§ 16. Mrs. Bridget Prentice
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what steps she is taking to tackle unemployment among those over 45 years old. 
§ Mr. Paice
We intend to continue the successful economic and labour market policies which, together with the campaigns to which the Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan), referred, have reduced unemployment for that group by 21 per cent. in the past two years.
§ Mrs. Prentice
Does the Minister agree that it is outrageous that people over the age of 45 should feel that they have been thrown on the scrap heap? Does he also agree that there is age discrimination in the workplace? If 349 he is not prepared to introduce legislation to resolve that, what evidence does he have that the voluntary scheme is working?
§ Mr. Paice
I entirely agree that discrimination on the ground of age is unjustified and unfair. There is ample evidence, as my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary said earlier, that many businesses now recognise the greater skills and greater commitment—among other attributes—that older workers can provide. We have been running a number of campaigns, to which my colleague referred earlier, and we are conducting an evaluation process to discover the success of those campaigns and to establish the attitude of employers.
I believe that the vast majority of employers—but not all of them—are beginning to recognise that older workers represent a tremendous resource which they ought to be tapping, to provide their future skills needs.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton
Does my hon. Friend accept that the best way to help the over-45s who are unemployed—or indeed anyone who is unemployed—is to create the right economic climate for industry? The country to which we have all looked in the past as a superb example of this, Germany, is now finding out that the minimum wage and the social chapter are catastrophes. Unemployment in Germany is rising beyond 4 million, and it is exporting manufacturing capacity abroad, is it not, faster than any other European country?
§ Mr. Paice
My hon. Friend is entirely right. The real way to deal with unemployment and job-search difficulties for any age group is to have real growth in employment created by the economy. That is what has been happening over the past few years under this Government and, as my hon. Friend rightly says, it is not happening in a number of European countries.
My hon. Friend rightly reminds us of Germany. Only a week or so ago, I met some German industrialists who were bemoaning Germany's situation and the imposts of taxation and of regulation of their labour market—and the increasing unemployment that they are causing. It means that they are being forced to look abroad to continue investing. I am delighted to say that these particular industrialists were investing in my constituency, but they would usually prefer to invest in Germany. They do not do so because of the imposts of the social chapter, the minimum wage and the sort of regulation that we would have again if the Labour party was ever given the chance to implement its policies.