To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what representations he has had from groups of local employers and schools who wish to develop compacts; and if he will make a statement.
The Government are making available £3 million a year for each of the next four years to encourage the development of 12 employer-school compacts within inner city areas in England. It is also proposed to support a further two compacts in Scotland and one in Wales. The Manpower Services Commission has received a number of inquiries from interested employers and schools.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that even more progress could be made on reducing unemployment on the one hand, and skill shortages on the other, if we were to develop compacts in my area? We are constantly faced with the conflicting problems of skill shortages and unemployment. Does my right hon. Friend agree that developing compacts as they are now envisaged would foster in our young people, before they leave school, a greater awareness, understanding and direct experience of industry, thereby, we hope, increasing the number of pupils who might consider taking up employment in industry after leaving school?
I agree with what my hon. Friend has said. The whole concept of compacts is that employers should guarantee a job with training to young people, particularly those from inner city schools, who meet agreed standards of achievement and motivation. Obviously, we should like to develop the idea in the west midlands, among other areas. I know, of course, of my hon. Friend's interest in Wolverhampton.
The Secretary of State will know that the Opposition are very much in favour of the compact idea. Indeed, ILEA pioneered the idea in central London with great success, and many people — including the Government — are now modelling their plans on that success.There are dangers, however. Targeting is very important. Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that targeting the youngsters who need the help provided by the compact—those less likely to obtain qualifications—is what the game is all about? Is he confident that employers will deliver on the compact, when they have signally failed to deliver on the general contribution to training over the past 10 years? The right hon. Gentleman knows —because he is carrying out a full investigation into training —that the voluntary principle has not worked.
The hon. Gentleman must be fair about, for example, the London compact. It is certainly true that ILEA has been very much involved with that, but so has the London enterprise agency, which involves companies in the private sector.That, I think, is the reply to the hon. Gentleman's question : companies have become involved with the London compact. The aim — I agree with the hon. Gentleman — is to give a good education and an opportunity in employment, particularly in difficult areas such as the inner cities. We have 12 pilot schemes, and I hope that we shall learn from them.
There can be little doubt of the benefit of industrial and commercial links with education, but does my right hon. Friend agree with our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science that the presence of city technology colleges in some of our cities will act as a stimulus and a catalyst for even more compact schemes throughout the country?
I agree with my hon. Friend, and I believe that the closer together that we bring industry and schools, the better it will be for both sides.
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what is the most recent percentage unemployment figure in the EEC.
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what is the current net rate of unemployment in the United Kingdom and the EEC, respectively : and if he will make a statement.
According to estimates compiled by the statistical office of the European Communities on a harmonised basis, the unemployment rate in the United Kingdom in January was 9·4 per cent. compared with 10·4 per cent. in the European Community as a whole. Over the past year our unemployment rate has fallen faster than in any other industrial country and is now lower than many of our European competitors, including France. Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Is not the optimism of the Secretary of State and his colleagues short-term? Has he had an opportunity to study the report published last week by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, which looks specifically at the longer-term position and warns against the decline in the British economy and other European economies —[Interruption.] Conservative Members may not like long-term analysis, but they have to face it. The report warns of the importance of pursuing expansionary fiscal policies to prevent European stagnation in the longer term.
I do not think that any economic analyst would agree with the hon. Gentleman that there is the slightest sign of decline in the British economy. Also, the Budget will considerably help employment. On the matter of trends, I have to point out that what has taken place in this country has not occurred over only two or three months. Unemployment has come down for 19 months in a row. One of the parts of the United Kingdom in which unemployment has come down most is Wales.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that apart from Britain's splendid example, where we are pursuing excellent Thatcherite policies, there is a serious problem in the continent of Europe and the rest of the Common Market, particularly by comparison with EFTA? Does that not suggest that we should be reviewing the excessive expenditure, high protectionism and excessive bureaucracy of the European Economic Community compared with EFTA and other parts of the world?
The latest EFTA figures show that unemployment has gone up slightly over the past month. I do not want to make too much of that. —[Interruption.] As my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) rightly says, it is below the Common Market average. What pleases me is that unemployment is going down in this country at a faster rate than in any other industrialised country. We should take all the opportunities offered by 1992 and the open market, which I think fits in with at least part of what my hon. Friend is urging.
Do not the Europeans, to some extent, show us the way? Does the Secretary of State know that four firms have nearly disappeared in my constituency over the past two months and have been saved only by the good work of Enterprise West Cumbria? In part, the reason has been the failure of the British clearing bank system. Why can we not have the same level of support from our banks in the regions as is available in other parts of the European Community?
Unemployment is coming down in all regions of the country. Some of the biggest falls have been in regions such as the west midlands, the north and the north-west where the problem has been greatest. If the hon. Gentleman is considering disincentives to employment, I hope that he will point out to his Front Bench the disincentive of what happened at Dundee and how that has destroyed jobs for literally hundreds of people there.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that unemployment in the United States is now about 5 per cent.? Does he draw any conclusions from that fact—such as that the European Community is overregulated and suffers from excessive bureaucracy and hardening of the economic arteries? Will my right hon. Friend persuade his colleagues in Europe to draw the obvious lessons from the United States?
That figure shows some of the things that my hon. Friend has mentioned. Certainly we need to knock down the remaining barriers to trade. In addition, it shows how much further there is still to go and the opportunity that we have. There is no doubt that over the past two years our record inside the Common Market has been the best of all member countries.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that this country has one of the highest percentages of the population in work at 66 per cent.? Does he also agree that a far higher percentage of people are in work in this country than in the European Economic Community, which has an average of 57 per cent.? Does he also agree that the record fall in unemployment rates in the past two years is due to the Government's economic policies and initiatives by the Department of Employment?
All those facts are correct. I would only add that I do not believe that we should be remotely complacent about our position. We want unemployment to fall even further. I believe that unemployment will continue to fall under the Government's economic policies.
While I welcome the fact that there has been a fall in the unemployment rate, has the Secretary of State consulted his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and perhaps even the Irish Government, about the possibility of introducing the fair employment legislation for Northern Ireland into Great Britain especially in view of the statements from the Commission for Racial Equality, which has said that there has been no appreciable improvement in the past 20 years in the prospects of the black community?
I would not accept that analysis of the position. I believe that there has been a substantial improvement. Of course, I am continually in contact with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
Before the Secretary of State is dazed by his own complacency on this matter, will he acknowledge that on the counting basis used by all previous Governments, including Tory Governments, the number of unemployed today is still 3,329,000, nearly three times the level that the Government inherited? Is he aware that more than half the alleged cut in the past 18 months is due to the increased numbers of people on Government schemes plus the tighter availability-for-work rules? Is he also aware that the Government's recently published labour force survey shows that for every seven persons knocked off the unemployment registers, only one new job was created? Is it not clear that the Government's unemployment figures are scarcely worth the paper that they are written on?
No, I do not accept a word of what the hon. Gentleman has said. Certainly the Government are not complacent. On the common basis of the European Community's statistical office, the figures show clearly that the unemployment rate in this country is below the European Common Market average. There is no question about that. [HON. MEMBERS: "The right hon. Gentleman's figures."] No, that is according to the EC's figures.I am bound to say to the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) that, after Dundee, we will not take lectures from the Opposition on reducing unemployment. The unions which the hon. Member for Oldham, West so discreditably supported at the weekend have destroyed jobs, not created them. That is the responsibility of the hon. Member and his friends.
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many people were out of work in the Staffordshire, Moorlands parliamentary constituency at the most recent count; and what the figure was two years ago.
On 11 February 1988 the number of unemployed claimants in the Staffordshire, Moorlands parliamentary constituency was 2,700. The corresponding figure for February 1986 was 3,700.
Obviously there has been a significant reduction in unemployment in my constituency over the past two years. Does my hon. Friend agree that the unemployment rate in my constituency is still too high? When does he expect that the figure will be down to the 1973 level?
Of course I agree with my hon. Friend that the figures are too high. As he knows, we are not in the business of making specific forecasts, but we are slowly and steadily winning the unemployment battle. I place on record the contribution made by tourism to employment in my hon. Friend's constituency. Alton Towers will employ 1,400 people this year.
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many young people in the London borough of Southwark are on Government training schemes; and if he will make a statement.
Some 530 young people are currently taking part in YTS schemes based in Southwark. They are benefiting from a structured training programme which will enhance their future job prospects.
Does the Minister realise that there is still a great skills mismatch between the training offered and the jobs available? Is he aware that in the docklands, where there is a great boom, most of the jobs—studies show that the figure is three quarters—go to labour recruited from outside the area rather than to people trained and recruited inside the area? Are he and his colleagues making progress, perhaps in the European Community where we were told discussions were taking place, to ensure that local youngsters can be trained locally and then employed locally, particularly in boom areas in Britain?
My answer referred to schemes based in Southwark, for which we have the figures. Obviously, some young people living in Southwark take part in schemes based elsewhere or in national schemes which have places in Southwark, and, for that matter, some young people in Southwark-based schemes no doubt come from outside the borough. The London labour market is not in sealed parcels, but we are doing our best to ensure that local people get local jobs.
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many working days were lost through strikes in November 1987; and what was the comparable figure for November 1978.
In November 1978 almost 2 million working days were lost through strikes. In November 1987 the figure was 103,000—the lowest November figure for 29 years.
Is not the fact that the November 1987 figure was one of the lowest for many years a tribute to the wisdom of the Government's industrial relations policies, which are recognised by some unions, though not by the Transport and General Workers Union, whose job-destroying attitudes apparently continue unabated?
There is certainly no question but that the TGWU has found a new way of destroying jobs, which will be widely condemned throughout the country. I have no doubt that the Government's reform of industrial relations law has led to some of the improvements that we have seen in those figures.
How many days were lost in strike action in Dundee in the early part of this decade when, as a direct result of Government action, 3,000 Dundee jute workers were redundant—
Order. The question relates to strikes in November 1987.
I am asking the Secretary of State how many strikes took place in 1979 and 1980 when 3,000 jute workers in Dundee were made redundant as a direct result of Government action. Does the Secretary of State believe that there will be more strikes, or fewer strikes, if employers blackmail Britain into selecting particular unions and force employees to join those unions?
That is a particularly pathetic defence of the TGWU's position. The figure that I can give is that the TGWU has probably lost Dundee more than 1,000 jobs.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the lesson of November is that the Government's legislation has worked and has shown clearly how effective it is? Surely another lesson that has come out of Dundee is that more legislation will probably be required to deal with such situations. Ford was prepared to come to Dundee, but required one-union agreement, and perhaps we should bring in legislation to make that possible in future.
I hope, first and foremost, that the unions concerned come to their senses and take the sensible action that is necessary before we need to consider further legislation.
If the Government are so concerned—[Interruption.]
If the Government are so concerned about the number of working days lost through strikes, why are they so indifferent to the far greater number of working days lost through industrial injury? Is the Minister not ashamed of the fact that the fatal and serious accident rate has increased since 1979 by 36 per cent. in manufacturing? Are not the Government directly responsible because they have cut the factory inspectorate by 20 per cent. and the annual number of prosecutions by 17 per cent.? —[Interruption.]
Order. Hon. Members should not point across the Chamber. I am listening to the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher).
The hon. Gentleman's supplementary question has nothing whatever to do with the original question, but clearly we are concerned about industrial injuries and all our policies will be pursued to seek to reduce them. The hon. Gentleman should recognise that the number of working days lost in each of the past two years is the lowest for 10 years and the number of stoppages in each of the past three years is the lowest since 1940. That is the Government's achievement and it contrasts strongly with the industrial anarchy that the hon. Gentleman left behind him.
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what is being done to promote river holidays in the United Kingdom.
Inland waterway holidays are marketed by the industry itself as well as the tourist boards and the British Tourist Authority overseas. I recently met the chairman of the British Waterways Board, and the chairman of the English tourist board and British Tourist Authority for a useful exchange of views on how the tourism potential of inland waterways could best be achieved.
That is welcome news indeed. Will my hon. Friend comment on what proportion of the British Waterways Board's income is derived from leisure? On the subject of water holidays, I commend to him that excellent book, "Three Men in a Boat" as an insight to the coming elections in the Labour party.
In regard to the latter part of my hon. Friend's question about "Three Men in a Boat", I am surprised that the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) has not put his oar into that particular boat. No doubt there is still time. In answer to the first part of my hon. Friend's question, the British Waterways Board receives about 43 per cent. of its earned income, excluding grant-aid, from leisure and tourism, amounting to about £2·75 million.
As inland waterways include canals, what help is available to promote canals in and around the city of Birmingham, given that it has more canals than Venice?
Section 4 grants are available for the development of tourism projects associated with canals. Indeed, a number of section 4 grants recently have been given to similar projects; for example, the National Waterways museum in Gloucester and the Waveney river centre on the Norfolk Broads. Grants are available.
Will my hon. Friend persuade the board to restore horse-drawn canal boats, which were very scenic in my constituency on the Grand Union canal in past years and are an excellent holiday for families and friends?
My hon. Friend never misses an opportunity to bring the horse, his favourite animal, into his questions. I am sure that the point that he made will be considered by the British Waterways Board.
Will the Minister advise the House what discussions took place about mooring fees during his meeting with the chairman of the British Waterways Board? Is he aware that the increase in mooring fees has been so great that many people who use the rivers and canals are having second thoughts because they cannot afford the increase? Will the Minister prevail upon the chairman of the British Waterways Board to look at the situation and ensure that increases are not above the level of inflation?
I shall certainly draw the attention of the chairman of the British Waterways Board to the hon. Gentleman's point about mooring fees. I understand that the level of charges essentially is for the commercial judgment and decision of the board.
"Training For Employment"
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the implications for Derbyshire of the White Paper on "Training for Employment".
In Derbyshire, as elsewhere, the employment training programme will provide a wide range of high-quality training opportunities for unemployed people, to meet their individual needs and those of the local labour market.
Will the 3,132 people in Derbyshire currently involved in the community programme and their agents be involved in the new adult training scheme? What guarantee can my hon. Friend provide about the quality of those training programmes?
There will be a minimum of 170,000 community programme-type places in the new programme. My hon. Friend is entirely right to highlight the question of quality. The task of the Manpower Services Commission was to draw up a scheme which would provide quality training. It is satisfied that it has been able to do that and my right hon. Friend has accepted its recommendations in full.
Is the Minister aware that there is a lack of credibility in the White Paper's implications for South Yorkshire? There is a genuine fear among employers and trade unions that the programme cannot possibly provide the number of jobs and the required skills to assist an economy that badly needs revitalisation. The Minister will have to convince South Yorkshire that his claim—
Order. The question is about Derbyshire.
In so far as Derbyshire and Amber Valley share similar problems, I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that there is a responsibility on all of us to try to allay genuine fears. If there are people in areas that are of concern to him who have these fears, I hope he will point out that the Manpower Services Commission's recommendations were unanimous and were accepted in full. I hope he will also point out that there are people on the Manpower Services Commission who represent not only local authority interests, but trade unions commissioners as well.
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if the advice of his Department is sought before a regional development grant is arranged for a company contemplating moving itself and its work force to another area.
The regional development grant scheme is essentially automatic. If a project meets the published criteria, the project will normally be approved and grant paid by the operating department without reference to the Department of Employment.
I thank my hon. Friend for his reply, but will he bear in mind that these very substantial grants can lead to a considerable distortion of trade? Will he make sure that in future his Department is kept aware when grants of considerable size—say, up to £1 million—are made available to firms to move to a neighbouring town, because they can completely distort the local employment picture?
I take my hon. Friend's point, but I think he is referring to the regional development grant, which has been automatic. Applications for this grant cannot be made after Thursday of this week, but regional selective assistance will continue.
The Minister has just said that the last date to apply for this grant is Thursday of this week. In the light of that will he, first, monitor the nature of automatic grants that are made available in Europe to ensure that firms coming here for the first time to extend their plants or to set up on the green field sites are not put at a disadvantage? Secondly, will he publish the criteria for regional selective assistance so that firms fully know what they are entitled to now that the regional development grant is to be phased out?
Both the hon. Gentleman's questions are matters for my ministerial colleagues in the Department of Trade and Industry, not for me.
My hon. Friend will recall that a couple of years ago the Government quite arbitrarily changed the rules that enabled grants to be paid to employees moving from one area to another. As the Ministry of Defence has 600 vacancies for administrative and clerical assistants and is having to engage large numbers of agency staff, what liaison is there between my hon. Friend's Department and the Ministry of Defence to try to alleviate that shortage by helping people to move from parts of the country where there is high unemployment to the London area?
We are in contact with other Government Departments about such matters, and our employment service and the MSC keep a very close eye on opportunities for jobs and job creation.
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many persons have benefited from the insolvency provisions of the Employment Protection Act in the midland region during the current financial year.
The total for the first 11 months of this financial year was 11,876.
Can the Minister explain how the former employees of Midland Professional Cleaning Services could benefit from these provisions, bearing in mind that the company ceased trading, having been paid by the supermarket for which it was cleaning? It is not in liquidation and it has never filed returns to Companies House. Even though these two dozen people are still cleaning the same supermarket, they have lost about six weeks' wages—taken by the company—which they do not stand a chance of getting back simply because the company is not in liquidation. How can they be covered and seek the protection and the benefit of these insolvency provisions?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his courtesy in giving me notice that he was going to ask that supplementary question. I know that he has been extremely active in contacting my Department to see whether anything can be done to help his constituents. The problem is that under this legislation, passed by the last Labour Government in 1976, my Department is in a position to help only where companies have become insolvent. I have made it my business to look at this question, and, as I understand it, the hon. Gentleman is entirely right.This company is not insolvent, and therefore under the present state of the legislation nothing can be done. All I would say to the hon. Gentleman is that, apart from the legal remedies which his constituents have, if, for some reason, the company ever were to go into a state of insolvency I hope that at that stage he will contact me again, because I have a great deal of sympathy with the plight of his constituents.
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on his Department's plans to encourage growth in employment in rural areas.
Our Department is playing its part with other interested Departments to help rural economies expand and diversify. Our key aim is to encourage enterprise by providing the necessary advice and support.
I am sure the Minister will agree, and I am certain that the rest of the House will agree, that, to judge from the paucity of his reply, there is a distressing contrast between the Government's emphasis on urban deprivation and that relating to rural deprivation in areas such as my own. Nevertheless, given that the Minister has said that he is working with his colleagues, will he seek the extension of the assisted areas map, particularly to the United Downs area in Cornwall, given the job losses currently happening in the tin industry there?
I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. The figures indicate that unemployment in rural development areas is below the national average. I will certainly look into his last point.
Will my hon. Friend look at the situation in the East Sussex and Kent rural development area, where unemployment is higher than the national average, and where there is a strong feeling that window dressing is more important than new projects? Will he liaise with other Government Departments on this subject, which is causing considerable concern to my constituents?
Yes, I will certainly look into it if my lion. Friend will send me particulars of the matter that concerns him.
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement about the trend in the numbers of employees in the steel industry.
According to the most recently published figures, the number of employees in employment in the iron and steel industries fell by an estimated 2,500 in the year to January 1988.
Does the Minister appreciate that, with privatisation on the agenda, there is now considerable concern among steel workers because they have noticed that with the phoenix companies already created there has been a tendency to downgrade conditions of employment? Will he recognise that there will be considerable concern among steel workers throughout the industry if there is any attempt to dilute the contributory pension scheme, which has been established over a number of years?
I can appreciate the concern which the hon. Gentleman's constituents will feel when privatisation comes along, because although there are great opportunities, it represents a new departure, and clearly his constituents will want to be assured that there will be no dilution in the way that he suggests.Perhaps I could make the point to the hon. Gentleman that there has been a transformation in the United Kingdom steel industry in recent years, and that is something that must bode well for his constituents. It is also worth emphasising that BSC gave an assurance as long ago as last December that, subject to market conditions, there would continue to be a commercial requirement for steel making and continuous casting capacity at the five integrated BSC plants for at least the next seven years. While I do not in any sense underplay the feelings of the hon. Gentleman's constituents, I hope that when they look at the industry in total they will be substantially reassured.
Does my hon. Friend agree that many more jobs among steel-using industries stand to be lost by the operation of cartels among European steel producers and political interference than could possibly be saved in the steel industry by any such practices?
While that may not be directly a matter for me, I can understand the concern that my hon. Friend expresses in that question. Sometimes there is a feeling, certainly on this side of the House, that the high standards that we impose on ourselves are not always entirely matched by the performance of others.
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on employment trends for the remainder of 1988.
Following the long-established practice of previous Governments, we do not make forecasts of future employment levels. However, there is every prospect of a continuing rise in employment during 1988.
With unemployment having fallen for 19 successive months, which now represents the greater threat to future job growth: the Neanderthal mentality of Dundee trade-union man, or the greedy mentality of Dagenham trade-union man?
It is difficult to place these factors in order of importance, but both are certainly important. The events in Dundee have without doubt damaged prospects. Wage increases are also well ahead of inflation, and this can damage competitiveness, and jobs and job creation as well. I hope that wage negotiators will have regard to that.
Looking back at the hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs that the Government have destroyed up and down the country, including in Dundee, it ill becomes them to criticise the trade union movement for refusing to accept the Government's suggestion that it should go on bended knee to the United States, like a Third world country, asking the Americans to come here to pay slave labour wages and destroy the trade union movement. If the Minister expects that from the British trade union movement, he has a fight on his hands.
There is no point in our approaching Ford until the unions concerned have made their position clear.
Has my hon. Friend considered that employment trends in 1988 and thereafter could improve considerably if great care were taken with future legislation to ensure that it does not inhibit manufacturing industry or the future of new manufacturing industries? What is done in the Department about representations to other Departments to see that their legislation does not inhibit industry?
The primary responsibility for this rests with the DTI and the deregulation unit, which examines all proposals. We do our bit, too, particularly for small businesses.
Does the Minister accept that, in spite of the recent fall in unemployment, the current number of unemployed claimants is between two and three times what it was when the Conservative party came to power? Does he recognise that, without a major Government initiative in this area, there is no hope of getting unemployment down by the next general election even to its level in 1979?
The hon. Gentleman should also recognise that employment has been up in every quarter for four and a half years.
Have not recent events shown that traditional trade unions are still interested in traditional working practices, rather than in creating the sort of climate that creates employment?
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many jobs have been lost in manufacturing industry since June 1979; and if he will list the sectors of manufacturing industry which have incurred the highest number of job losses.
Between June 1979 and January 1988 the number of employees in employment in manufacturing industry in Great Britain is estimated to have fallen by 2,077,000. Over this period, the largest falls occurred in the mechanical engineering, motor vehicle, metal manufacturing, electrical engineering and metal goods industries. However, recent figures suggest that the trend in manufacturing employment may now be levelling out.
Is the Minister aware that that list of more than 2 million casualties, of which Ron Todd has not been responsible for a single one—[HON. MEMBERS : "Oh!"]—shows the hypocrisy of the Government when they talk about the loss of jobs in the last eight years? The Prime Minister has caused more devastation in manufacturing industry than Adolf Hitler caused between 1939 and 1945. It is no wonder that West Germany and Japan are laughing at Britain where they have a $120 billion surplus on their trade and are walking away to the top of the industrial trade league, while we are losing jobs all around Great Britain.
The immoderate, ignorant and intemperate nature of that question shows that if we ever have a "wally of the week" award, the hon. Gentleman will be in a class of his own.
Is my hon. Friend aware that my constituents do not well receive criticisms from Opposition Members about job losses when they recall that the last Labour Government closed the steelworks in Corby? However, my constituents welcome the enormous assistance that the Government have given them, which has enabled Corby to make such a striking recovery from that disaster.
I am sure that my hon. Friend is right. He might want to compliment the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) on having had the courage to address the issue of Dundee, even if he has not managed to reach the inevitable conclusions about it.
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what proportion of YTS leavers become unemployed; and how many have become long-term unemployed.
The Manpower Services Commission carries out regular follow-up surveys of all YTS leavers. These surveys show that, of those who left YTS schemes between April 1986 and September 1987, 22 per cent. were unemployed when surveyed. These surveys do not provide data on the duration of unemployment.
Is the Minister aware that in the northern region 31 per cent. are destined for the dole and those who do get work get jobs without proper training? Does the Minister agree that every youngster needs proper, quality training so that he can get a proper, quality job?
Yes. That is why we have the drive for equality in YTS and why we insist, for example, on approved training organisation status for all providers as from this week.
To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 29 March.
This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others, including the Prime Minister of Fiji and the Mayor of Shanghai. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today.
In view of the widespread concern about the poll tax in the country, and indeed on her own Back Benches, will the Prime Minister give serious consideration to withdrawing this deeply offensive legislation?
No. The community charge is a much fairer way of local people paying towards local authority expenditure than the present rating system. The community charge in England will meet only one quarter of local authority expenditure. About half is met by the taxpayer and a quarter by industry. In Scotland the community charge meets only one seventh of local authority expenditure.
Does my right hon. Friend welcome the decision yesterday by the Royal College of Nurses to reaffirm its no-strike policy, on the basis that strikes damage patients? Does she agree that that contrasts starkly with the behaviour of some teachers in London. When they go on strike it damages only their own pupils.
Yes, It was a most encouraging result. Of course, that was the reason why the Royal College of Nurses was given a pay review body. The Royal College has never gone on strike, and I am glad that our faith in it was abundantly rewarded by the view that it took.
Will the Prime Minister make clear her personal opposition, and that of the Government, to British rugby players organising a visit to South Africa?
As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, we stand by the Gleneagles agreement, under which we attempt to discourage teams from going to South Africa. I understand that the English Rugby Union is trying to dissuade people from going to South Africa. I am not aware that either the Scots or the Welsh have declared their view.
Will my right hon. Friend make it completely clear, in order to scotch rumour and media hype, that there is absolutely no difference of policy between herself and the Chancellor of the Exchequer?
My hon. Friend is correct. Both the Chancellor and I put downward pressure on inflation as the topmost priority. Both the Chancellor and I think that exchange rate stability can be very useful for industry.
To ask the Prime Minister is she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 29 March.
I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.
In her endeavour to re-establish the bonds of family life, has the Prime Minister ever given any consideration to the value of a wife? Is she aware that the Forestry Commission is trying to double the rent of the tied cottages of its New Forest keepers and is offering in compensation £2 per week for each keeper's wife? Given that the Forestry Commission pays the same keepers 45p a week for a ferret and £2·30 a week for a dog, should she not intervene?
I think the hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Budget set out considerably to help wives by the changes made by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer about the taxation of wives. We on this side value them extremely highly.
Will my right hon. Friend find time in her busy day to read the scandalous letter sent by the Hammersmith branch of NALGO to Sinn Fein accusing the Government of state terrorism in Northern Ireland? Will she urge the national executive of NALGO to take disciplinary action against those members involved, and will she affirm—
Will my right hon. Friend join me in condemning the actions of that NALGO branch?
Is the Prime Minister aware that Citizens Advice Bureaux case studies on the effects of her social security cuts show that a single pensioner home owner will lose £2 a week, a pensioner couple claiming income support can lose up to £18 a week, a pensioner on dialysis will lose £17 a week, and a doubly incontinent person claiming attendance allowance will lose £14 a week? Is that the way to treat sick and elderly people in the Britain of 1988?
I am not aware of which press release by the Citizens Advice Bureaux the right hon. Gentleman is talking about. Is it one that has come out recently? There was a recent Citizens Advice Bureaux press release that was based on a belief that there was a difference between the time when supplementary benefit was changed to income support and the increase in pension benefit came into effect. In fact, that is not so.
Why will the Prime Minister not answer any specific question on the social security changes? Why is she dodging around talking about press releases when she knows very well that what I refer to are specific case studies of real people who, despite their huge needs, will lose £14, £17 and £18 a week as a consequence of next week's changes? Is she ashamed of those changes?
I assumed that the right hon. Gentleman was talking about a Citizens Advice Bureaux press release which came out yesterday and which was based on a misunderstanding. Among other things, may I tell the right hon. Gentleman that the overwhelming majority of people will benefit, gain, from the improved social security benefits that will come out on 11 April? Some people on housing benefit will not gain because of the different arrangements about capital. It is absolutely futile for him to suggest that the Conservative party and the Government do not look after the needs of people on social security. It is absolutely futile, because not only are we already spending £44 billion on social security, but there is to be an increase of £2 billion next year. His questions are utterly futile and he cannot refute the facts.
That is all very well, but many sick and elderly people still stand to lose £14, £17 and £18 a week. Let me ask the Prime Minister the question again. Does she think that that is the way to treat anyone in this country?
The overwhelming majority of people will gain—and were designed to gain—from the increases in pensions, in disablement benefit and in sickness benefit. A few people will not gain. Apart from those on housing benefit, those who do not gain will be protected during the transition, in that their cash values will be protected. The overwhelming majority of us on this side of the House think it right that people who have capital of £6,000 should not be eligible for housing benefit, particularly as it is often paid by those who have none.
Order. Mr. Kinnock.
The Prime Minister—[Interruption.]
Order. I called the Leader of the Opposition.
The Prime Minister does not even understand her own policies. According to her Government's figures, 60 per cent. of claimants will lose because of the structural changes. There are no transitional arrangements for new payments. Will she now tell the people of Britain whether she thinks that people on dialysis, old-age pensioners and single home owners should be losing money at all? She can talk about gainers. Should anybody on those incomes be losing anything at all?
An extra £2 billion is to be spent on social security next year, giving a total of £46 billion. The right hon. Gentleman referred to dialysis. Far more people are now receiving dialysis than ever were in his time.When the right hon. Gentleman said that 60 per cent. of people were losing, I think that he was referring to the Citizens Advice Bureaux press release this morning, which was seriously misleading, because it got the date of the benefits uprating wrong. Almost everyone in this country is doing far better than he or she was in 1979.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that in north-west Hertfordshire district health authority there have been two health cuts: a cut of 47 per cent. in the waiting lists under this Government, and a cut of £100,000 available for patient care as a result of a 17 per cent. rate increase applied by the Socialist-controlled Hertfordshire county council?
Yes, the overwhelming majority of people who are treated under the National Health Service have very good cause to be grateful, and are very grateful. Cuts in the Health Service came under the Labour party when it was in power.
To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 29 March.
I refer the right hon. and learned Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.
When the right hon. Lady finds time to read the report by the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux, will she also read the report by the Policy Studies Institute, and by Oxford university, showing the impact of the Government's social security cuts on the sick, the disabled, the elderly and the unemployed? How will she then deal with the situation? Will she ask her right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to provide funding for the sick, the disabled, the elderly and the unemployed, or will she instruct the appropriate Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security to arrange for them to take out second mortgages, or will she withdraw funding from the Citizens Advice Bureaux, the Policy Studies Institute and Oxford university?
Or will, perhaps, the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his party move a motion to cancel all the increases, or do they in their heart of hearts believe that they are far better with the overwhelming majority? The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows that they are far better. Otherwise, I challenge him to move a motion to cancel the increases.
To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 29 March.
I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Monopolies and Mergers Commission investigation into trade union restrictive practices is most welcome? Furthermore, does she agree that those practices, whether at Dundee or elsewhere, disadvantage British industry, increase costs, damage the interests of the British consumer and are damaging to the country's interests overall?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. All restrictive practices stifle competition and put up costs. We should do everything that we can to rid ourselves of them. That is why this matter has been referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.
To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 29 March.
I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.
Does the Prime Minister recall her carefully considered reply on 18 July 1985 to her hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth), when she justified the 30 per cent. plus increase in top people's salaries by the need to provide rewards regarded by the public as fair but not generous in relation to the responsibilities carried? Bearing in mind last week's statement by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Thames (Mr. Lamont) that the reduction in the standard rate of tax is irreversible, will the right hon. Lady tell the House whether she intends to bear such adjustments in mind when she next reviews top salaries?
The report from the Top Salaries Review Body will come in with those of other review bodies, and we shall make our decisions on them, as we have done previously. I have not noticed that hon. Members have been anxious to take lower salaries.