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1972: UK unemployment tops one million
The number of people out of work and claiming benefit has risen above one million for the first time since the 1930s.

There were angry demonstrations in the House of Commons when the jobless total was confirmed as 1,023,583.

The Speaker was forced to suspend the sitting for 10 minutes for order to be restored after the Prime Minister, Edward Heath, was greeted with prolonged abuse and catcalls from the Labour benches.

Mr Heath said he "deeply deplored" the level of unemployment.

Employment Secretary Robert Carr has promised to "wage all-out war" against the problems of inflation and boom and bust economics which have contributed to the jobless total.

I am not alarmed, but I am very worried
Employment Secretary Robert Carr
Measures to increase employment were announced by Chancellor Anthony Barber on 23 November 1971.

They included bringing forward some capital expenditure by the nationalised industries, as well as government departments.

Mr Carr was asked for his reaction to the latest unemployment figures.

"I am not alarmed, but I am very worried," he said.

"I had hoped I would never see unemployment reach this level and our measures are going to take longer to have an affect than I hoped."


Many of the redundancies have been due to companies restructuring to make themselves more efficient.

British Steel has announced nearly 1,300 job losses - with the closure of three plants including Newport in Gwent - this month.

The Port of London Authority has announced 2,000 dock workers' jobs are to go - that is 800 up on earlier estimates. GEC has announced 1,600 job losses spread across the country.

ICI has announced 350 jobs are to go at the Wilton Terylene fibre plant on Teesside. In December, it forecast some 800 jobs would go this year at the nearby Billingham plant.

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Edward Heath in conversation with his Employment Minister Robert Carr (r)
Mr Heath "deeply deplores" the level of unemployment

Soaring unemployment hits the UK econonmy

In Context
The Chancellor, Anthony Barber, proposed a tax reduction of 1.2m in the budget on 21 March.

He also proposed the setting up of an Industrial Development Executive to inject millions of pounds into new industrial developments.

Mr Barber told Parliament his budget would add 10% to the UK's growth in two years, and he dismissed concerns about his forecast 3.4bn public sector borrowing requirement.

But events proved him wrong. Inflation soared and within months he was forced to bring in a deflationary budget and a pay freeze that led to a major confrontation with the miners.

Unemployment continued to rise unchecked to a peak of more than three million in the early 1980s.

Figures for May 2002 showed the jobless total had dropped back to its lowest level since the mid 1970s.

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