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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 124: debated on Tuesday 15 December 1987

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Employment

Local Enterprise Agencies

1.

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the progress of local enterprise agencies.

There are now almost 400 local enterprise agencies in the United Kingdom. My Department, through the local enterprise agency grant scheme, encourages the development of viable agencies in England. One hundred and sixty-eight agencies were supported in 1986–87.

I thank my hon. Friend for that helpful reply. Does he agree that local enterprise agencies are necessarily brought about as a result of a partnership between local interests, local authorities and, particularly, chambers of commerce? Does he also agree that bringing together the practical skills and knowledge of those individuals and organisations results in the creation of much new business and many new jobs, as is the case in the Leeds business venture?

Yes, indeed. I agree with my hon. Friend. The agencies are valuable institutions which improve the survival rate of small firms which consult them, as was shown in a recent report. The Leeds business venture is a long-established and well-supported agency, which receives our grant.

Does the Minister recognise that many local enterprise agencies in areas such as mine, which no longer benefit from inner-city policy or other Government policies to push money into areas of high unemployment, are worried about their future and about future money to enable them to create and secure jobs in places such as Derwentside, which, since 1979, has suffered enormous job losses? The agencies have done a good job, but they need Government support to continue it.

I recognise the concern which the hon. Lady expresses and which some of the agencies have expressed to me. The grant scheme to which I referred is intended as a pump-priming scheme to help agencies get going and develop. It is not the only way in which we assist them —there are others—and I am conscious of the case that the hon. Lady has made.

Does my hon. Friend agree that enterprise agencies have been a wonderful catalyst for bringing together management expertise from the larger companies to help the smaller ones? Have they not been one of the major contributions that have enabled the many start-ups that have taken place to continue, flourish and develop into medium-sized companies?

I agree entirely with what my hon. Friend has said. As I said earlier, the survival rate has improved a great deal. According to the report that I mentioned, only one in six of the companies that have had advice from enterprise agencies fail. The agencies also do a tremendous job in helping small firms to develop, and many job; are coming from that.

Tourism

2.

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what information he has on the amount of United States tourist dollars earned in 1986.

United States visitors to the United Kingdom spent £1,250 million in 1986.

My hon. Friend will be aware that 25 years ago both France and Italy individually earned more tourist dollars than the United Kingdom and that now the United Kingdom earns more than both those countries put together. Can he say what steps he has taken to inform the tourist industry about how to live with an extremely weak dollar this year?

My hon. Friend is right about the trend of increasing United States tourism to the United Kingdom and about the success of the industry. In 1986 we had a US-UK tourism surplus of £717 million. During the first nine months of this year there was an increase of about 25 per cent. in the number of United States tourists visiting Britain. At the present time the number of tourists from the United States is holding up well, but clearly, because of the gyrations of the financial market and the likelihood of an election in America next year, the industry must be fully alive to the challenge of competition.

The Minister will be aware thai a large proportion of American tourists have been coming into the golden triangle of London-Oxford-Stratford-on-Avon. Because they can probably get better value for money by going to other areas, and especially to Wales, can he say whether the British Tourist Association has come to an agreement with the Wales Tourist Board to increase the promotion of Wales in particular and Britain in general to those in the United States with an interest in Wales?

Yes, progress is being made. I fully concur with the hon. Gentleman's sentiments that Wales is an extremely attractive area which has many tourist attractions.

We welcome American tourists, but most of them come to London and we should like them to visit other parts of the country. Will my hon. Friend look carefully at that? What are his Department and the tourist boards doing to encourage visitors to go from London to Scotland and back to the United States via Prestwick?

The British Tourist Authority and the English Tourist Board are charged with doing everything possible to encourage tourists to move out and visit the regions and not just spend time in the golden triangle and in London. In recent years Scotland has benefited to a considerable extent from tourism.

Yts

3.

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what information he has as to what proportion of those people completing the YTS in the Truro constituency find full-time paid employment within the next six months.

Sixty two per cent. of young people who completed youth training schemes in the district of Carrick between April 1986 and June 1987 were in full-time jobs when surveyed several months later. A further 9 per cent. were in part-time jobs. I regret that separate figures for Truro are not available.

I am sure the Minister agrees that those figures are welcome and that the increasing quality and take-up of YTS courses in my area is a very good thing. However, given the Government's plan to force all young people to go on to YTS or face the withdrawal of benefit, is it not likely that people who are unwilling and unresponsive to the courses will be forced on to them? Not only will that not help people who do not care to make use of the scheme, but it will hurt the many other people who have a constructive attitude and wish to get the most that they can out of the scheme.

That is not necessarily correct. Already, almost everyone in that positon is offered a place on the YTS. Youth unemployment has greatly improved recently. There are now fewer unemployed 16 and 17-yearold school leavers than at any time since 1974. I do not think that our new proposals will have the effects that the hon. Gentleman suggests.

Will my hon. Friend compare the YTS to its predecessor, the youth opportunities programme, which was introduced by the Lib-Lab pact Government? Does he not agree that the youth training scheme is far superior and far more successful in giving training to young people?

Yes, it is much more successful in every respect. Well over 400,000 young people are currently being trained under it.

Tourism

4.

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what he is doing to encourage regional tourist boards to focus on shopping as a major element in tourist spending.

The English Tourist Board's development strategy "A Vision for England" identifies leisure and speciality shopping as an important growth opportunity for tourism, particularly in towns and cities. The ETB is actively working with the regional tourist boards and others to encourage such developments.

Does my hon. Friend accept that spending on such items as specialist shopping, food and drink is of crucial importance to employment not only in the United Kingdom as a whole but in cities such as Winchester? Can he please give the House an estimate of the proportion of total tourist spending for which this type of activity accounts and, therefore, give us a target at which we can aim for spending on high-quality goods, food and drinks?

I know that my hon. Friend is keen to encourage tourists to stay overnight in Winchester.

We estimate that about 40 per cent. of the money spent by overseas visitors goes on shopping, food and drink. I certainly support all that my hon. Friend is doing to draw to the attention of visitors the attractions and heritage of Winchester— including King Arthur's round table and Winchester cathedral. Of course, the money spent by tourists will provide every opportunity for entrepreneurial retailers and shopkeepers to develop their businesses.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the wonderful things happening in Birmingham at the moment, with the creation of new jobs and investment; in particular the £100 million convention centre, which will attract tourists from all over the world, and the £250 million, 1 million sq ft redevelopment of the city centre and the old Bull Ring, which will provide hundreds of shops and 6,000 new jobs?

When the tourists come, should they not be able to use those new facilities on a Sunday? Therefore, should we reform our trading laws to enable this to happen?

As the Minister with responsibility for tourism, I support an extension of Sunday trading. That has always been my personal view and it is also my ministerial position. I support what my hon. Friend said. Birmingham offers tremendous opportunities, and huge developments are coming on stream. I was at the NEC Interbuild exhibition recently and heard some tremendous success stories and good reports about what is happening in the region.

Factory Inspectors

5.

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what is the current number of factory inspectors; and what was the number in 1979.

On 1 November 1987 a total of 610 factory inspectors were employed in the Health and Safety Executive. On 1 April 1979 the total was 742.

Is it not true that since 1979 there has been a massive cut in the number of factory inspectors, due to the meanness of the Government, and is that not lamentable, in view of the many lives and the millions of days lost each year through industrial accidents and injuries? Is it not worse still that the Health and Safety Executive has tried to gag people who work for it from pointing out the savage cutbacks by the Government of their services, on the pain of sacking if anybody speaks out? Is it not an attempt by the Government to apply the Peter Wright standard to health and safety at work?

No, that is not the position. The number of inspectors per 1,000 employees has remained roughly constant since 1979. Having said that, an increase in inspectors is appropriate and next year there will be an increase of some 60 on the combined number of specialist and non-specialist inspectors. Resources have been allocated for that.

On the other situation to which the hon. Gentleman referred, obviously guidance is given on the circumstances in which civil servants have an independent approach to their Members of Parliament. We are aware of the situation that occurred, and the director on that occasion gave general guidance.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that provision will be made for the Health and Safety Commission for an increase in the number of inspectors in 1988–89?

My hon. Friend is entirely right. The extra £6·7 million allocated next year will make it possible to fund the extra 60 inspectors to whom I have referred. The chairman of the Health and Safety Commission has made it clear that those extra resources will allow those additional inspectors to be appointed.

Why did the Government permit cuts in the inspectorate during the 1980s when there were growing worries and fears about asbestos? Why did the cuts take place when there were growing worries about accidents to youngsters on the YTS scheme? Surely the Government in the 1980s have been very complacent.

No. The hon. Gentleman assumes that one can simply look at the number of inspectors and say that the more inspectors there are, the fewer accidents there will be. That is not true. The number of inspectors per 1,000 employees has remained roughly constant and where there is a necessity for more inspectors, we have made the funding available. As to fatalities, I am sure the hon. Gentleman will welcome the fact that in recent years the number of fatalities has declined, and in 1986–87 they were at an all-time record low.

Is it not disturbing that the Health and Safety Executive in its annual report published this month, admitted that 10,000 work places, which, according to its criteria, are a priority for preventive inspections, were not inspected because of a lack of resources?

The hon. Gentleman grossly oversimplifies what was of necessity a very detailed report. Essentially, the report was historical. It was looking to the past. As to the future, extra inspectors are being allocated —some 60 in total. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will welcome that.

Tourism

6.

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how much was spent by tourists in the six counties of the west country last year.

I understand from the English Tourist Board that total estimated spending by tourists in the six counties of the west country in 1986 was £1,650 million.

That information is extremely helpful. It obviously means plenty of job opportunities and investment. Does my hon. Friend agree that it was detrimental to the interests of the west country for Avon county council to withdraw from the West Country tourist board? What benefit does he see in the council's rejoining it?

It is a pity that Avon withdrew from the West Country tourist board and we hope that it will rejoin. I think I am right in saying that it is the only county council in England which is not a member of its regional tourist board. Given that Avon has such considerable attractions for tourists, such as the cities of Bath and Bristol, it is really missing out, and I hope that it will reconsider.

Will the Minister confirm that many of those so-called tourists come from the north of England and from Scotland looking for jobs? They may or may not have bikes, but they are anxious to have the means to exist as human beings. Does the Minister have anything to say to people in other parts of the United Kingdom who are anxious to contribute to the national well-being, whether or not they are tourists? Can he say anything apart from his nonsensical contribution about tourism?

I am delighted to hear that the hon. Gentleman will be encouraging all his constituents to go on holiday from Leith to the west country next year.

Will my hon. Friend recognise that, in seeking to meet the demands of the important tourist industry, ancient cathedral cities such as Salisbury have particular problems? Is he aware that following the decision of the dean and chapter to remove coaches from Salisbury close, two years ago, it is beginning to look as if the only solution which will save Salisbury as a tourist centre is to breach the 13th century closed walls yet again, to make room for a coach park inside them?

I cannot give an instant answer to the particular problems of Salisbury, but I am sure that no one would want any city walls to be breached.

The Minister spoke about the attractions of the west country for tourists. Will he tell us about the attractions of tourism for the people of the west country? In the west country, as elsewhere, the tourist industry provides the lowest rates of pay and the longest hours and has the least trade union organisation to protect the workers against excessive exploitation. Apart from uttering platitudes, what will the Minister do about that?

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman takes that view. In terms of job creation, the tourist industry sustains about 1·4 million jobs nationally. No other industry creates jobs at a rate of 1,000 a week, as our tourist and hospitality industries do. Certain conclusions can be drawn from the fact that there is no over-substantial trade union representation in that industry.

Does my hon. Friend accept that many people feel that although the West Country tourist board does good work, it covers far too large an area, stretching from the Isles of Scilly to Swindon? Will he look at the possibility of devolving part of its budget downward so that county promotional organisations such as the Cornwall tourist board can get a share of that budget?

In my discussions with the West. Country tourist board, that point was not raised. It does not consider its area to be too large. However I will consider my hon. Friend's suggestion.

Job Training Scheme

7.

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make it his policy to arrange for people on the job training scheme to have their fares refunded; and if he will make a statement.

Participants on the new job training scheme may claim reimbursement of all travel expenses associated with their training.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that reply. However, is he aware that although the trainees do not have to pay their fares now—that is an innovation, as they had to pay them under the youth training scheme —many still have considerable expenses as they have to pay for their lunch and other expenses out of the very small amount that they receive? Will the Minister consider some way of reimbursing them so that they get the small amount to which they art entitled in total? Many trainees, particularly in my constituency, have to contribute to the budget at home because their parents are unemployed.

As the hon. Lady probably knows, we are reviewing the job training scheme and developing it along with the community programme. These matters are under consideration by the Manpower Services Commission at the moment.

Will the Minister confirm that the DHSS recognises the cost of going to work as being £7 a week —being the cost of fares, the high cost of food away from home, and the cost of protective clothing, which will apply to the job training scheme? Under the new "Benefit Plus" scheme, if the "plus" were £15 a week, it would be only £8 a week in real terms.

I recognise the hon. Gentleman's point and, as I said, the matter is under consideration.

Does my hon. Friend agree that JTS has played an important part in the Government's adult training programme and that one of its biggest problems has been the way in which some unions and Left-wing Labour councils have undermined and boycotted it?

I agree with both parts of my hon. Friend's remarks. The job training scheme is playing an important role, but it could play a more important role if more people would co-operate in it.

Labour Statistics

8.

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what is the total number of unemployed; how many are women; and how many men.

On 8 October 1987 the number of unemployed claimants in the United Kingdom was 2,751,000 — a reduction of almost 500,000 on a year ago. Of these, 848,000 were women and 1,904,000 were men.

Is it not a fact that women are heavily discriminated against in employment and that when they come off the unemployment register most get jobs that most other people do not want, which are usually very low paid—for example, in tourism in the west country? Is there not something that we could do to ensure that women have some chance of full-time jobs instead of miserably low-paid, part-time jobs?

I accept almost nothing of what the hon. Gentleman said. In the past 12 months there has been an increase of about 372,000 in the number in work. For women, the increase in those in full-time jobs was more than the increase in those in part-time jobs. However, it is also true that many women prefer to have part-time jobs, and that is shown by many surveys.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the number of unemployed in Lancaster has fallen steadily and that, more important, the number in employment is steadily increasing? Many are employed in adaptable small firms and many in the tourist industry, which is taking advantage of our natural attractions and historic connections.

My hon. Friend is right. There has been a very big increase in employment, and the tourist industry has been one of the major activities involved. It is not right for Opposition Members to criticise that increase and suggest that, somehow, jobs in tourism are not real jobs. Of course they are real jobs, and they are internationally competitive real jobs.

Will the Secretary of State recognise that unemployment is still far too high? Given the present level of unemployment, is it not crazy to have ended the job release scheme? Is it not wrong to say that that scheme has been ended because the number using it has fallen considerably? Should not the Government have been moving in the opposite direction and allowing more people to take early retirement under the job release scheme to make employment available for younger people?

The job release scheme was being applied only to those aged 64 and was having a very marginal impact.

On the unemployment statistics, the fact is that unemployment has come down for 16 months in succession. In the past 12 months the fall in the figures has been the largest on record. It has affected every region of the country and there have been record falls in long-term unemployment and in unemployment among young people. I had very much hoped that the Opposition would welcome that trend.

Is it not a fact that there has been not only an enormous reduction in unemployment this year but a corresponding and greater growth in employment? Is my right hon. Friend aware that in each month of 1987 the Corby jobcentre has had a record number of job vacancies? To encourage people to take the jobs that are now available, would it not be sensible for income tax rates to be reduced to reduce some of the disincentives to work?

The last point is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. What my hon. Friend has said about the increase in the number in employment is right. The position in this country compares favourably with the EEC average and with countries such as France, Germany and the Netherlands.

Will the Secretary of State accept that it would be helpful if his Department produced figures which showed the number of people in part-time employment and those in full-time employment? While the new jobs that are being created are welcome, there is genuine concern that they are often part-time jobs replacing full-time jobs. Rather than exchanges which do not shed light, would it not be helpful if his Department gave us the facts?

The fact of the matter is that we do produce those figures. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman, who I think leads for the Liberal party on these matters, is not aware of that. I will repeat the figures again. Over the past 12 months, 372,000 new jobs have been created, of which 206,000—the majority—are full-time.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the level of unemployment in the United Kingdom is at its lowest for five years? Will he comment on how he sees the unemployment trends developing in the coming months?

As I have said, unemployment has come down for 16 months in a row. My hon. Friend is entirely right to state that it is now at its lowest level for five years. The Government want that trend to continue. That is not automatic, but provided that the lessons of the past are learned, I believe that unemployment should continue to come down.

While we certainly welcome any further fall in the unemployment figures, may I ask whether the Secretary of State is aware that, even on the Government's figures after they have fiddled them in 19 different ways, unemployment has still fallen by only one quarter of the amount by which it has increased under the Government since 1979? Is he further aware that under this Government Britain still has the worst combination of high unemployment and high inflation of any major Western country? Is he also aware that the number of people in jobs as a proportion of the total population available for work has not improved one jot, according to the Government's figures, since the end of 1982?

I am not prepared to take lectures from the hon. Gentleman on the inflation rate. The hon. Gentleman was a member of the Labour Government when inflation exceeded 20 per cent. The fact is that unemployment has come down for 16 months in succession. There is no question about the downward trend in unemployment. The hon. Gentleman would do much better to welcome that trend and recognise that in countries such as France, Belgium, Spain and Ireland unemployment is higher, not lower, than in this country.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is significant that during the general election campaign in June the Conservative party was the only party which did not make rash promises about reducing unemployment to 2 million in one year? Does that not prove that actions speak louder than words?

My hon. Friend is entirely right. Since the election the unemployment rate has come down by several hundred thousand. We very much hope that the trend will continue.

Fresh Claims Experiment

10.

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the fresh claims experiment.

The experiments, which involve using more senior staff to interview newly unemployed people, have just ended. Their aim was to see whether it is possible to provide a greater range of help and advice on both benefit procedures and employment opportunities at the initial point of contact with an unemployed person. The experiments are now being evaluated.

I thank the Secretary of State for that reply. Is it not obvious to the right hon. Gentleman and the Government that the principal reason for the reduction in the number of people registered as unemployed is the increasing abuse of measures such as restart, the fresh claims experiment and the availability-for-work criteria? Indeed, 2·5 million restart interviews have taken place and some cynics would suggest that we should not be suprised about the dramatic fall in the number of unemployed that the Government talk about. Does he also accept that that view is increasingly shared by the British people? When will he elevate the tackling of unemployment above the abuse of the unemployed?

The hon. Gentleman is talking nonsense. Not only have the unemployment figures gone down, but the number of people in employment has risen substantially. He mentioned the availability-for-work test. I must point out to him that those powers come from the Social Security Act 1975, which was passed by the Labour Government. As far as I know, no one seriously wants to pay out benefit when people are not available for work.

Has my right hon. Friend any plans to extend the experiment nationwide?

We shall have to evaluate information that we have only just collected. We shall then consider what the possible extension of the programme may involve.

If the Secretary of State is thinking of extending the new scheme as another turn of the screw against the unemployed, perhaps he or one of his colleagues will examine the fresh claims made in the House of Lords by all those peers who turn up for work, nod to the duty officer and then walk out without even voting, complete with their £100 a day tax-free.

Liquid Petroleum Gas

11.

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he is yet in a position to make a statement on the findings of the Health and Safety Executive investigation of the explosion in Balham on 21 August 1987; and when he expects the advisory committee on dangerous substances to announce the results of its consideration of the standards relating to the keeping and use of liquid petroleum gas.

The Health and Safety Executive investigation into the explosion at Balham on 21 August 1987 concluded that the most likely cause was a leak of butane from a gas bottle and gas ring in the basement of the building.

The advisory committee on dangerous substances has considered proposals for future controls over flammable gases and liquids, including standards relating to the keeping and use of liquefied petroleum gas. Its recommendations have been submitted to the Health and Safety Commission for consideration at a meeting to be held shortly.

In the light of the coroner's statement that the canister was not adequately labelled on the occasion of the explosion, will my hon. Friend pay particular attention to the fact that such labelling is required for industrial use of canisters, but not for domestic or retail use? Will he make recommendations accordingly?

My hon. Friend is entirely right in saying that the coroner made remarks to that effect and pointed out the distinction between domestic use and storage of gas and its use in the workplace. I am sure that Calor Gas has taken careful note of what the coroner said.

Fire Fighting

12.

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he has any plans to seek to amend the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act as it relates to the training of employees in fire fighting procedures at the place of work; and if he will make a statement.

No, Sir. The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act already confers general duties on employers to provide such information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of employees. More specific requirements for general fire precautions, including training in the event of fire, are contained in the Fire Precautions Act 1971.

As there is a duty on employers to make every effort to improve safety and training in safety at the place of work, should not employers regularly communicate at least once a year with all their employees to explain what is being done to update and improve firefighting procedures?

My hon. Friend is right to point out that, under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act, employers have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their employees. That applies to fire or to any other risk. However, the working of the Fire Precautions Act 1971, which is the primary legislation available for the purpose, is more properly the province of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.

Is the Miniser aware that many British employers are daily and yearly infringing the requirement of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act for their companies' safety policies to be updated annually? If he is aware of that deliberate flouting of the law, what is he doing about it?

If the hon. Lady has any specific instances of breaches of the law, I hope that she will do what is necessary to draw it to the attention of the authorities responsible.

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that the balance in the commendable desire to ensure that employees and other people are equipped to fight fires is not sometimes tipped too far and that some of the buildings in which people have to fight fires have become difficult for people to live and work in because of the requirements of some safety precautions?

I take my hon. Friend's point, but at the same time it must be reiterated that there is a responsibility on employers to ensure the safety of their employees, and that must be a primary consideration.

Young Training Schemes

13.

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many 16 and 17-year-olds are currently on youth training schemes.

On 31 October there were 391,719 YTS trainees with a two-year training entitlement and 25,084 with a one-year entitlement. Those with a two-year entitlement usually start training at 16 and those with a one-year entitlement usually start at 17.

I thank the Minister for that reply. Has he seen the October edition of his Department's Employment Gazette, which shows that YTS trainees in the retailing sector produce for their employers an average of £39 per week added value? The average for the eight industries that take 59 per cent. of YTS trainees placed with employers is £32 a week. If that amount is added to the current YTS allowance, £70 a week is coming into employers' hands. Why cannot trainees have a decent training allowance of at least £55 a week?

The training allowance is adequate, and a recent survey which showed that 80 per cent. of trainees thought that their training was worth while proves that fact.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that, nationally, more than 70 per cent. of young people on YTS go on to further education training or a job, and that in some areas, including Norwich, the figure may be higher? Is this not a major success, compared with the feeble efforts of the Labour party when it was in government some years ago?

The figures are very encouraging, and they show the success of the scheme.

Will the Minister admit that these figures show a disappointing level of employed youngsters on youth training? The original intention of the scheme was for it to be a good training base for young people in and out of work. Is it not about time that the Government said that no youngster should be going into work without training, and is it not about time also that we caught up with our industrial competitors and trained young people who are in and out of work?

With over 400,000 people being trained on it, YTS is a very successful scheme. The option remains for youngsters to go directly into work, if they so wish, without going on YTS, and that should remain so.

Self-Employment

14.

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the current levels of self-employment.

Self-employment has a very important role to play in the regeneration of the economy and the reduction of unemployment. The current level of self-employment is 2·7 million, representing one in nine of the work force, and it is continuing to increase.

I thank my hon. Friend for that encouraging reply. It shows that, if those figures were taken together with the employed population, unemployment would be well below 10 per cent. Has my hon. Friend any plans to ensure that self-employed people are helped by Government to sell their services and products to Government?

We help small firms as much as we can to tender for Government contracts. A booklet, "Tendering for Government Contracts", is available from the Department's small firms service. With our encouragement, a number of Departments are publishing similar guidance for small firms on the opportunities to do business with Government.

Very few young people are self-employed. After April, self-employment for young people may take on a new definition, because they will either have to be on benefit or on YTS. Will the Minister guarantee that he will provide a YTS place for every 16 and 17-yearold, as the Secretary of State for Social Services is unprepared to give that guarantee?

Tourism

15.

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what contribution the tourist industry is making to reducing unemployment in the inner cities.

The tourism industry is making a significant contribution to employment in inner-city areas. More jobs are expected to be created when the tourism potential of inner cities and urban areas is further realised as a result of Government policies, the English Tourist Board's initiatives and investment by the public and private sectors.

Does my hon. Friend agree that not only the English Tourist Board, but local authorities and other agencies have a significant part to play in increasing tourism and encouraging employment? Is he aware of the imaginative initiatives that have been taken by Southwark chamber of commerce to encourage tourism south of the river in the inner London borough of Southwark? Will he confirm that 22 per cent. of the urban development grant is spent on tourist initiatives?

Yes, I can confirm that. In fact, about 23 per cent. of total English urban development grants are used on tourism projects. As my hon. Friend has suggested, tourism is very much a partnership industry between Government and the public and private sectors, with local authorities also having a role to play. As far as Southwark is concerned, I am delighted by the progress that is being

Prime Minister

Engagements

Q1.

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 15 December.

:. 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. This evening I hope to have an Audience of Her Majesty The Queen.

Will my right hon. Friend reflect today on areas in the north, which suffer from high unemployment and which will give a hearty welcome to the thousands of new jobs that will result from the confidence of Japanese manufacturers in our economy?

I assume that my hon. Friend is referring to the excellent news that Nissan is expanding its investments in the north-east by about £200 million because it is delighted with the work that is done there. That will create another 1,400 jobs. Another Japanese company is expanding in East Kilbride, which again will provide a considerable number of jobs. That displays excellent confidence in the economy and work force of this country.

In an unprecedented action, the Prime Minister has been petitioned today by over 1,000 doctors and consultants, who are alarmed at what they call

"serious reductions in the Health Service … which are endangering patients' lives".
What is the Prime Minister's response to them" Will she say that they are wrong and that the cuts are not really happening, or will she accept that they are right. but tell them that it is really all their fault?

I shall set out the Government's excellent record in providing more resources— about 30 per cent. more in real terms over the past eight years—and in increasing—[Interruption.] As they asked me to make certain that expenditure kept pace with the increasing GNP, I shall point out that when we came in, expenditure on health was 4·8 per cent. of GNP and that it is now 5·5 per cent. after eight years of Tory Government. So we have done better than they requested. I shall also point out that the allocations of the £1·1 billion for England next year will soon be announced.

With her recitations of figures, the Prime Minister is now making a fool of herself. She is showing a complete determination not to respond to what the highest authorities and most expert opinions have called the "crisis" in the Health Service. Will she not heed the words of Sir George Godber, who said:

"it is useless for Ministers to repeat barely relevant multiples of past expenditure, staff employed, or numbers going in and out of hospital doors … What matters is the volume of services not provided or too long delayed".
Will the Prime Minister now make sure that the resources are made available to bring those beds back into use, to fund the pay awards and restructuring and to ensure that she stops the rot in the National Health Service?

As I said to the right hon. Gentleman, the allocations for increases next year -which to the hospital and community services in England alone amount to some £700 million, paid for by the taxpayer—will shortly be made and the regional health authorities will soon have details of them. In the meantime, because it is the treatment of the patient that counts, let me make it quite clear that for every three hip replacement operations in 1978 there are now four, for every two cataract operations which took place under Labour there are now three, and altogether, for every six operations then, there are now seven. That is an expanding Health Service and it will continue to expand.

The House and the country needs to know that, much though the Prime Minister makes of that £700 million, £500 million is already allocated for pay and prices, a further £100 million is already allocated for emergency initiatives, a further £48 million will be necessary only because the Government are putting up electicity prices, and the area health authorities have to find £170 million out of that sum to pay off the debts that they have had to run up because of underfunding this year. Why does not the Prime Minister, instead of constantly hiding behind those figures, understand that, as Sir George Godber says, the principles of equity and of access to care on the basis of need, not the ability to pay, are now seriously under threat, and make not just commendation of the Health Service, but resources available for the Health Service?

I give the right hon. Gentleman the figures because they show that no Government in history have given the Health Service more resources, more doctors, more nurses, or better pay for the nurses, than this one. That is what the right hon. Gentleman does not like.

As the right hon. Gentleman quotes from a previous chief medical officer to the Health Service, let me quote from the Labour party's document "The Way Forward", with a foreword by the noble Lord Ennals, then Secretary of State for Social Services. He gave a very different tale from the right hon. Gentleman when he said:
"Public expectations of the health and social services will frequently outrun supply and sometimes hard decisions will be needed to hold back some services to allow others to be developed."
That is what the Labour Government said when they were in power because they could not provide a fraction of the services that we have provided.

Order. Very occasionally a dispensation is given to the Opposition Front Bench.

Tory Members are only proving their sensitivity, Mr. Speaker.

Following what the right hon. Lady said, the infinity of demand for health care is understood to be a reality—[Interruption.]

Following what the Prime Minister said, the infinity of demand for health care—[Interruption.]

Order. It is no good hon. Members pointing at each other across the Chamber in such a disgraceful way. Mr. Kinnock.

That reaction really does show that the blood is flowing through the bandages that the Tories are trying to wrap around it. The infinity of demand of which the right hon. Lady speaks is well understood. For most Governments, it is accepted as a challenge. With her Government, it is used as an alibi. Will she heed the words of her erstwhile supporter, Mr. Nigel Harris, who said that her policies are ludicrous, deceitful and lead to the degradation of the patients? How can she take pride in that? Why does she not make the proper resources available to stop the crisis?

The doctors' petition this morning asked for the proportion of GDP to be maintained. I therefore repeat that this Government have done better than that. The last—[Interruption.] This Government—

Order. This kind of noise does the reputation of the House no good at all.

This Government have increased the proportion of GDP to 5·5 per cent. The last Labour Government cut it from 5·1 to 4·8 per cent.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this Christmas in England will be the most prosperous Christmas that the country has ever known? Is she further aware that this happy time could be spoilt by certain yobbos, whether on the cricket field, in the boxing ring or in football crowds, whose behaviour falls short of what we expect? Do we not want, with better, prosperous times, more decent behaviour by the mass of the people?

These are the times of the highest standard of living that this country has ever known. So far as I am concerned, if more of us emulated my hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes), the House would be very much more orderly than it is.

Q2.

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 15 December.

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

Does the Prime Minister appreciate that yesterday in the House I and several colleagues met representatives of the ambulance service in Gwent, who complained bitterly about cuts and reorganisation which have now reached the stage when life is being endangered? Will the Prime Minister tell the House what response I should make to this dedicated group of people who have served the community so well over many years?

Let me make two points. First, expenditure on the National Health Service in Wales has risen in real terms by a third. People may want more, but they should be very grateful that, under this Tory Government, expenditure goes up to levels which it could not possibly have reached under Labour. Secondly, in respect of the increased allocations for next year, paid for by the taxpayer, an average family this year pays £1,500 to the Health Service. Next year, to pay for the increased expenditure on the Health Service, the average expenditure per family will go up to £1,600 a year. The allocations resulting from that expenditure in Wales and elsewhere will shortly be announced.

Q3.

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 15 December.

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to consider the implications for the Government service of the harassment and intimidation currently going on in the CPSA and say whether that union should continue to have time and Government money to carry on its activities?

We condemn harassment and intimidation wherever they arise. Of course, the Employment Bill is concerned with the rights of trade union members, not with harassment and intimidation. The alleged harassment and intimidation is a matter for the police. It is now being investigated, so my hon. Friend will not expect me to say anything further at this moment.

Q4.

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 15 December.

Since we are now approaching the coldest period of the year, and since many of my hon. Friends and I have been the object of a co-ordinated campaign by the opponents of the expansion of nuclear power, will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity today to study and emphasise the strength of the British electricity generating industry, based on a variety of sources of supply? Will she contrast its happy position with the position in Romania, where the domestic ration is enough only to run one small electric heater for one hour each day?

I agree that the generation of electricity needs to come from a number of different sources, including nuclear. Nuclear supplies are now approaching some 20 per cent. of our generating capacity. As my hon. Friend knows, we need a considerable programme of investment in power stations, transmission and distribution. This Government are about to embark on such a programme.