17 JUNE 1972, Page 30

Skinflint's City Diary

Mr Maurice Macmillan, Employment Secretary, has announced that he is reviewing the present conventional method of collecting unemployment figures.

Whatever else he does he should insist that we are given each week a national return of the numbers of those wanting jobs and, of those drawing the ' dole ' for whatever reason. Also the total amount of cash being handed out, from which an individual average might be obtained.

Such a simple move should satisfy those who have a horrid suspicion that the number of the work-shy is larger than they are allowed to know, and at the same time confirm to those others of us who are concerned that the present economic policies are having the unfortunate side effect of larger numbers of unemployed than are publicly revealed.

Machine tool gloom

The International Machine Tool Exhibition conducted by the Machine Tool Trades Association opens in Olympia next week at a moment of deep gloom for the makers. This Government like the last are willing to help in any sensible way suggested and the MTTA have put forward several ideas most of which have failed miserably but they still flounder on.

The senior members of the MTTA may be beginning to wonder if Mr Howard Barrett their paid chief executive is the man to carry out both the lobbying and the far more difficult task of suggesting a formula for government aid. My own feeling is that the industry has itself to blame and in its present form is not worth saving. The mistake of horizontal integration by acquisition over the last few years by Staveley, B Elliott and Alfred Herbert without any hope of economy of scale has wrought havoc amongst fine old family businesses.

The industry is low technology based and the home market is subject to easy penetration by low cost producers from Spain to Korea. If capital investment in the engineering industry is to be raised whether from home or overseas sources attention should be directed by Christopher Chataway, the Minister for Industry, and his men towards the root cause of the break in confidence including the escalating cost of labour, the disinterest in organic investment by the new conglomerates and general disquiet at the prospect of European entry.

Until something better is worked out a measure of protection (GATT permitting) would be welcome.