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Short-Time Working: Cost

Volume 415: debated on Tuesday 25 November 1980

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My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what was the estimated Government expenditure in the past three months in respect of employees of firms working a four-day week.

My Lords, it is not possible to provide a precise answer in the form which is requested by my noble friend as statistics are not kept on this basis. But in the three-month period up to 31st October 1980 a total of £50·2 million compensation was paid to firms claiming support under the scheme.

My Lords, can my noble friend say how many workers are currently affected by this short-time working compensation scheme? Will be note that since this Question was tabled, it is very gratifying to the Government side of the House to know that the period of extension has gone up from six months of help to nine months of help? This will greatly help industry which is struggling to maintain employment in a very difficult economic situation.

My Lords, in reply to my noble friend's first question, during October 1980 over 410,000 workers were on short-time employment and were receiving assistance under this scheme. On my noble friend's second question, the department is very grateful that this scheme at least is of some assistance.

My Lords, can the noble Lord give any indication as to the extent to which there has been an increase in the number of employees benefiting under the temporary short-time working compensation scheme in the period of three months to which the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, referred, as compared with the period of three months perhaps immediately preceding that period?

My Lords, I am sorry but I could not answer that question; the noble Lord might he satisfied, and perhaps the House might be happier, if I wrote to him giving that information.

My Lords, will the noble Lord tell us whether the figures that he has given include those who are on a three-day week? Can he also tell us how the money is actually paid?

My Lords, the figures that I have given cover all payments under the temporary scheme, but the method of payment is somewhat complicated. Perhaps the noble Lord would permit me to write to him on that because the compensation is paid in about five or six different ways, and I think that the House would be weary if I went through them.

My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Lord—and I do so in order to get a proper balance of things—whether he can tell us that it is true that during the past month the number of unemployed has risen by 100,000.

My Lords, I could not reply without notice to such an unconfirmed report, but I do not think that we should be too precise over the figures. Possibly we shall find out.

My Lords, arising out of what my noble friend Lord Leatherland has said, will the noble Lord tell me what is the effect on the public sector borrowing requirement of the increasing number of unemployed, say in terms of 100,000 or 500,000?

My Lords, I believe the noble Lord mentioned 100,000 or 500,000. Was that unemployed, pounds, or units of account? I think that that question is probably a little wide of the Question down in the name of my noble friend.