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Lord Whitty: My Lords, in a sense, the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, has referred to my exact point. This amendment seeks to exempt a whole class of users, irrespective of the amount of water they use. One recognises the fact that we are bringing trickle irrigators into the scheme for the first time, but they are quite substantial users of water; indeed, some more so than others. Although in many cases trickle irrigation may be seen as quite an efficient use of water, that is not always the case. Recent reports tend to show that trickle is not always the most efficient system, especially if the system is not maintainedor, frankly, if it is left on by defaultwhich, regrettably, does happenbecause, unlike spray irrigation, you cannot see the water.
I am not in favour of exempting whole classes of water users from what, in some respects, is quite a high threshold. Indeed, I am not sure that it is in any sense in the interests of horticulture. The maintenance of maximum availability and the efficient use of water for the horticulture industry, especially in the drier south and east of the country, are important considerations. One trickle irrigator could well abstract excess water and damage another trickle irrigator. Under the old exemption, cases arose where, for example, one trickle irrigator abstracted too much water from the system and that had an effect on another enterprise further downstream. In one case of which I am aware, such abstraction led to the bankruptcy of the other enterprise.
I do not believe that there is a good justification for complete exemption of trickle irrigators. Indeed, if we were to exempt them in the intensive horticulture areas, one horticultural enterprise could seriously damage another. Therefore, I do not regard this provision as being an attack on the horticulture sector; it is a protection for them.
Baroness Byford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his comments. I am also grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, for expressing her concerns in this regard in advance of this stage of the Bill. I take on board the fact that there are irrigators who use the system wisely, and others that do not use it so wisely. I understand the Minister's argument. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I believe this to be a convenient moment for an adjournment of the proceedings. I beg to move that the Report stage be adjourned until after Starred Questions.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): My Lords, as my noble friend will know, we do not have a southern region or a northern region for statistical purposes so I do not have statistics on that basis. However, I have other figures that may be helpful. The current ILO unemployment rate for England is 5 per cent. Across the country it ranges from a low of 3.6 per cent in the South West to a high of 7.1 per cent in London. The North East's unemployment rate is currently 6.5 per cent.
Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, as my noble friend says, I am aware there are not specific southern and northern regions but she has given figures for those areas. Can she confirm that the figure for the northern region that she has just given is the highest of
Despite all that the Government have done for the regionand they have done a great dealis it not obvious that the policies, as they stand at the moment, are not succeeding? Can my noble friend say whether new approaches to the problems are being made and, if so, what they are? Does my noble friend agree that, despite the well publicised failures in the region, like Siemens and Samsung, it is very important that in the present circumstances the smaller companies, of which there are dozens, should be retained? Are the Government considering that very important problem?
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I am delighted to be able to tell my noble friend that he is not right about his first statistic, which is good news. The region with the highest unemployment is London, particularly boroughs such as Tower Hamlets. However, the North East runs a close second. I am also happy to tell him that since 1992, when the unemployment figure for the North East was indeed the highest at over 12 per cent, that figure has now almost halveddown to the 6.5 per cent I gave in my first reply. The House will knowas my noble friend doesthat some of the structural reasons for that long history of relatively high unemployment figures compared with the rest of England are associated with declining industries like coal and that coastal towns have also been badly hit.
One of the difficulties is the demographic problem facing the North East. The region has, for example, the lowest employment of people over 50 of any region in the country; it has virtually the lowest employment rate for ethnic minorities of anywhere in the country; it has the lowest percentage of women in employment of anywhere in the country; it has the lowest number of self-employed of anywhere in the country. That is why government strategy is to seek to target help on those groups who wish to work and have potential for work. That help ranges from New Deal to Neighbourhood Renewal, to coalfield funds, to the Single Regeneration Budget and Working in Europe.
Lord Elliott of Morpeth: My Lords, does the Minister accept that the North East of England has always done its best to help itself? Does she appreciate that at present, thanks to the competitiveness of a section of our traditional industry, there is a very good chance of a considerable proportion of a contract for the building of a new aircraft carrier going to the north? If it does, that will be very good news for employment in the areas of Tyneside and Teesside.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Russell, was kind enough to indicate that that was his concern, so I took the opportunity to acquire the figures for him. Figures are not available at ward level but only at local authority level. At local authority level there are no districts in the UK where male unemployment is above 10 per cent. I am sure he will be pleased about that. Currently, the highest figure is for Tower Hamlets at 9.8 per cent. Four of the local authorities with the worst unemployment records are in central London: Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Lambeth and Southwark. The others, Middlesborough, Liverpool, Derry, Birmingham, Kingston upon Hull, Manchester and so on, come down in descending order. It is a combination of inner city areas where ethnic minority populations, for all kinds of reasons, including discrimination, have reduced access to jobs, of declining industries, and of coastal towns. Those seem to be the areas in which male unemployment remains highest.
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, can the Minister tell the House the increase in unemployment figures in England she expects as a result of the Government's policy on pensions announced yesterday, which will add huge burdens to the cost of business, made necessary by the tax of £5 billion that the Government is exacting every day from pensioners?
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, there may be fluctuating unemployment figures today for reasons of which your Lordships, being parliamentarians, will be aware. However, I do not expect employment to fluctuate as a result of our pensions strategy. I am delighted that the noble Lord has given me the opportunity to move on to pensions strategy. I am absolutely delighted that yesterday the House gave such a warm welcome, led by the noble Lords, Lord Higgins and Lord Oakeshott, to the Government's proposals to increase the security for pension saving, thus extending the coverage of pension protection and the opportunity for greater prosperity in people's older age.
Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that coping with problems of unemployment in the provinces has been aided in the past by transferring work from London and the South East to those areas? Does she agree that that former policy was successful? Is she prepared to try to persuade some of her ministerial colleagues that it is worth revisiting? Would that not only help the
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