Unemployment and Economic Policy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 4th February 1963.

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Photo of Mr John Hare Mr John Hare , Sudbury and Woodbridge 12:00 am, 4th February 1963

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: whilst expressing its deep concern at the rise in recorded unemployment, commends the measures already taken by the Government to stimulate expansion in national production and to promote sound long term industrial developments in areas of heavy unemployment and emphasises the importance of the adoption by the nation as a whole of the objectives of more rapid economic growth and greater industrial efficiency and competitiveness". We have listened to a speech in which, I think, the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) genuinely wished to be constructive, but in which he said little new, as I shall hope to show. Much of what he recommends is already being done. It will, I believe, serve the House best if I try to set out the facts and deal with them as objectively as possible. I shall seek neither to exaggerate nor to minimise.

I want to take, first, the unemployment figures. The total of 815,000 for January, which was 248,000 more than the December figure, was the largest since the fuel crisis of 1947, when the number of unemployed rose to 1,800,000. The House should also remember that there are now about 2½ million more people in jobs than was the case in 1947.

When I spoke to the House in December, I said that unemployment would get worse before it got better. I said this because the number of unemployed in January is normally higher than it is in December. I tell the House frankly that when I said this I was not thinking of a figure as high as 800,000 because at the time I had not foreseen that we would have the biggest freeze-up for sixteen years—and, in many parts of the country, the worst January for more than 100 years. The part that the weather has played in all this can be seen from the figures for the construction industry alone. They show 164,000 more laid-off in January than in December. That, by itself, accounts for about two-thirds of the total increase in unemployment.

Apart from the temporarily stopped, and excluding school leavers, the number wholly unemployed rose by 85,000. What proportion of this is due to seasonal influences? It is difficult to interpret the figures precisely. The House should know that the normal seasonal increase of wholly unemployed would have been about 41,000. This year, because of the abnormal conditions, it may well have been at least 65,000. It is clear, therefore, that so far there has been no improvement in the underlying trend. This is what is really important, and this is what the Government are determined to remedy.

There is one real grain of comfort in all this. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have been particularly concerned about the placing of school leavers. Last summer, 365,000 boys and girls—a record number; it was the peak of the bulge—left school to take up jobs, and by December all but 2,800 had found work. At Christmas, about 150,000 more left school. By mid-January the number of these still registered for unemployment was 21,000. The Youth Employment Service is doing all it can to help these young people to find jobs, and I have every hope that the mid-February count will show a further drop in these figures.