To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the number of job vacancies registered with jobcentres in the east midlands.
On 6 January 1988 the number of unfilled vacancies, excluding community programme, registered at jobcentres in the east midlands region was 11,300. This was an increase of 18·1 per cent. on the figure for January 1987.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer, which is very encouraging. It shows up some of the protestations from the Opposition, especially bearing in mind that there are fewer than 20 Labour Back Benchers in the Chamber for employment questions.Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the important aspects of creating jobs is the creation of employment opportunities within areas? Is he aware that Derbyshire county council levies the highest shire county rate, and does he agree that that is a great disincentive to the creation of jobs in the county?
My hon. Friend is entirely right. The fact that the figures can look so promising in spite of that is a tribute to the efforts of the people who live there. It is a pity that the county council does not seem to devote as much time to considering the implications of a high rate for job prospects as it does to other activities, such as removing the Latin mottoes from local schools and replacing them with propositions relating to nuclear-free zones.
Is the Minister aware that Derbyshire county council would have been able to do much more if, in the last financial year, the Government had not taken £20 million from it, thus creating difficulties for every ratepayer in Derbyshire?While the Minister is on the subject of jobs in the east midlands, will he tell us why, when I was asking questions a few years ago about the massive unemployment in the area, he said that it was not the Government's fault? It is not the Government's fault when the unemployment figures are going up, but when they come down —marginally—the Minister claims the credit.
The hon. Gentleman asks me, by implication, to comment on unemployment in the east midlands, and I am happy to do so. East midlands unemployment was down by over 35,000 in the last year. That is a rate of 8·3 per cent., and compares favourably with the United Kingdom rate of 9·2 per cent., adjusted. On the other hand, I appreciate that if Derbyshire county council cannot understand the virtues of living within one's means, it is highly unlikely that the hon. Gentleman will understand them either.