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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 by how much unemployment has fallen (a) as a percentage of the total and (b) in numbers since June 1987.

Since June 1987, unemployment in the United Kingdom, seasonally adjusted, has fallen by about 44 per cent., and by just under 1ยท25 million.

Is not it somewhat strange that Labour Members find the undeniable fact that more people are employed in this country than ever before sad and the sign of an underdeveloped country? I fail to understand that. Perhaps my right hon. and learned Friend will confirm that the figure that shows that our unemployment level is well below that of our European partners is more important. I join my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Riddick) in seeking reassurance that the bizarre and restrictive schemes of the social aspects of the Labour party's policy and our record on job creation should be brought to the attention of our partners.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. With the exception only of Luxembourg and West Germany, we have the lowest rate of unemployment in the European Community. There is no doubt that the policies that have led to our success in job creation would be substantially more difficult to carry out if the social action programme were implemented. I lose no opportunity to point that out to my colleagues in the European Community.

Is the Minister aware that the demise of the threatened steel industry in Lanarkshire would produce unemployment figures that even he, practised though he is, could not fiddle? Does he recognise that if the steel industry in Lanarkshire were to go, unemployment in the area would be 33 per cent. among males, 13 per cent. among females and 25 per cent. overall? Perhaps he intends to try to fiddle those figures, but would not it be easier for him to make representations to his colleague at the Department of Trade and Industry and ask him to get off his butt and do something to save the steel industry?

My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has made clear the Government's concern about the future of the steel industry, to which the hon. Gentleman refers. If the hon. Gentleman looks elsewhere in the United Kingdom, he will see that adjustments have taken place on a scale that has ensured that those parts of the United Kingdom that were most affected by closures in the steel industry now have a rate of unemployment that is lower than the national average. That proves that it is possible to adapt to change in a highly successful and effective manner.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the tremendous reduction in unemployment that we have seen in the west midlands owes a great deal not only to our legislative changes but to changes of attitude in the workplace, especially in manufacturing? Does he further agree that the co-operation of the workers to become multi-skilled creates not only a more flexible environment in the workplace but adds to the career potential of the workers? Would he like to add his good wishes to two companies in my constituency that this week received the Queen's award for export and technology? Those companies are Lucas and Yales and the workers deserve congratulations.

I am delighted to join my hon. Friend in congratulating the two firms to which she referred. She is right to identify the enhanced skills among our work force as one of the key factors responsible for our recent success. We want to build on what has been achieved over the years.