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The tone of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was that the only difference between the two parties was their intentions. He implied that the Opposition had good intentions towards unemployment and that the Government did not. If it were simply a matter of good intentions, why did unemployment rise when the Labour Party was in office? It is true that unemployment has risen by about 102 per cent. since the general election. I admit that the peak of unemployment has probably not been reached. It will peak, flatten and then begin to fall. However, we must be approaching the end of rising unemployment—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] The figures show that from month to month in the past four months the rate of increase in the number of registered unemployed has declined sharply. That is solid evidence. It does not follow that one can reliably depend on an extrapolation of the same trend. However, month by month for four months we have seen a declining rate of increase in unemployment.
Under this Government unemployment has risen by 102 per cent. That is a depressing figure. However, the right hon. Gentleman spoke as if the facts under a Conservative Government were far worse than the facts that appertained when the Labour Party was in office and when the right hon. Gentleman had my job. When measured on the same basis—from the lowest point to the highest point during five years of office—unemployment under the Labour Government rose not by 102 per cent. but by 165 per cent.
Given the problems that both Governments faced, should not the right hon. Gentleman have a little humility? It is a question not of which party cares more but of which party can make available to a Government of any colour the analysis of and cure for rising unemployment. For 20 years Britain has suffered from rising unemployment.
This debate focuses on the regions. It is a truism that the regions do better in terms of jobs when the country does better. It is also a sad truism that we are trying to help much the same regions in terms of geographical area as our fathers tried to help 40 or 50 years ago. So far, the treatment administered by both parties has not been notably successful.