HC Deb 27 November 1972 vol 847 cc9-12
8. Mr. Rowlands

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many new jobs have been created to date in 1972 in Wales; how many jobs have been lost in this period; and what is his Depart- ment's estimate of the number of new jobs that will be created in 1973, 1974 and 1975.

Mr. Peter Thomas

Detailed information is not available in the form requested. Estimated manufacturing jobs in prospect in August this year were 16,300. Between March 1971 and March 1972 the number of employees in employment fell by 1,000. I have every confidence that employment in the Principality will prosper in the climate of economic expansion and European participation.

Mr. Rowlands

It is difficult to see on what basis the Secretary of State has any confidence in the future prospects, especially as he cannot give any firm estimates of the years ahead. What happened, for example, when he heard that 4,500 jobs would be lost in Ebbw Vale and what action has he taken since then to increase the possibility of job opportunities to make up the losses in the steel and other industries? Is not this a case of the Secretary of State whistling in the dark about future employment prospects in Wales?

Mr. Thomas

As to future prospects, the hon. Gentleman will know that there have been heartening successes recently to indicate the effects of the Government's policy. To take one example only, there was the announcement of a new £20 million rolling mill for Alcoa Manufacturing in Waunarlwydd. The hon. Gentleman can vouch for the success of the Government policies in his constituency. There are well over 1,000 jobs likely to arise in the Merthyr area, and unemployment has declined from 6.3 per cent. to 4.7 per cent. in the past three months. This is clear evidence of the success of our policies.

As for the other matter to which the hon. Gentleman referred, the Government are determined to provide alternative employment and the use of the full resources of the Industry Act, selective assistance and other measures should bring this about.

Mr. Gower

While not dissenting from the importance of and the concern about these matters, may I ask my right hon. and learned Friend to accept that the recent fall in unemployment in Wales and in Merthyr especially is a considerable encouragement to right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House?

Mr. Thomas

Of course it is. It always concerns me that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side do not show a certain amount of pleasure at the figures when they show a decline. It is relevant to point out that the seasonably adjusted rate for November is the lowest since June 1971.

Mr. Jeffrey Thomas

In view of that astounding answer, may I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether he is not aware that there are now 12,000 totally unemployed in Monmouthshire, a figure which represents a 6 per cent. increase in 12 months and a 35 per cent. escalation since 1970? Is not the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware further that there has been a drop of 66 per cent. in the number of vacancies in Monmouthshire? What action are he and his Government taking to bring new jobs to areas which are becoming desolated?

Mr. Peter Thomas

I am aware that there is an encouraging fall in the levels of unemployment. The further fall this month comes at a time when seasonal factors, on the evidence of past years, led us to expect an increase. There has been a considerable rise in the number of inquiries and visits, and vacancies in Wales are about 25 per cent. higher than they were a year ago.

27. Mr. Roderick

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will ask the Welsh Council to examine employment prospects in the Brynmawr area of Breconshire.

Mr. Peter Thomas

I am already keeping the situation in this area under careful review, and I see no need for a further study at present.

Mr. Roderick

Every Christmas we seem to have an announcement of gloom in this area. Last year we had the announcement of closure by RCA in Brynmawr, and now we have the BSC plans for Ebbw Vale. Will the Secretary of State go to Brynmawr and tell the people there that things are getting better, as he tries to tell us in the House, and will he reassure them that the prospect is not as bad as they tend to think it is?

Mr. Thomas

There are at least some 600 jobs in prospect in the travel-to-work area and two advance factories are being built, one in Ebbw Vale and one at New Tredegar. The Question relates to the study, and Brynmawr is part of the area covered by the study referred to in Question No. 26.