HC Deb 03 May 1971 vol 816 cc990-2
11. Mr. Alan Williams

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he is satisfied with the number of jobs in prospect in Wales; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Thomas

I should like to see more jobs in prospect, and the Government's policies are intend to improve the economic prospects of the country as a whole. Wales will share full in this improvement. I am glad to note that the interest shown in Wales by industrialists remains at a good level.

Mr. Williams

I am surprised at the last comment of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Since the Budget did not even aspire to reduce unemployment, and since the rate of unemployment and redundancies in Wales is still rising, and since, according to an answer given on Friday, the level of job expectancy from I.D.C.s in the first quarter of this year is the lowest since the last Conservative Government, is it not time he recognised that the only thing the Conservatives can do for Wales is to resign from Government?

Mr. Peter Thomas

It is about time that the hon. Gentleman realised precisely what responsibility he has for the situation in Wales. He was a member of a Government which abandoned the 2½to 4½ per cent. plan in their White Paper for the containment of wage rises—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer!"] He was a member of a Government which deliberately created inflation as part of the run-up to the General Election, and he was a member of a Government which deliberately discouraged investment by penal taxation. Far from trying to make political capital out of the difficulties in Wales, he should go round to his constituents and apologise.

Mr. Gower

In addition to what my right hon. and learned Friend has said, does it not ill behove the hon. Gentleman to make such remarks since the policies of the Government of which he was a member, including devaluation, led to a decline in employment in Wales?

Mr. Peter Thomas

From 1966 onwards unemployment in Wales rose sharply. In the six months from June, 1966, it doubled.

Mr. George Thomas

Is the Secretary of State aware—he does not appear to be—that since he assumed responsibility for Welsh affairs unemployment has increased in the Principality by nearly 30 per cent.? Is he aware that there are over 11,000 more people looking for jobs in Wales? Does it not ill-become him to make petty points at the Dispatch Box when he ought to be looking again at the question of investment grants, bearing in mind that the job expectancy in Wales to which my hon. Friend referred is half what it was a year ago?

Mr. Peter Thomas

What I am aware of is that throughout the period when the right hon. Gentleman was Secretary of State unemployment in Wales topped the 40,000 mark every year.

Mr. George Thomas

Is the Secretary of State aware that he has a grave responsibility to the Welsh people and that it is about time he took responsibility for the grave and serious increase in unemployment in Wales since last June? Surely he accept responsibility for the Government's change of investment grant policy?

Mr. Peter Thomas

I accept responsibility for that. I am also fully aware that I had a very harsh inheritance when I took over as Secretary of State.