Mr John Lee: I have to make the point—I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is well aware of it—that unemployment is falling substantially. Therefore, we obviously have to look at the jobcentre network. Having said that, we are at the same time trying to improve the quality of service for those individuals who are, sadly, unemployed. Even at present, the jobcentre network employs about 6,800 people.
Mr John Lee: My hon. Friend has a good point. Obviously, we have been thinking about this, and there have been 79 pilot schemes in which we have considered the options for integrating unemployment benefit offices and jobcentres. As he will know, the employment service is intended for agency status.
Mr John Lee: With respect, I am not sure that I fully understood the hon. Gentleman's question. With regard to the employment service for which my Department is responsible, I should have thought that the placement figures that I gave earlier indicated the success of what we are trying to do.
Mr John Lee: In the 12 months to March 1989 the level of unemployment, seasonally adjusted, in the east midlands fell by 34,500 or 22·6 per cent. on a consistent basis. Unemployment in the east midlands is now at its lowest level for more than eight years, as it is in the country as a whole.
Mr John Lee: I agree with all that my hon. Friend has said. The civilian work force in the east midlands is 1,844,000 —the highest level ever.
Mr John Lee: Unemployment in the hon. Gentleman's constituency in the two years to March 1989 has fallen by 29·1 per cent.
Mr John Lee: I can only assume that it is a combination of the Government's economic policy and the very sound judgment of my hon. Friend's constituents when they elected him as their Member of Parliament.
Mr John Lee: I wish that the hon. Gentleman, in his own inimitable style, would shout from the rooftops that in the two years to March 1989 unemployment in his constituency has fallen by 24·4 per cent.
Mr John Lee: In December 1988, the latest date for which figures are available, the civilian work force in employment in the south-west region was 1,965,000. That represents an increase of 213,000 or 12 per cent. since December 1983.
Mr John Lee: On the first point, my hon. Friend is right. Self-employment in the south-west increased by 82 per cent. between December 1979 and December 1988. I know how supportive my hon. Friend has been of the Wansdyke enterprise agency and I understand that he is the honorary president of that organisation. The Government consider that the Wansdyke enterprise agency is doing a good job. We have put in...
Mr John Lee: It is impossible to answer that question.
Mr John Lee: We are, of course, supportive of training and we hope that there will be a satisfactory and keen response from the private sector in the south-west—and especially in Cornwall—to the opportunity for the development of training and enterprise councils. I note what my hon. Friend says about European funding, but I have nothing to add to the reply that my right hon. Friend the Minister of...
Mr John Lee: In each of the past three years, about two thirds of all employees in employment in the north-west were in service industries, compared with three quarters of all employees in employment in the south-east.
Mr John Lee: The hon. Gentleman is not being his usual fair and generous self. There has been a rise in employment in service industries in the north-west of about 7 per cent. The hon. Gentleman must not confuse the prosperity of manufacturing industry with the numbers of people actually employed in manufacturing. I take the example of Pilkington, a company that he knows well in his constituency and which...
Mr John Lee: My hon. Friend is right. Curiously enough, yesterday, when I was in Oldham opening the fifth "Industrious Oldham Exhibition", I came across a manufacturer who some years ago had moved his manufacturing plant from Kent to Oldham. He had no regrets at all about the move. He is prospering in the constituency of the hon. Member for Oldham, Central and Royton (Mr. Lamond).
Mr John Lee: I am glad to see that Opposition Members advocate the creation and support of well-paid service industry jobs, because that was precisely the point that I was endeavouring to get across. Perhaps, I did not completely succeed. I repeat that we must separate the prosperity of manufacturing industry from the numbers directly employed in it, which was why I gave Pilkingtons as an example. A...
Mr John Lee: My hon. Friend is right, but he should not, with respect, expect too much from the Opposition too quickly. We have at least now an acknowledgement that well-paid service jobs are important.
Mr John Lee: I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Amos) on securing an Adjournment debate on a subject that is becoming increasingly important to his constituency and his region, and I thank him for his comprehensive speech. I am especially pleased that a number of other hon. Members are with us—not least the Opposition Chief Whip, the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Foster),...
Mr John Lee: In September 1988, in the north-west region, the civilian work force in employment was 2,661,000—an increase of 80,000 or 3 per cent. in the past two years.
Mr John Lee: I think that my hon. Friend is getting at the situation on Merseyside. I have no wish to denigrate the work force on Merseyside, but in many cases they are being let down by some very extreme shop stewards.