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Labour Statistics

Volume 175: debated on Tuesday 26 June 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will give the total unemployment figures and the rate of unemployment in May 1990, and May 1980.

In May 1990, the seasonally adjusted level of unemployment in the United Kingdom was 1,611,000, or 5.7 per cent. of the work force, compared with a level of 1,224,400 in May 1980, or 4.6 per cent. of the work force.

How can the Minister justify an economic policy that keeps unemployment low in and pumps massive wealth into the pampered English southern regions at the direct expense of the rest of the United Kingdom? Does not he know that the Low Pay Unit report shows that more than half the Scottish work force is on low pay at a time of high unemployment, and all that in one of the potentially richest countries in Europe? How can the Government call something that harms so many and helps so few an economic policy?

Unemployment in Scotland during the past year has dropped by more than 16 per cent. compared with a reduction in the United Kingdom as a whole of just over 12 per cent. Scotland is fully sharing in Britain's prosperity, which is a direct result of the Government's policies.

Has my right hon. and learned Friend noted that unemployment in Gravesham has more than halved since the most recent general election? Is not it the case that long-term unemployment has also substantially reduced?

My hon. Friend is right. There has been a proportionately greater reduction in the number of long-term unemployed even than in unemployment as a whole. I hope that Opposition Members welcome that.

Is the Secretary of State aware that in the Bolton and Bury travel-to-work area, 9,500 jobs have been lost in manufacturing industry over the past nine years? Is that good for the economy of the Bolton and Bury travel-to-work area?

As I said, if we are to continue achieving success, we must adapt to change. That has been happening in the area to which the hon. Gentleman refers, as it has in all other areas. One must examine all the unemployment figures to reveal the truth, and the true picture that has been developing is one in which every right hon. and hon. Member can take pride.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that in Scotland, as in other parts of the United Kingdom, the unemployment figures show clearly that more people are in work? The Governor of the Bank of England commented only yesterday how well Scotland has done in the transition from the old smoke-stack industries to today's modern industries, whereby people are much better off.

My hon. Friend is right. I never cease to wonder at the amount of time, effort and energy devoted by Opposition Members to denigrating the Government's record, when we ought to be debating policies that will help take the country forward on the most secure basis. On reflection, perhaps the reason why the Opposition do not want to discuss policies is that they know that theirs would work to the detriment of us all.