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Volume 173: debated on Tuesday 22 May 1990

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Training And Enterprise Councils


To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what recent representations he has received regarding TECs.

I have recently received a number of representations regarding training and enterprise councils covering a range of issues. I warmly welcome the interest that has been shown in the councils from all quarters, and I am particularly encouraged by the enthusiastic response from business leaders. The TEC programme is currently two years ahead of schedule, with 72 TECs already having received development funding. I can announce today that I have now approved the 13th TEC to enter its operational phase, the East Lancashire TEC.

Although I welcome the greater involvement of the private sector and the decentralisation of the management training schemes, in view of the crucial importance for the future prosperity of Britain of our industry remaining fully competitive with those overseas, will my right hon. and learned Friend assure the House that he will monitor most carefully the performance of TECs in delivering to British employers the sort of highly trained work force that we will need in the 21st century?

My hon. Friend is right to emphasise the importance of performance. TECs will operate a performance-based contract and will report regularly to me on their management and financial performance. The Department's training standards inspectors will monitor the quality of the training provided.

The Department's brochure issued last year called for people who were chairmen, chief executives or top operational managers at local level to be involved in TECs. That is good as far as it goes, but does the Secretary of State recognise that that may exclude people who have expertise in training? What steps is he taking to ensure that TECs and their counterparts in Scotland, local enterprise companies, have people involved in them with some expertise in training? Is not it important to have trainers involved?

Of course, as the hon. Gentleman syggests, the involvement of trainers is important. There is ample scope for their involvement with training and enterprise councils, without necessarily serving on the boards of those councils. We now have about 1,000 chairmen and chief operating officers all over the country giving voluntarily of their time to the training and enterprise councils. They have the clout to make sure that those councils will deliver the results that I hope we all want.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend. accept that the TECs will play an important role in the training of disabled people for work, and that there is a danger that some of the existing schemes may be lost if there is no requirement that every TEC board includes someone with direct responsibility for the training of disabled people?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to emphasise the importance of providing adequate training for disabled people. That is a matter dealt with in the TEC' contract, and about which the TECs must satisfy me before approval is given.

Will the Secretary of State confirm that according to his own Department's documents, cuts in youth training are expected of not just 7 per cent., but IS per cent. after inflation and, in some areas, 30 to 50 per cent., with the loss of thousands of training places and hundreds of trainer jobs? How can we begin Britain's training revolution by savaging Britain's training budget?

The hon. Gentleman constantly seeks to raise alarms about such matters. During the past four years, training spending by Government has increased in real terms by 60 per cent. at a time when unemployment has fallen by 50 per cent., so it is not surprising that some adjustment should be made this year. We are determined to maintain the guarantees on youth training and employment training, and the quality of training. But we have no commitment to ensure that every training provider who provided training last year should also do so this year, next year and for every year into the future. We believe in adapting to the needs of change and ensuring that those best able to provide the sort of training we want will do so.

Self-Employed People


To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many people were self-employed in December 1989.

In December 1989, there were 3·3 million people in self-employment in the United Kingdom, an increase of no less than 70 per cent. since 1979.

Bearing in mind the fact that those are the last figures for the 1980s, how does the trend in the number of self-employed during the 1980s compare with the trend during the 1970s? Will my hon. Friend confirm that he has no plans to reduce the number of self-employed by raising a levy on the payroll of the self-employed, by removing the upper earnings limit on the national insurance contributions of the self-employed and by loosing the trade union bully-boys on the employees of the self-employed, all of which are the official policies of the Labour party?

In addition to that catalogue of the Labour party's official policies, the Labour party expects Brussels to play a significant role, with the added regulations and burdens that such EC intervention would impose on small businesses, all of which will be apparent if my hon. Friend cares to read the report of the debate in the House last night. Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen cannot get away from the fact that during the previous Labour Government the number of self-employed fell by 5 per cent. while under this Government it has risen by more than 70 per cent.

How many people entered the enterprise allowance scheme in 1987 and what percentage have survived as ongoing genuine businesses? Does not the Minister understand that such schemes do not provide a genuine means of starting up new businesses, but are simply financially more attractive than the dole in the short term and give rise to all kinds of scams, such as the one that I discovered in Dundee—a delivery service for condoms?

The hon. Gentleman is completely out of touch. We have just announced the 500,000th participant in the enterprise allowance scheme and yesterday I gave an award to a young lady who was the 10,000th EAS recipient in Nottinghamshire. More than 600,000 people are now working because of EAS who would not have been had it not been there.

British Tourist Authority


To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what resources he plans to provide in the current financial year to the British Tourist Authority.

The British Tourist Authority will receive £27·7 million in 1990–91, an increase of 11 per cent. over 1989–90.

Last year, Britain earned £7 billion from overseas tourism, £150 million of which was earned by Nottinghamshire from visitors attracted to our famous Sherwood forest. Does my hon. Friend agree that Nottinghamshire should be the site of the new national British forest?

My hon. Friend will be aware that there was a consultation exercise earlier this year on the siting of the new national forest. That is a matter for the Department of the Environment, but I accept that while the discerning tourist may not expect to see Robin Hood and his merry men, he needs the reassurance that there were sufficient trees for them to hide behind in the first place.

Does the Minister accept that we have four excellent tourist boards in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England, and that the British Tourist Authority in many ways duplicates their work? Does he agree that there would be a considerable saving of public expenditure of £27 million if it were abolished?

I cannot agree with that assessment. If the right hon. Gentleman looks at the recent tourism review he will see that the fears that had been expressed about a possible duplication have been taken care of. The work of the British Tourist Authority abroad shows that there is no such duplication. If, in the light of his experience, the right hon. Gentleman does not accept that, he will let us know, but I urge him to look at what was said in the review.

Does my hon. Friend agree that Michael Medlicott, the chief executive, and his team at the British Tourist Authority do a vital job spearheading the marketing of an industry that contributes more to Britain's gross domestic product than the automotive industry? What plans does the BTA have for stepping up tourist revenue from other European Community countries?

My hon. Friend is entirely right to draw attention to the work of the British Tourist Authority in promoting this country abroad. He may be aware that my noble Friend Lord Strathclyde, the Minister with responsibility for tourism, recently went to America and saw for himself the value of the work being done. It is for the BTA to decide, on a day-to-day basis, how to promote this country abroad. This year, however, the Government have contributed about £27·7 million, an increase of about 11 per cent. on the previous year.

As the tourism is a multi-million pound industry, why is it denied equal treatment with other industries? Why has the Department of Trade and Industry denied grants to the industry to encourage it? I draw to the Minister's attention the fact that section 4 grants are being denied to tourism. They would help to improve the number and quality of hotels and other related matters that are so important to the industry.

The curious thing about the Opposition is that whenever they see a successful industry they want to kill it off quickly by the dead hand of state support. Tourism is an extremely successful industry which generates many jobs. The pity of it is that the service jobs generated by the industry are so often decried by the Opposition. The industry is thriving and it will do much better without the measures that the hon. Gentleman has in mind.

When my hon. Friend considers giving more grants to the British Tourist Authority, with which I entirely agree, will he lean on it and ask it to encourage restaurants to print their menus in English rather than in French? Is not it a fact that tourists and British people find it totally unacceptable to have to read menus in French rather than in English? [Interruption.]

As my hon. Friend can hear from the bon viveurs on the Opposition Benches, there may not be complete consensus on that point. I do not believe that I should make generalisations upon it. I am sure that the British Tourist Authority, the English tourist board and the other tourist boards pay attention to the exchanges in the House and that they will take note of what my hon. Friend said.

Low Pay


To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's policy on low pay.

The best way to help the lower paid is through continuing economic and employment growth and greater prosperity for all.

What action has the Department taken on the 5,528 establishments that underpaid in 1989? How many of them have the Department prosecuted, and is it a record of which he is proud?

About 30,000 inspections were carried out by the inspectorate last year. About 97 per cent. of all the inspections revealed that proper payment was being made under the terms of the orders and that the ratio of pbhzcutions to establishments underpaying is higher now than it was in 1979.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that proposals for a national minimum wage will lead either to an ineffectual gesture or, if they are effective and enforced, to the pricing out of work of people from the weakest section of the community?

I agree completely with my hon. Friend. If one accepted the Opposition proposal that the national minimum wage should be set at half male average earnings, an estimated 750,000 people would lose their jobs.

Why does not the Minister answer the question that he was asked? How many were prosecuted?

The inspectorate must take into account all the facts revealed, following the reviews that it makes after visits to premises. I shall write to the hon. Gentleman with the details.

Does my hon. Friend agree that a minimum wage would be even more damaging if it were as proposed by the European Community in the social charter, which is supported by the Opposition? Would not that damage not just British but Community interests?

I completely agree with my hon. Friend. We in Britain have been extremely successful in creating jobs—a great deal more successful than our European partners. The major reason for that is that we have followed a deliberate policy of deregulation which has led to more jobs than elsewhere.

Is not the truth that the Government are positively in favour of low pay? They have deliberately removed a whole series of protection and there has been an enormous growth in low pay in Britain. Low-paid work goes with low investment, poor training, high labour turnover and low technology and carries a large part of the responsibility for Britain's poor economic performance. Will the Minister confirm that every other country in Europe has a national minimum wage and that Britain would do better to have one?

In so far as I was able to count the number of questions that the hon. Lady asked, I am confident that the answer to all of them is no.

Union Assets (Sequestration)


To ask the Secretary of State for Employment whether he has any plans to restrict the power of courts to sequestrate union assets.

No, Sir. Sequestration is a penalty which may be imposed by the courts, where appropriate, for any contempt of court. Any proposal to restrict that power would enable trade unions to flout the law with impunity.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it is essential that the courts should have full power to sequestrate the assets of trade unions if trade union law is to be enforced, and that any attempt to diminish those powers would draw the teeth of legislation that has served us so well in trade union reform since 1979?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is not without significance that in the very week that Arthur Scargill calls once more for industrial action the Labour party will be introducing proposals to make it easier for him to put his bully-boys back on the streets of Britain.

But does not the Minister acknowledge that for any court to sequestrate all the assets of a trade union and thus prevent that union from paying its elderly members their pensions and superannuation benefits would be totally unjustified, and that any even-handed Government should legislate to make sure that that could not happen?

All that a union need do to avoid those consequences is obey the law. I hope that the hon. Gentleman and all his hon. Friends will encourage trade unions to obey the law so that none of those consequencies ever arises.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that those who wish to repeal the legislation are

"frozen fossils locked in a time warp",
to use the words of Eric Hammond, leader of the electricians' union?

I agree with my hon. Friend, but there is perhaps one difference. Unlike frozen fossils, those proposals have the potential to wreak infinite damage on the British economy and on the economic prospects of every man, woman and child within it.

Disabled People


To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he intends to change the 3 per cent. quota provision for the employment of disabled people.

All aspects of the quota scheme are being considered in the review of services to people with disabilities which my Department is undertaking. We expect to publish next month the consultative document giving the results of the review.

Is the Minister aware that 250,000 disabled people who are able to work and available for work have no jobs? That is not because of the failure of the quota system, but because of the Government's failure to enforce it. Will the Minister study the West German system which imposes a 6 per cent. quota and a levy on employers who evade it? Will he stop making excuses about disabled people not being available and follow the West German example?

The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that the consultative document will discuss, among other things, the quota system. Registration as a disabled person is voluntary, and only 1 per cent. of the work force have registered as disabled. So, by definition, it is not possible to meet the 3 per cent. quota. That will be explored in the document and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will wish to contribute to the discussion that follows its publication.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the ability of the disabled to take up the available jobs is as important as the quota? Does he agree that the employment premium for the disabled will be of enormous help, but that training is vital? Training for the disabled often involves a greater ratio of trainer to trainee than for the rest of the population. Will my hon. Friend ensure that that is taken into account when considering training for the disabled?

That is being and will be taken into account. That is also the reason why the Government consider it especially important to provide special aids to employment to get people into employment in normal workplaces. That has the general support of the community.

Does the Minister accept that the fact that there may be weaknesses in the present quota system is not an argument for doing away with it altogether, but an argument for overcoming the weaknesses to ensure that disabled people are helped into employment? In that context, will he ensure that as the training and enterprise council system develops, enough money is earmarked for the needs of disabled people so that they can have adequate training without any negative effect on the targets set for those running TECs?

We very much look forward to the hon. Gentleman's comments on the consultative document on issues such as those he has outlined. I am sure that they can be explored within the context of the document. There are many different views and it is important that we move towards a better understanding of the arguments on every side. I assure the hon. Gentleman that I know from my discussions with many TEC directors that they take their responsibilities for the disabled very seriously, and that is recognised in the contracts signed with the TECs that have gone operational.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that as the number of registered disabled people has declined in recent years, the number of disabled people obtaining work has increased? Will he say whether during his current inquiries he has examined the ability of Government Departments to meet the quota figure?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We have been fairly successful recently in helping people with disabilities into jobs. Last year, for example, 77,000 people with disabilities were helped by jobcentres to find jobs, and that compares with 66,000 three years ago. On Government Departments, I assure my hon. Friend that my Department tries hard to recruit and employ disabled people; 2·7 per cent. of the Department's employees are disabled.

To return to training for the disabled, if the Minister is telling the House that the Government intend to maintain the quality and the guarantees, why did the Spastics Society recently withdraw from the employment training scheme because of underfunding and why are Share Community and Lambeth Accord likely to follow suit? If such providers are lost, where are the guarantees and the quality of training, and who will train the disabled?

There was an increase in expenditure on helping the disabled from £220 million in 1986–87 to £350 million in 1988–89—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman should listen to the facts. Participation in training courses increased from 11,800 in 1983–84 to more than 19,000 last year. That is the record.

Tourism (Black Country)


To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what assessment he has made of the growth in black country tourism and the potential for job creation.

There is every sign of an encouraging growth in tourism in the black country. A number of major projects are either planned or under construction. The black country tourism initiative has done much to help to develop tourism in the area.

Although my hon. Friend will be only too well aware of the reputation of the black country as the heartland of traditional manufacturing industry, which is thriving under this Government, is he aware of its growing reputation for its major contribution to tourism? A number of exciting new projects are taking place and there is a huge amount of investment, with people putting their faith in the region. Jobs are also being secured and created. Will my hon. Friend do me the honour of allowing me to take him on a day trip round the black country—starting, of course, in Wolverhampton—so that I can show him some of the attractions and so that he can meet many of the employees who are doing their best to attract visitors to the black country?

My hon. Friend makes me an offer that it would be churlish to refuse, and I look forward to the visit. I am well aware of the attractions of the black country. I think that I am right in saying that my hon. Friend was a member of the executive committee of the co-ordinating body that looks after tourism in the black country.

My hon. Friend referred to the number of jobs that had been generated in the area. Black country tourism initiative staff estimate that, directly and indirectly, about 2,000 jobs will be created in tourism. I am certainly well aware of the work of the Heart of England board. From my tours in that part of the world, I can confirm that it is a delightful area, and its tourism potential has not yet been fulfilled.

My hon. Friend and I have crossed swords on this matter before, and he will know my view that while it is most gratifying to have an income from tourism and the job creation that it entails, there is also a danger of ruining parts of England, as other parts of the world have been ruined. In the west midlands, for example, Stratford-upon-Avon is so crowded that it is getting near bursting point.

I was not aware that I had crossed swords with my hon. Friend, but if he says that that is what happened, so be it. I accept that there is a paradox and that a dilemma arises: we want to attract people to particular areas because they want to see what is there but in the end tourism may destroy the very things that people want to see. My hon. Friend may have seen a perhaps slightly tongue in cheek article in The Daily Telegraph today by Lord Grimond, who draws attention to precisely the problems to which my hon. Friend refers. I cannot offer my hon. Friend an answer or solution, except to say that this is something that we shall certainly have to watch.

Technical And Vocational Training


To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the future of the technical and vocational education initiative.

The public expenditure White Paper shows planned expenditure in the TVEI of £134 million in 1990–91, £133 million in 1991–92 and £141 million in 1992–3. I am considering the future rate at which authorities can join the programme.

Do I understand from that answer that the Secretary of State is about to announce a cut in the rate of expansion of that service, which will mean that the six authorities in Scotland, including Tayside, Argyll, Ianark and Ayr, will lose out? This is an important matter because in Scotland children choose in June the subjects that they will study. They start the following year's programme in June and have already made their choices by then. A cut will demoralise teachers and pupils who have chosen courses that will not exist next month.

The figures that I quoted are well known and in the public domain. It is always made clear that the rate at which new authorities can be admitted to the programme will depend upon the availability of resources, and that is what I am considering for next year.

Some of the equipment installed in the early years of the TVEI is obviously in need of replacement. Is my right hon. and learned Friend satisfied with the speed at which that is being done?

I dare say that my hon. Friend is right, and there is always room for improvement. After the initial five years, the funding of the TVEI is, of course, a matter for local education authorities.

Why does the Secretary of State intend to cut the TVEI budget by £300 million between 1990–93 and 1994–98? Will he confirm that he regards that as part of the cuts crisis that is swamping his Department, or does he think that it is merely an adjustment?

There is no cuts crisis of any description. I do not know where the hon. Gentleman got his figures for the years from 1993 onwards. I have given the figures for the current public expenditure White Paper, and we are considering the pace at which we can admit further authorities to the programme.

Value Added Tax


To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what was the net increase in the number of businesses registered for value added tax in (a) 1978, (b) 1988 and (c) 1989.

Early indications are that the net increase in 1989 was around 80,000, compared with 64,000 in 1988. In the five years 1975 to 1979 together, the net increase was 85,000.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Does not it show, by whatever criterion one would care to take, that this Government's commitment to small businesses is in contrast to that of the previous Administration? Looking to the future, how will we get those small businesses to grow into medium-sized businesses? How can they develop? In particular, they need management training to expand and become the employers of the future.

My hon. Friend is right. Almost as many businesses registered for VAT for the first time on a net basis last year as registered for the whole five years of the. previous Labour Government. My hon. Friend is also right to identify the critical importance to small businesses of management training. Most studies show that small businesses fail more as a result of poor or weak management than of any other factor. That is why my Department has put funding into businesses growth training to help small businesses and why we have played a major role in sponsoring open learning management packages.

Is not it the case that capitalism is poor and weak, at least at the lower levels and for smaller businesses, because nine out of 10 businesses fail in the first year due to the Tory Government's policies? We have learnt a lesson from that north of the border and that lesson has been learnt south of the border as well.

I know that this does not fit in with the hon. Gentleman's view of the world, but the fact is that well over 1 million more people work for themselves now than in 1979. That shows that the commitment to enterprise is alive and kicking.

Training And Enterprise Councils


To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what steps he has taken to ensure that training agencies operating under the new TEC system will be able to provide adequate services for training under their post-1 April 1990 budgets.

Training and enterprise councils set out their proposals for providing training in their corporate and business plans which they agree with me. Subsequently the standard and quality of the training being provided is regularly monitored by my Department.

How close is that monitoring within the present tight budgetary controls? In Ilfracombe, which often has the highest youth unemployment in the country, a training establishment has been brought up, closed and the young people are now trained 12 miles away at great cost to a new training establishment. How does my right hon. and learned Friend control the buying, closing and selling of businesses in that new growth industry—the training industry?

As I said earlier, the pattern by which training is provided will inevitably change from time to time. We cannot expect the same training providers to be in business year on year on year. The training and enterprise councils' operating agreement provides that non-employed trainees on youth training must be paid at least those travel costs in excess of £3 that are incurred in connection with their training. The councils will take that obligation into account in assessing matters of the kind to which my hon. Friend referred.

Is the Minister aware that earlier this afternoon the Prime Minister's Parliamentary Private Secretary was engaged in a training scheme on the Government side of the House? He was trying to get planted questions put to the Prime Minister and was going around giving training to Tory Members so that the Prime Minister would be aware of the questions that would come up when she turns up in the House at a quarter past three.

I am sure that no amount of training would enable anyone to predict a question asked by the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) if he is fortunate enough to catch your eye later this afternoon, Mr. Speaker.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend liaise with his colleague the Secretary of State for Education and Science and encourage him to give greater autonomy to local education authority colleges of further education which, if given that autonomy, more self government and more responsibility for their budgets and employment policies, could market their wares far more effectively into a rapidly changing training market?

My hon. Friend will doubtless be aware of our proposals for pilot training credit schemes. Those who obtain the training buying power that the credits will provide will be able to use them at colleges of further education and I believe that that will go a long way towards achieving the objective to which my hon. Friend referred.



To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will estimate the numbers of employees receiving training in Britain.

Figures from the labour force survey show that, in the spring of 1989, 3·1 million employees received job-related training in the four weeks prior to the survey. That was an increase of more than 70 per cent. compared with the same period in 1984.

When will the Minister recognise that in the north-east of England the coal mining, shipbuilding and heavy engineering industries have now been decimated? They were the basis of good training schemes in the past. Such schemes need to be replaced by other means of training, which cannot be supported by the market forces philosophy. They need Government support. When will the Minister bear in mind the pleas of the Engineering Council and the Machine Tool Technologies Association for training, particularly in engineering, to be considered as a national asset, as it is in other European countries, where it does not necessarily respond to market forces?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that training is important to the future prosperity of the north-east, as it is in the rest of the country. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will join me in welcoming the splendid way in which the north-east has responded to the initiative to set up training and enterprise councils. Indeed, three of the first 10 TECs to be established were from the north-east.

Does my hon. Friend agree that, as the demographic trough bites in the 1990s, it is important that the reducing number of young people leaving school should receive the fullest possible training? Will he therefore liaise with his colleagues in the Department of Education and Science to ensure that, as the national curriculum develops, children leave school with the skills that they need to take advantage of the training opportunities that his Department is making available?

I completely agree with my hon. Friend. Liaison between schools and industry is extremely important. I pay tribute to the major contribution made by senior industrialists by going on to governing bodies of schools, by supporting the compacts scheme and various other schools—industry proposals that have been put forward, and are being put forward almost daily. They are extremely important. It is right that youngsters should be work-ready and training-ready when they leave school.

Noise At Work


To ask the Secretary of State for Employment whether his Department will commission any research into the effectiveness of the noise at work regulations.

The Health and Safety Executive is already planning to evaluate those regulations. During 1991 and 1992 it will be undertaking a survey of the extent to which the required measures have been carried out in industry.

Is the Minister aware that hundreds and probably thousands of people in St. Helens have had their hearing severely impaired by the dreadful noise levels that appertain in the glass industry and that they are still not covered by the noise at work regulations? Will the Minister accept an invitation from me to visit a glass factory in St. Helens so that I can convince him of the justice that those workers deserve?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his courtesy in telling me that he wished to raise this issue. As I understand the position, the regulations apply to all places of work. I can see no reason why they should not apply to such a place of work. If the hon. Gentleman can tell me why he has been given that information or where the information has come from, I promise that I shall look into it at once.

Will the research into noise at work include the House of Commons? The noise here and the audibility of the system are such as to make work almost impossible sometimes.

The powers of the Government may be great, but they are not sufficient to take care of the level or quality of the noise in the House. I am afraid that both may defeat us.

Low Pay


To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what representations he received on low pay in the current year from the north of England.

Since 1 January 1990, my right hon. and learned Friend has received 13 representations on low pay from the north of England.

Why is it that more than 1 million people in the north and north-west of England earn what the Council of Europe defines as low pay? What possible moral justification can there be for a newspaper to publish advertisements offering people less than £2 an hour in the 1990s? People cannot live on that amount. What are the Government going to do about it?

I will tell the hon. Gentleman what the Government are not going to do. They are not going to do what the Opposition want to do—introduce a national minimum wage which will reduce the number of jobs available to the people of this country. The hon. Gentleman must remember that, if we were to introduce a national minimum wage of half average manual earnings, there is likely to be a loss of jobs of about 750,000 over three to four years. Low pay is a great deal better than no pay.

Labour Statistics


To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what was the average annual number of working days lost in (a) 1970 to 1979, (b) 1980 to 1989 and (c) the most recent 12-month period for which figures are available.

On average, there were 12·9 million working days lost a year in the period 1970 to 1979; 7·2 million in the period 1980 to 1989; and, it is provisionally estimated, 5·1 million in 12 months to March 1990. The number of stoppages in 1989 was the lowest for over 50 years.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that that good news has some relationship to the massive improvement in the performance of British industry in the past decade? Does he further agree that a return to unbridled secondary picketing would destroy all the progress that British industry has made and would return us to the days of the 1970s when British manufacturing output fell under the last Labour Government?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Nothing would be more guaranteed to deal a death blow to this country's economic prospects than the Opposition's proposals to make striking easier, which would lower output, lower prosperity and lower the living standards of everybody in Britain.