I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend and, indeed, the whole Government on that achievement. As the labour force is likely to grow very much more slowly in the next five or six years than it has grown since 1983, even if the present trend of job creation is merely maintained, is it not right that we can look forward to a significant reduction in unemployment?
I agree with my hon. Friend. There have been more people in work in every quarter since 1983, and the growth in new jobs is now outstripping the number of school leavers and women who are entering the market for the first time. That is giving rise to this extremely encouraging downward trend in unemployment, and there is every prospect that that trend will be maintained.
Is the Minister aware that instead of creating jobs in my constituency there has been a demolition job, with the ruthless closure of the Caterpillar Tractor Company, without any consultation with the union, and that 1,221 jobs are involved? If the Minister obtains all the information from the Secretary of State for Scotland, he will find that the Department was taken for a buggy ride as well as myself. I notice that there was a £62·5 million development programme, yet at the end of the day the plant was ruthlessly closed. Will the Minister take that on board now and do something about it?
I have been following the case. I agree entirely with all the comments of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland about this very unfortunate proposal. In other cases where there have been unavoidable closures of old, traditional industries that have outlived their competitiveness or have failed to keep their place in the market, there has been the steady replacement of large employers by new jobs, the expansion of existing businesses and particularly a growth in self-employment and small businesses. That has to be encouraged, particularly in Scotland. On balance, in Scotland we are now seeing a growth in the total number of people who are employed. I agree that efforts will have to be redoubled in the hon. Member's constituency if this American firm goes ahead with the proposal about which he and others are arguing.
Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that in those areas that are covered by inner city task forces the power of local authorities to insert local labour only clauses should be more extensively used?
We have taken advantage of the inner city projects to provide work experience and training for local people as well as to refurbish buildings in a number of places, most notably by means of a large contract in Birmingham. If we could obtain the co-operation of all local authorities in the inner city task force areas, I am sure that we could build on that kind of approach. My hon. and learned Friend knows that in Leicester we continue to face the implacable hostility of the city council and the total indecision of the county council. I keep hoping that that will improve, but undoubtedly it slows up the progress that we are making and slows up the provision of jobs and training for local people.
Does the Minister agree that there are still fewer people in employment in Britain now than there were in 1979, that the decline in employment in manufacturing is more than 2 million and is still continuing, that 500,000 of the so-called new jobs are in self-employment—largely people who had good wages, but who are now struggling to survive—that employment for men is still declining, and has continued to decline since 1983, and that 200,000 of the so-called new jobs are simply an expansion of the community programme?
In 1979 we had hyper-inflation, a great deal of British industry was over-manned and uncompetitive and we entered a severe world recession. Undoubtedly, that permanently lost us many jobs. However, since 1983 there has been a sustained growth in the number of people working in this country. There is nothing wrong with the fact that half those people are in self-employment, despite the fact that the Labour party is hostile to the whole idea that people might work on their own account. There is nothing wrong with the fact that more women are taking up part-time jobs, although that accounts for only about a quarter of the growth that is taking place. Now that we have growth with low inflation and better industrial relations, we are seeing more employment and falling unemployment.