Labour Statistics

Oral Answers to Questions — Employment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd March 1987.

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Photo of Andrew MacKay Andrew MacKay , Berkshire East 12:00 am, 3rd March 1987

asked the Paymaster General if he will make a statement on the current level of unemployment.

Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Paymaster General (HM Treasury), Secretary of State for Employment

Unemployment is lower now than a year ago, and has fallen 100,000 over the last six months.

Photo of Andrew MacKay Andrew MacKay , Berkshire East

Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that in the last quarter of 1986 unemployment fell faster in this country than in any other country in the western world? Would he care to speculate on why the now silent hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) cared to mock this good news for those seeking jobs?

Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Paymaster General (HM Treasury), Secretary of State for Employment

I cannot answer the last part of my hon. Friend's question. The fall in unemployment over the last six months is the best we have known since 1973 and it seems to have reduced the official spokesman for the Opposition to total silence.

Photo of Mr Patrick Duffy Mr Patrick Duffy , Sheffield, Attercliffe

Is the Paymaster General aware that, although unemployment has fallen a little in the Sheffield travel-to-work area, that is accounted for almost entirely by the expansion of special job schemes and there is scant evidence of any relief of unemployment arising from economic activity?

Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Paymaster General (HM Treasury), Secretary of State for Employment

I share what I have no doubt is the hon. Gentleman's pleasure that unemployment has been falling in Sheffield. I would expect schemes in Sheffield to help people get back into regular employment, as they are doing elsewhere. I would be very surprised if there was not an increase in the total number of jobs in Sheffield, as is now happening across the country.

Photo of Tim Yeo Tim Yeo , South Suffolk

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that one very helpful measure which would cut unemployment even further would be to reduce the amount of taxation paid by lower paid employees? In this context, will he urge his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to introduce tax cuts—which we are all looking forward to in two weeks' time—directed to reducing the burden of tax on low-paid workers?

Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Paymaster General (HM Treasury), Secretary of State for Employment

I agree with my hon. Friend that the burden of tax on low-paid workers is still too high. I will commend my hon. Friend's remarks to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, I am sure, will have regard to the job-creating potential that tax reductions could have.

Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Employment

I think the country accepts that all the claims based on the unemployment figures are part of a mass fiddle of the statistics. Does the Paymaster General accept that the claim of a million new jobs since 1983 is equally fraudulent? The recent Oxford study has shown that those jobs are made up of a quarter of a million second jobs, a quarter of a million through schemes, and half a million based on a dubious statistical survey of the self-employed and other equally fraudulent figures?

Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Paymaster General (HM Treasury), Secretary of State for Employment

Firstly, the Oxford study that appeared in New Society is not very good research and its figures are wrong. There are over a million more people in work currently than in March 1983. On the question of figures, during the hon. Gentleman's unexpected absence from our exchanges on unemployment matters in this House, I have been studying what he has been saying in print. In the 27 February edition of Tribune, he is reported as saying, in answer to the question : Would Labour put the unemployment figures back on their old basis?No. They are becoming increasingly meaningless.