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Lord Avebury: My Lords, perhaps the noble Baroness will allow me to intervene. UK Info, which costs about £25, contains every name and address in the United Kingdom and all the telephone numbers, so one never needs to ring Directory Enquiries. It is cheaper to buy UK Info.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his advice. Data can be processed just as easily and speedily in some provincial town or even in India or South America, as in one of the big cities, at less cost in wages and rent.

That is yet another change in employment patterns. How many ordinary, day-to-day financial transactions are now done long distance rather than face to face? Utility companies encourage us to pay by direct debit, giving advantage to those who can afford to compared with poorer people who do not have a bank account. Pensions are now paid directly into accounts.

It used to be regarded as a secure job for life to work in a bank. But not any more. The noble Baroness, Lady Turner of Camden, spoke of the change in businesses that were once regarded as being there for a long time. Counter clerks who aspire to become bank managers grow fewer in number. Money comes out of a hole in the wall. And a vast proportion of what people used to pay in the form of dozens of cheques each month, or by cash, is settled by one cheque to the credit card company. That is how things work these days.

The subject of the debate today is so vast that it is impossible, even with all the contributions made tonight, to cover every topic and ramification; they are endless. However, one of the great things about today's debate has been hearing of the experiences of different people who have spoken about different industries from different knowledge bases. I confess,

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as did the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, that I learnt an enormous amount from the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam. Apparently, my granddaughter knows far more about these matters than I do, but that is one aspect of the modern age. I have tried to show that it is clear that there has always been change. It is important therefore to have flexibility in the labour market to allow people to move from one job to another as circumstances require.

I should like to talk a little about what the future might hold--but only a little because with the enormous changes taking place one would need to be extremely brave to predict what will happen, and I certainly cannot.

The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, would be surprised if I said that I had written a speech containing no political content; he would not expect that of me. But when I listened to the speeches around me I crossed out the political parts. I felt it was an extremely informative debate and did not want to move into the realm of politics. However, the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, tempted me to go back and read a couple of paragraphs which I had crossed out.

Despite the way that new Labour likes to turn facts on their head, this Government inherited a thriving economy, and one which continues to thrive because of the momentum which was already in place. I will not have the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, say, unanswered from this side, that it is down to what has taken place within the past two or three years. Far from it. The economy had not come to a shuddering halt by 1997.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: My Lords, I know I have not been on the best of form today, but when the noble Baroness reads Hansard tomorrow she will see that there was a qualification in my remarks concerning inheritance.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, yes, and the noble Lord made other remarks which I shall also read carefully. I felt it was a pity. Can I say more? This is not a political debate. The patterns of employment change throughout history and the problem for us all, whether we are in government or in opposition, is to do our best to try to create markets and work hard. It is essential and right that citizens of this country should be able to move from one area to another to find work. I felt that particularly when the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, mentioned the number of people working in the Vodafone management organisation. I believe he said it was a business involving 400 million people but with 750,000 employees, as compared to the 10 at the top of the Stock Exchange which he mentioned earlier.

Lord Puttnam: My Lords, what the noble Baroness is trying to say is absolutely not accurate and I shall write to her with the precise figures.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, that is the worry--not that the noble Lord is going to write to me; I shall be waiting for his letter with bated breath. But

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the problem is that the larger the organisation, the bigger the changes, the fewer people appear to be required. That will be a challenge for us all in the future.

With that little diversion I have passed over pages of my notes. But I shall let them go. I made my point with the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, and say no more in that regard. But I conclude by mentioning something that Adair Turner wrote in an article last September. He said that he felt that our labour markets were doing well, which was reflected in the impact of the profound labour market liberalisation which was introduced by the previous government--I emphasise "previous government"--in the 1980s and 90s. He said it is a liberalisation that the new Labour Government have left in place. There we have it. On both sides of the debate I have tried to be extremely fair.

8.25 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, this has not been a debate at all; it has been a seminar, and much better for that. We have all learnt things, thanks to the excellent choice of timing and subject of my noble friend Lord Lea and all the contributions that he attracted to his debate. I am a little disappointed that my noble friend intends to write to the noble Baroness, Lady Miller. He should send an e-mail and copy it, if he does not mind, to [email protected]

We benefited greatly from the contributions today. In the limited time available to me, I want to say something about patterns of employment which is the subject matter of this "seminar", and something about the way the Government see them. Whether or not I go back the full 9,000 years that the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, did is doubtful. Then I want to talk about the economic aspects, particularly the macro-economic aspects, then the micro-economic and social aspects. A theme running through the debate has been, quite rightly, the quality of work as well as the quantity.

The pattern of employment in this country was described by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, as a "demented mosaic".

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, "fragmented mosaic".

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, my hearing is going. But the noble Lord is right in the sense that the employment market in this country is much more diverse, much more fragmented--to use his much improved word--than in other European countries and other parts of the world. For example, if we take the standard 40-hour week, only 10 per cent of people in this country work that 40-hour week compared with over 50 per cent in Germany and 40 per cent in France and Italy. As has been said, we have more Saturday and Sunday working, more shift working and more part-time work than anyone else in Europe.

Diversity is a good thing in the sense that it enables people to find a pattern of work that suits them. That is relevant to what the noble Baroness, Lady Blood,

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said in her excellent maiden speech; that is, that we have one of the highest rates of female participation in the world because the range of jobs, particularly part-time work, allows many women to combine paid work with domestic responsibilities. Whether we go from that into the more rarefied zones of treating our careers, as Charles Handy would say, as portfolios rather than as jobs is another matter.

Of course there have been changes, but we are still in the position where 87.5 per cent of those in employment are employees and only 11.5 per cent are self-employed. We have seen dramatic changes in the nature of jobs but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, said, that has been true for a long time; indeed, for the past 20 years 7 million people have been changing jobs every year. It has always been the case that what appears at any particular moment in time as dramatic can be found to have been so at many points in our history.

So we do have a rather healthy pattern of employment in terms of its suitability for the wide range of uses that people want to make of employment, whether as a source of income, a source of meeting people or for what other purpose may be appropriate. We also have a very dynamic employment pattern. Again, these things have been going on for a very long time. The one clear measure of dynamism is the amount of change that is taking place within the UK labour market. In numerical terms, over 2.5 million vacancies are notified to the job centres of the Employment Service every year and perhaps twice as many more arise through newspaper advertisements, private employment agencies and the Internet. The Employment Service alone fills 1 million jobs every year.

There is a role for government in this process. It is valuable that we can contribute to oiling the wheels of the employment market. At the same time, the "flexibility"--which is a very fashionable word--in the labour market has many different meanings. Yes, flexibility is essential when you have a dynamic and diverse labour market, but it does not necessarily mean--and in most cases it should not mean--a hire and fire policy. It should mean jobs that are smart, in the smart card sense, efficient and well resourced with adequate capital behind them.

I shall not go into the history of what kind of economy the Labour Government inherited in 1997. However, this Government have a different idea not only about the quality of work and its social effects but also about what our objectives and our choices should be. It should be noted that Gordon Brown, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, is the first Chancellor not only to have talked about full employment for many years but also to mean it; and, indeed, clearly to have plans in place for achieving full employment.

There was a certain amount of party political discourse between my noble friend Lord Brooke and the noble Lord, Lord Howell. However, I am sure that the noble Lord would not deny that it was his noble friend Lord Lamont who said that a high level of unemployment was a price worth paying for the

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changes that were taking place in labour markets. Indeed, I think he was largely justifying that in his speech. But whatever may have been the case in the past, the point we want to make is that a high level of employment and a low level of wasted lives and talents is a proper objective of government. Governments are free to make that choice and it is one which this Government have deliberately made. I give way.


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