Unemployment, Blyth Valley

Oral Answers to Questions — Employment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th November 1994.

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Photo of Ronnie Campbell Ronnie Campbell , Blyth Valley 12:00 am, 29th November 1994

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what estimate he has made of when unemployment will fall in the Blyth valley.

Photo of Mr Philip Oppenheim Mr Philip Oppenheim , Amber Valley

Unemployment in the Blyth valley has fallen by 11 per cent. this year and is 26 per cent. down on the peak in 1987.

Photo of Ronnie Campbell Ronnie Campbell , Blyth Valley

Is the Minister aware that unemployment in the Blyth valley is still 2.5 per cent. higher than the national average? Is he also aware that a worrying trend in the Blyth valley is the number of long-term unemployed, which has increased by 24 per cent. over the past five years? Is he further aware that there are many job losses for the area in the pipeline? With the demise of Swan Hunter, highly skilled design workers have had to leave the area. Five hundred science and development jobs will be lost from British Gas and 400 jobs will be lost from Northern Electricity. Will the Minister get off his backside, get some jobs for the north-east and help the people of the Blyth valley?

Photo of Mr Philip Oppenheim Mr Philip Oppenheim , Amber Valley

The hon. Gentleman is ignoring the fact that job vacancies in his travel-to-work area have been rising very rapidly. I agree with him on one point: we all accept that unemployment is still too high. It is too high all over Europe and throughout the developed world.

In this country, the level of unemployment is falling and employment is rising far faster than it is in the rest of Europe. As the hon. Gentleman has wilfully provoked me, I remind him that when his party was in power the number of unemployed in the north doubled and rose at a far faster rate than it has under this Government.

Photo of Mr Jacques Arnold Mr Jacques Arnold , Gravesham

What does my hon. Friend think would be the unemployment in Blyth valley if the social chapter and the minimum wage were adopted, both of which policies the hon. Member for Blyth Valley (Mr. Campbell) supports?

Photo of Mr Philip Oppenheim Mr Philip Oppenheim , Amber Valley

I will just quote no less a person than Lord Healey, who recently said on Radio 4: Don't kid yourselves. The minimum wage is something on which unions will build differentials. … Therefore, the minimum wage becomes a floor on which you erect a new tower. The minimum wage would replace low pay with no pay. The minimum wage would create unemployment in Britain, just as it has done in Spain and France.