§ 9. Mr. Andrew F. Bennett
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his most recent estimate of the cost in terms of benefits paid out and income lost as a result of each of extra 10,000 unemployed.
§ Mr. Peter Rees
Additional benefits would depend on the family cicumstances of those becoming unemployed, but an extra 10,000 unemployed in 1983–84 would, on average, increase expenditure on benefits and administration by about £18.5 million.
§ Mr. Bennett
Does the Chief Secretary agree that, now that the election is over, there is no need for the Government to disguise the full cost of unemployment? Would it not be a good idea to come clean and remind the country that it now costs between £5,000 and £6,000 to keep someone out of work for the first 12 months and that there are about 60,000 teachers and many thousands of qualified doctors and nurses who would be only too pleased to be put to work rather than be paid unemployment benefit?
§ Mr. Rees
The hon. Gentleman's command of figures is a little imperfect. Even the House of Lords Select Committee arrived at only £5,000, with many qualifications. The hon. Gentleman seems to overlook the £2 billion that the Government have spent on programmes to create real rather than phoney jobs. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"]
§ Mr. Marlow
Do not those figures show strongly how important it is for the Government to stick to their existing policies so that unemployment can be reduced as soon as possible?
§ Mr. Robin Cook
Will the Chief Secretary admit that the reason why his figure is so low is that it is only the cost of the benefits? Does he not realise that the cost of unemployment and lost output is greater than the cost of benefits, as was recognised by the House of Lords Select Committee, the IFS and the Treasury until February 1981, when it stopped publishing figures because they were too embarrassing? Does he agree that, if the Government want to cut the appalling waste of unemployment, the logical, effective and humane way in which to do it is not to fiddle down the level of benefit but to reduce the millions who are condemned to unemployment?