Orders of the Day — Employment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th November 1977.

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Photo of Mr David Madel Mr David Madel , Bedfordshire South 12:00 am, 9th November 1977

I agree with the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen) that memories of high unemployment in the 1930s linger on for a long time and have had very damaging consequences for industry. The memory then was that one particular political party was exclusively to blame for the situation. In view of the events of the past three and a half years, I do not believe that anyone can fling exclusive blame on to one party. We are grappling with a world problem.

One of the previous speakers on the Labour Benches said that the unemployment situation was a crisis of capitalism. It is nothing of the sort. We have had fast and fantastic changes in technology and in energy use, and this answers the point about declining numbers employed in the gas industry, for example. When we talk about the next five or 10 years we must realise that unless the Americans can come to grips with the current oil crisis facing them there will be a hideous slump in the United States, which will drag us down as well. We cannot sell President Carter's energy programme for him, but unless it is successful there are bound to be serious consequences for this country.

This debate is being held at a most opportune time. It is taking place on the day that the Manpower Service Commission's annual report is published. In paragraph 2.25 on page 11 of that report the Commission says: The Government's industrial strategy … is intended to create wealth and income which in turn create growth and employment and there is bound to be a time-lag before employ-ment responds to increases in output but the dilemma in the shorter term remains. We have heard today that in order to pull unemployment down to 800,000 by 1981, 1·3 million new jobs must be created. Whatever we think of the Manpower Services Commission, it does not just stop the argument there. There is a great deal more in the report to suggest how this problem can be tackled. The Government will no doubt respond to the annual report, and they must face up to the argument contained in paragraph 2.25. Do they accept that in the short term the position, vis-à-vis investment and jobs, is unavoidable?