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Employment Trends

Volume 130: debated on Tuesday 29 March 1988

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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?