Unemployment

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 7:26 pm on 8th December 1992.

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Photo of David Hanson David Hanson , Delyn 7:26 pm, 8th December 1992

As hon. Members will expect, I shall not follow the line of route initiated by the hon. Member for Milton Keynes, South-West (Mr. Legg). Unlike Conservative Members, Opposition Members fully support the minimum wage policy, and we are proud to have fought the last election on that basis; when the opportunity arises, we will introduce the minimum wage in the interest of justice and fairness. Sadly, the motion sums up all that the Opposition consider relevant about the current level of unemployment. At least we believe that it offers a glimmer of hope to the millions of people who are unemployed.

Having sat through the debate since 3.30 pm, I have been particularly struck by the staggering complacency of Conservative Members. They have not accepted an iota of the Opposition's argument that we face a national crisis in manufacturing employment, and that action should be taken at a national level, with the Government accepting responsibility for generating investment, wealth and creating jobs. That abdication of responsibility is one of the strangest aspects of the debate.

It may have escaped the notice of Conservative Members that, since the Prime Minister took office about two years ago, 1·1 million people have lost their jobs. Every day since then, 2,500 people have become unemployed. I am not here to doom-monger—I want to talk positively—but when 29 people are chasing every job vacancy, Government action is clearly needed.

What do we get from the Government? We have had a Gracious Speech and an autumn statement, which addressed the wrong issues; we have rail privatisation and coal privatisation; we have the abolition of the basic floor provided by wages councils; we have reductions in Government spending; we have the opting out of schools; we have tinkering with investment on the edges of the economy. We do not have a Government who are committed to the central agenda of creating employment and improving the lot of the millions—both Labour and Conservative voters—who want a better Britain to be provided through job creation.

I sometimes think that the Government are not living in the real world. I do not claim that my constituency is the worst affected in Wales or in the United Kingdom. Indeed, there are many good things in my constituency, and I would be the last person to run down Delyn. It has many factories which are creating wealth, employment and jobs. However, it would be foolish of me to ignore the fact that much has gone wrong in my constituency, which needs support from and action by the Government to promote employment.

In October there were 5,971 unemployed men and 1,641 unemployed women in the Shotton, Flint and Rhyl travel-to-work area which encompasses my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones). Those figures represent a 9 per cent. unemployment rate in my constituency and a rate of 10·5 per cent. in Clwyd. My hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside is as concerned as I am about the level of unemployment in that travel-to-work area. I shall shortly discuss some of our proposals to help reduce those figures.