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Long-Term Unemployed Persons

Volume 987: debated on Tuesday 24 June 1980

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3.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will introduce a programme of training and work experience for the long-term unemployed.

In addition to the training courses provided generally by the Manpower Services Commission, and the work experience facilities for young people, the special temporary employment programme is available for the long-term unemployed, in special development areas, development areas and designated inner urban areas.

Does the Secretary of State realise that there will soon be 500,000 long-term unemployed people, many of them concentrated in areas of high unemployment, such as the North-East? Is this not an appalling waste of resources? When will we have the substantial expansion in training and retraining that was promised before the election?

The figures are bad. The actual figures are lower than those stated by the hon. Gentleman, but I do not wish to emphasise that because a number of the long-term unemployed are not caught up in the proper statistics. The Manpower Services Commission has carried out a review of the long-term unemployed. It reported the results of its study in February. It is now considering those findings, and they will be taken into account in the MSC's annual review in the autumn. We shall listen carefully to its comments.

Will my right hon. Friend urge the Manpower Services Commission to look at this matter, produce proposals urgently and consider whether the STEP programme can be developed and expanded in order to make particular provision for the needs of the young long-term unemployed?

STEP is designed chiefly for the 19 to 24-year-olds. As my hon. Friend said in reply to an earlier question, more long-term unemployed are being helped by STEP now than ever before. In the past, STEP dealt with many people who were not long-term unemployed. We shall ask the MSC for its views as quickly as it is able to give them.

Is the Minister of Unemployment aware that if he wants to cut back on the long-term unemployed and on others who are in the dole queues as a result of this Tory Government's measures, one of the things that he should be doing and urging upon his dry Prime Minister is ensuring that the current interest rate is reduced sharply, that the cuts in public expenditure are stopped and some of them reversed, and that the purchasing power in the land, apart from the number of jobs available, is increased? If he did those things he would be doing his job correctly.

No printing of money or increase in public expenditure in itself can cure our problems. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will remember certain words—

"in all candour, that option no longer exists".
I am glad that he is making so much fuss now when he was so quiet a few months ago.

A large number of the long-term unemployed are unskilled, elderly manual workers. Is my right hon. Friend looking sympathetically at the possibilities of early retirements or generous redundancy payments?

Yes, Sir. That is all part of the review. The problem is the money. There is no easy, straightforward method of helping those unfortunate people without spending a great deal of Government money. Our problem is to try to restrain public expenditure so that we can reduce interest rates, as the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) wishes us to do.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Secretary of State has just made a reference to my being quiet a few months ago. I remind the Minister of Unemployment—[Interruption.]

Order. The hon. Gentleman must resume his seat. [Interruption.] I invite the hon. Gentleman to leave the Chamber. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Order. It is a very serious matter to ignore any appeal from the Chair. [Interruption.] Order. I have invited the hon. Gentleman to leave the Chamber. If he does not do so, I shall order him to leave the Chamber at this moment. The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) will withdraw from the Chamber. That means that he must go out.

The Chair cannot be ignored in the way that the hon. Gentleman ignored it. He must leave the Chamber.

Order. Will the hon. Gentleman resume his seat? This is a matter for the whole House. The House must support its Speaker when hon. Members refuse to listen to him. I understand that the hon. Gentleman is emotional to-day, but I must tell him that I am taking the easiest course with him, and not the most serious. I must ask the hon. Gentleman to leave the Chamber, because nobody can preside over this Chamber if he is ignored when he makes appeals.

In order not to hold up the progress of Question Time, I give notice that I propose to take a most serious step at the end of Question Time, a step that I do not wish to take, unless the hon. Gentleman leaves the Chamber now.

The hon. Gentleman leaves me with no choice, but in order not to take up the rest of Question Time, if the House agrees, I shall deal with the matter not now but after Question Time. Otherwise, I shall deal with it at once. [Interruption.] Order. I was not inviting comments. I wish to give the hon. Gentleman a last chance. Will he withdraw from the Chamber? [Interruption.] Very well. This is a step that I hoped never to have to take, but if the hon. Gentleman will not listen to me, I have no choice.

Yes, I shall listen to that point of order while the hon. Member for Bolsover has a chance to breathe.

In view of the Secretary of State's reference to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), would it not be in order and help matters if the Secretary of State offered an apology to my hon. Friend? [Interruption.]

Order. Question Time is passing, but this is now a matter between the hon. Member for Bolsover and myself. If the Secretary of State has a helpful statement, will he by all means make it?

May I say that no hon. Member wishes to challenge your ruling, Mr. Speaker? [Interruption.] As you say, this is a matter on which you have taken a decision, or you intend to take a decision, because you regard it as a challenge to the Chair. I suggest that if my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) will express his view—which I am sure is true, because in this House he always accepts the edicts of the House, whether or not he agrees with them—and will state that he had no intention of challenging your ruling, Mr. Speaker, in the heat of the moment, perhaps we can pass on and leave the matter.

Does the hon. Member for Bolsover wish to rise to say that he was not challenging the Chair but that he got carried away in the heat of the moment? This is his opportunity.

At the start of this matter the hon. Gentleman was challenging what I said. That caused some of the trouble, although it cannot condone in any way what has happened since that moment.

If I was hasty in my reactions to the hon. Gentleman, I withdraw what I said.

Order. No other hon. Member would have been given as much latitude. All that the hon. Gentleman has to do is to explain to the House that he did not mean to challenge the authority of the Chair. If he will do that, we shall resume Question Time.

It was well within the hearing of all hon. Members that I was addressing my remarks not to you, Mr. Speaker, but to the Minister in view of the lies that he has been telling about me.

I hope that hon. Members will understand that I am left with no option—no option at all. The Serjeant-at-Arms will ensure that the hon. Member complies with my instruction to withdraw from the House.

The hon. Member then withdrew from the Chamber.