Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:36 pm on 3rd December 1982.

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Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook , Edinburgh Central 1:36 pm, 3rd December 1982

Yes, an improvement in competitiveness would lead to more jobs. I shall come to that, but first I wish to explore the alternative explanation of why the Government do not have a policy to cut unemployment. There is an alternative explanation and my hon. Friends have already discovered it. It is that the Government do not want to cut unemployment. I incline to that explanation.

We have heard much from Conservative Members about the evils of protectionism. I believe that the Government have a policy of import control. They do not call it import control; it is unemployment. That is how they seek to moderate the rate at which imports come into this country.

The policy is not particularly successful. We understand from the autumn forecast that we shall have a balance of payments crisis next year. That is a spectacular example of economic mismanagement, because it will coincide with the first year in which oil production from the North Sea reaches its peak flow and with a major slump in our own economy.

There is another reason why I do not believe the Government wish to cut unemployment. Throughout the debate Conservative Members have poured scorn on our suggestion that there should be some form of planning for incomes. The Government have an incomes policy, but again they do not call it an incomes policy; it is mass unemployment. That is how they seek to terrorise the work force in the private sector and to drive down the bargaining power of labour in the market.

I believe that for the Government mass unemployment is not a problem. It is a solution, a tool of economic management. I have no doubt that the first plank of the motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West is well established. The Government are responsible for the current tragic level of unemployment.