HC Deb 03 November 1966 vol 735 cc627-8
1. Sir C. Osborne

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how unemployment in Wales compares with unemployment in England; where and in what industries it is concentrated; what action he is taking to prevent its further spread; and if he will make a statement.

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes)

Provisional figures based on a count taken on 10th October show that 3.5 per cent. of the insured working force in Wales were unemployed compared with 1.7 per cent. in England. No detailed analysis of the October figures is yet available, but the greatest percentage increases in numbers wholly unemployed were in areas most affected by normal seasonal changes such as the holiday coasts of North Wales and Pembrokeshire. The Government are pressing ahead with the programme of advance factories. We are making the fullest use of the powers available under the Industrial Development Act and the Local Employment Acts to promote new employment opportunities in Wales.

Sir C. Osborne

In view of these disturbing figures, has the right hon. Gentleman used any influence with English companies not to close down their branches in Wales before they affect their bigger factories in England? Second, if he is unable to guarantee full employment to his people in Wales, would it not be more honest and honourable to say so to them?

Mr. Hughes

The Board of Trade office in Cardiff is in touch with companies both in England and in Wales including those which are registered in England, and the point which the hon. Gentleman makes is constantly kept in mind by the President of the Board of Trade. On the second point, we have complete confidence in the future of employment in Wales. It is a short-term problem which we are now facing. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that in the first nine months of this year industrial development certificates were issued covering nearly 8 million sq. ft. compared with 4½ million sq. ft. in the whole of last year. This is a very considerable increase and holds out great promise in the longer term.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Answers must be a little shorter.

Mr. James Griffiths

Bearing in mind that a very important contribution has been made to the economic rehabilitation of Wales by the building of advance factories, a record number having been built since 1964, do the Government contemplate another programme in the near future?

Mr. Hughes

Yes, Sir. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade is to make an announcement later today about further advance factories for Wales as well as for England and Scotland. I cannot anticipate his statement, but I venture to suggest that it will be received with great satisfaction.

Mr. Gibson-Watt

Recognising that, unfortunately, the average percentage of unemployment in Wales over the last nine or ten years has been about twice the national average, will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House, as soon as he receives his report from the Economic Council, how much damage the Selective Employment Tax is doing to future employment prospects in the Principality?

Mr. Hughes

The hon. Gentleman knows that I have asked the Welsh Economic Council to look at this very carefully. I shall study its report equally carefully when I have it.

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