Based on those wholly unemployed in the Wear-side travel-to-work area, the male unemployment rate on 14th February was 11 per cent. Substantial numbers of workers were laid off because of the fuel crisis and if those temporarily stopped are included the rate, based on the total number of males registered as unemployed, was 12·9 per cent. These figures are provisional.
Does the Minister realise that these are wholly unacceptable figures and that Sunderland has suffered exceptionally high unemployment for several years? The Sunderland Conservative Association has been driven to demand that this matter should be considered at Cabinet level. May I be assured that this will be done?
The whole question of unemployment is considered at Cabinet level. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the figures are wholly unacceptable. But there has been a slight but very welcome improvement in the situation on Wearside. The total number of men wholly unemployed is down by 0·2 per cent. compared with last month. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would also care to reflect, as a former Minister in a Labour Administration, that unemployment did not start under the Tories. Two years ago over 6,000 men were wholly unemployed on Wearside.
No, I do not accept that. The hon. Member is getting on to the realms of strikes. No one is disguising that there is a very serious situation on Wearside, as there is in the whole of that part of the North East. The important thing is to get on, cure the difficulties and get to the root causes, and that is what we are doing.