere in Western Europe is there a training scheme as good as the YTS, and nowhere in Western Europe is youth unemployment coming down as rapidly as it is here.

My right hon. and learned Friend will know that one of the Government's most successful initiatives is the creation of urban development corporations. My right hon. and learned Friend will not know that in Committee this morning the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Dixon) announced the Labour party's policy of abolishing them if, God forbid, that party was elected.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, because that was obviously an incautious slip on the part of the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Dixon), who sits on the Opposition Front Bench—as he is now—as a member of the Opposition Whip's Office. We are waiting to hear from the Opposition which of our various schemes they would abolish. Would they abolish the JTS, the YTS or community programmes? What would they do about the measures which they have been deriding for the past year, which are now beginning to succeed?

How the Paymaster General said what he has just said without blushing astounds most of us on the Opposition Benches. Almost 35 per cent. of the unemployed are aged under 25, which makes this the most exploited younger generation this century. We have a generation of people under 25 who, if they are not unemployed, are offered thin training schemes which do not lead to real skills, well-paid jobs or a secure future. The Government have offered rotten training, thin training, no skills and no jobs for this generation. The Labour Government, who will be elected in a month, will produce jobs, quality training and a future for young people as never before.

We now have good quality YTS, which has reached the stage where no 16 or 17-year-old need be unemployed. We can guarantee them a place. The new job training schemes are aimed particularly at under-25s, in order to raise their skill levels and improve their prospects of employment. I wait to hear what the Labour party will say about those training schemes. The Labour party is encouraging the TUC to obstruct the schemes in the runup to the election. Will it abolish those schemes after the election?

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware of the substantial success of the Slough job club—which I opened officially earlier today—in finding real jobs for the unemployed, including those under 25? Is he further aware that I have found very substantial resentment at the attempts of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) to rubbish the success of job clubs?

We now have over 1,000 job clubs. Just under two out of three people who go to job clubs get jobs and more of them go into training and further education. It is a positive disgrace that some unemployed people are deterred from joining those job clubs by the ill-informed and hostile remarks of people such as the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersely) and his colleagues on the Opposition Front Bench.

Yts

11.

asked the Paymaster General how many people are presently engaged in the YTS in Britain.

On 31 March 1987, the latest date for which figures are available, about 318,000 young people were in training on YTS in Great Britain.

Will the hon. Member recognise once and for all that youngsters who participate in a scheme finish up on the unemployment scrap heap? Will he also confirm that if, by some miracle, his party wins the general election—[Interruption.]

That is the first time, Mr. Speaker, that I have been given a standing ovation.

Will the Minister now confirm that if, by some miracle, his party becomes the Government after the next election, one third of those youngsters will be coerced into the scheme, and, if they do not allow themselves to be coerced, there will be nothing further at the end of the road?

You see, Mr. Speaker, it does not matter what scheme we introduce for training, enterprise or self-employment in small businesses—Opposition Members seem to delight in knocking it. They do not want those schemes to succeed and until now they have not wanted unemployment to come down. I have news for the hon. Gentleman—it is.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the turnover of jobs among people under 25 is often rapid and that that provides considerable opportunities for promotion? Therefore, will he take steps to ensure that young people on youth training schemes understand that if they take a job, even at a comparatively low wage, their chances of rising quickly to a much higher wage are good?

That is an important point. The differential between young people who are training, for instance, on YTS, and when they have completed that training—[Interruption.]

and find their way into full-time employment is very important. But we start from the position that Britain lacks proper skills training, and we have met that need by introducing YTS.

Local Employer Networks

12.

asked the Paymaster General how many local employer networks are now in operation.

The response from employers, employer organisations and others to this important initiative has been encouraging. Contracts have been exchanged for the first six networks and a further 34 are expected to be in place by the end of June.

Will my hon. Friend add yet another to his list, because the Southampton chamber of commerce signed a contract for a local employer network with the MSC today? Will he acknowledge that the Government have done more than any previous Administration for training in Britain and that local employer networks enable that training to be targeted where skills are in greatest need? I hasten to add that neither I nor any of my parliamentary colleagues in Hampshire, save perhaps the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock), intend to be a candidate for retraining following the general election on 11 June.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, my hon. Friend will not be a candidate for retraining. I welcome what he has said and the fact that contracts have been exchanged. He has been extremely kind in complimenting local employer networks. What is happening in his area means that there will be a real local voice, expressed by industry, in education and training.

Manufacturing Industry

14.

asked the Paymaster General if he will make a statement on the trend in the number of employees in manufacturing.

The number of employees in manufacturing has been decreasing since 1966. At the same time, the number of self-employed people in manufacturing has been steadily increasing. The downward trend in employees in manufacturing has slowed markedly since 1983.

How do those figures square with the fact that a thousand jobs were lost in manufacturing employment in February and, in the three-monthly average to that date, 9,000 were lost compared with 2,000 in the three months to November? Does the Minister not recognise that unless he puts the same kind of energy and resources into investing in manufacturing industry as he currently puts into manipulating the figures, any reduction in the figures will be cruelly deceptive?

That reduction of 1,000 is one of the smallest that we have had in manufacturing in any month for many years. Manufacturing output is up 15 per cent. since we hit the trough in 1981. Britain's productivity is up 33 per cent. since the previous election. Investment in manufacturing is rising. Our share of export markets is being held. But manufacturing is becoming more technologically advanced. If the hon. Gentleman were to visit, as I am sure he has, as I have, a computer-integrated manufacturing plant, he would see why jobs are not on the factory floor any more. The jobs are in design, marketing, sales and services, many of them serving our wealthier manufacturing industry. That is a pattern upon which we must expect to base policy for many years to come.

Ec (Employment Statistics)

15.

asked the Paymaster General if he will place in the Official Report a table showing the percentage employment growth or reduction in each country of the EEC between 1986 and 1987 to date.

The latest available information is for the fourth quarter of 1986. During the year to this quarter, the increase in civilian employment was 0·7 per cent. in the United Kingdom compared with 1·0 per cent. in the Federal Republic of Germany, 0·7 per cent. in Italy and 3·2 per cent. in Spain. I regret that figures for other Community countries are much less up to date.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree that unemployment in this country is now not only equal to the European Community average but is falling more quickly than in any other industrialised country in the world?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The United Kingdom has a higher percentage of its adult population in employment than any other EEC country except Denmark. Sixty five per cent. of our adult population are in work.

Prime Minister

Engagements

Q1.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 12 May.

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today.

During the day, will the Prime Minister reflect on the fact that this Parliament could have run until 9 June 1988? Is there not something arrogant and impertinent about the leader of a party brazenly talking about a fourth term when she has been panicked into an election more than a year early?

Q2.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 12 May.

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

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to consider the claim made in Moscow by the Labour party foreign affairs spokesman that the Soviet leaders are praying for a Labour victory? Does my right hon. Friend agree that if that were true it would be the best possible advertisement for the Government's strong and consistent defence policy?

A Labour Government who would unilaterally give up Britain's nuclear deterrent would no doubt be the answer to the Kremlin's prayers. I am bound to say, however, that I do not think that much praying goes on in the Kremlin. I believe that people there are probably very realistic and realise that after the election they will probably have to deal with a Conservative Government, who will be standing up for Britain's defences.

During the election campaign, will the Prime Minister debate with me face to face on television?

No, Mr. Speaker. I fear that such a debate would generate more hot air than light. [HON. MEMBERS: "Frit."]

The Prime Minister says that she is proud of her record and that she is fighting on her record, so why will she not debate it face to face with me on television?

The right hon. Gentleman will find his own platform. I shall not give him one. I shall put across my record of achievements, this Government's record of achievements. We shall put positive policies—[HON. MEMBERS: "Frit."]

in the way that all past Prime Ministers have recommended their policies to the electorate. I have done so twice and I shall do so a third time.

Thinking of recent settlements of the teachers' and nurses' pay disputes, may I ask my right hon. Friend to tell us what the implications would be for public sector workers of income policies along the lines advocated by the Opposition?

The last time the Oppostion were in government they introduced income policies. They are no part of our policies. They will always fail and they usually have a devastating effect, particularly on those who work in the public sector. Last time they had a damaging effect, especially on the pay of nurses.

Does the Prime Minister recall the number of leaders of other countries—[Interruption.]

who in recent years have proclaimed themselves as leaders for life? As the right hon. Lady is now aiming for the end of the century, is this what the Leader of the House had in mind when he warned on Sunday against the arrogance that comes with power? Does she agree with him, or are his days now numbered as well?

The right hon. Gentleman seems to have forgotten that I have just asked for dissolution so that we may submit ourselves to the electorate.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Gloucestershire county council, now under alliance domination, had a surplus this year of £4 million on its education budget, but rather than spend that money on books or on improving the schools, the alliance council decided to plunder that fund and spend the money on road improvements in the Cheltenham area? Does my right hon. Friend not think that it is absolutely despicable that the alliance councillors should plunder the education fund for motorists at the expense of the children?

I note what my hon. Friend said, but I imagine that, like me, he is not surprised.

Q3.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 12 May.

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

Does the Prime Minister know that unemployment in my constituency is the 28th worst in the country and has more than doubled to 24 per cent. during her time? Is this part of her Government's claimed success?

Had we not pursued policies which have led to economic strength, to competitive industry and to large and expanding sunrise industries in the service sector, the prospects for unemployment would be infinitely worse than they are now. We have efficient manufacturing industry, excellent service industries, very good prospects for expansion and good prospects for the future.

On a serious note, may I say to my right hon. Friend how much my constituents and many others appreciated her presence in Canterbury cathedral last month on the occasion of the memorial service to those who died in the Herald of Free Enterprise? On that occasion I had the honour of sitting beside my right hon. Friend. I have not had that distinction in this place. If I were returning here next time, I would be very happy to sit behind my right hon. Friend on this side of the House.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I think that the occasion to which he referred was one that united the House.

Q4.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 12 May.

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

When the Prime Minister prepares the list of successes that she will be parading round the country in the weeks that lie ahead, what place will be occupied by the doubling of unemployment, the increase in homelessness, the decline of the Health Service, the divided society—a more impoverished society, a society in which crime has risen—and the cases of drug-ridden cities? This has—been the evidence of eight years of Tory Government. Will she be telling the people exactly what that has meant to this country?

I shall be telling them of the economic strength of Britain and the respect in which it is held, that under this Government the people have been able to produce economic growth for seven years, which has generated far more resources for the Health Service, and of a Government who have spread property ownership more widely than any previous Government. I shall point out the negative policies of the Opposition, so vividly set out by Mr. Kilroy-Silk in his book when he

"The militants and their ilk in Liverpool are the biggest deterrents to job creation on Merseyside that there have ever been."

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Scottish Conservatives are very much looking forward to seeing her in Perth on Friday? When she comes to Perth on Friday, will she confirm that it is the policy of the Conservative Government to serve the people and not be obsessed with the manipulation of power, as Liberals seem to be? Will she also tell the Scottish Conservatives that she has been meeting the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition across the Dispatch Box for four years and it still has not done him any good?

I look forward to presenting our case in Perth, the case of a Government who have reduced the powers of Government by taking off many controls, liberated enterprise and reduced income tax, which has led to incentive and growth. I appreciate what my hon. Friend said in the latter part of his question.

Q5.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 12 May.

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some time ago.

Is the Prime Minister aware that since she has been in office two of the major growth industries within our inner city areas have been child prostitution and street crime? Is this what she meant by the restoration of Victorian values?

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, this Government have tackled crime by increasing the numbers of police, where his party has held the numbers. We remember Wapping.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the figures that have come in from those companies returned to the private sector have shown that profits have more than doubled? Is she also aware that the dividends and corporation tax from those companies almost equal the amount of money that was coming from them when they were under state control? In view of this double bonus, will my right hon. Friend, after 11 June, please return even more activities to the private sector, to the benefit of the taxpayer?

Yes. The industries that were nationalised by the Opposition and that have been privatised by us have done very much better since privatisation, not only in profits, therefore in contributing to tax and helping us to finance the Health Service and other things as well, but for the people who work in them. I noted a report in The Times today referring to the National Freight Corporation, which said;

"An original £1 stake in NFC is now worth £46 and about 6,000 employees have holdings worth more than £12,000 each, with a sizeable number approaching £100,000."
That is an opportunity for employees which the Opposition would love to deny to or take away from them.

Q6.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 12 May.

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

Is the Prime Minister aware of the marked increase in unemployment in Wales during the eight-year period in which she has been in office, which shows no signs of receding? Does she appreciate that it will not be disguised, even by 19 changes in the unemployment statistics?

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, unemployment in Wales has been going down and the standard of living has been going up—and, indeed, is higher than it has ever been. That is quite a tribute to the Government.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that in this country ordinary parents, ordinary trade union members, ordinary ratepayers and ordinary taxpayers are praying for a Conservative victory?

Given that the Prime Minister will accept that we in the north are looking forward to the election, will she tell the House why she, with her huge majority, has chosen 11 June as the election date? What has she to hide in the economic figures?

It was the best day to choose, and most people are very pleased about it—except for those who are frightened to death of an election.