I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that answer. Does he not agree that it is most misleading for either the public or the Treasury to place any reliance on the number of vacancies notified to his Department, since the number is substantially less than the actual number of vacancies and jobs available in the country at large?
It is extremely difficult to be precise about vacancies. Some jobs are filled without the vacancies being notified to anybody. Some jobs are sought by my departmental officers and people are placed in jobs without the vacancies being notified. My hon. Friend will note that the object of the employment service is to double the number of vacancies notified to the Department by employers.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman think it time to break down employment vacancies by occupations and so produce a new aggregate basis for the figures weighted according to economic significance? When the Minister of State informed my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. O'Halloran) that there were two vacancies in London for every unemployed person, might he not have specified the occupations?
We keep the employment statistics under review and there are various ways of analysing them. I should very much like to look at the scope for improving the analyses and making the figures more informative. It is perfectly true that there tend to be more vacancies available than the figures show. I am happy to say that there are now signs of vacancies increasing faster than redundancies.
A great deal of action is planned and a certain amount of progress has been achieved on implementing the programme set out in "People for Jobs published last December. The objective is that the action plan should be completed by October, 1972. I am happy to tell my hon. Friend that we are taking active steps in this direction and are so far well up to schedule.
While thanking my hon. Friend for his almost inaudible reply, may I ask him whether he feels that these figures are truly representative of the total number of jobs vacant, bearing in mind a survey carried out in North-East Lancashire in which employers stated that fewer than 50 per cent. of them bothered to notify my hon. Friend's Department of vacancies which existed?
I am sorry if my reply was inaudible. I understand that it was very audible to right hon. and hon. Members opposite. I agree that the number of vacancies clearly is not the total number. But there are encouraging signs. I hope that with a new image in the employment service, when we have embarked upon a radical modernisation of the service, there will be means for a swift and flexible response to the requirements both of employers and of those needing jobs. This obviously of the utmost importance to the full and efficient use of the nation's human resources.
Before the hon. Gentleman gets carried away, will he bear in mind that no amount of statistical juggling can hide the fact that unemployment in the Accrington exchange area has risen dramatically in the last three months and is considerably higher than it was in mid-January? Will the Minister bear in mind that the North-East Lancashire Development Corporation and others take the view that North-East Lancashire is in desperate need and that only full development area status will save it?
The last part of the hon. Gentleman's question is a matter for one of my right hon. Friends in another Department. However, with the employment problems that I have had to sustain in my constituency throughout my parliamentary life, I am not likely to get carried away with optimism. On the other hand, it does no service to anyone to paint too black a picture.