§ 10. Sir A. Meyer
asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is the total number of unfilled vacancies notified in the Shotton area at the latest available date; and what is the corresponding figure for 12 months ago.
§ Mr. John Fraser
At July 1975 there were 45 unfilled vacancies at employment offices and 41 at careers offices in the Shotton travel-to-work area. The corresponding figures for July 1974 were 87 and 112. The figures relate only to vacancies notified to these offices and are not a measure of total vacancies.
§ Sir A. Meyer
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that these very disappointing figures could be very much worse if, despite the hopes held out by the Labour Party at two elections last year, the Government allowed the British Steel Corporation to go ahead with phasing out steelmaking at Shotton, in which case the effect on unemployment in the area would be bad enough, but does he realise that the outlook for school leavers in such an event would be well-nigh hopeless?
§ Mr. Fraser
I appreciate how much employment depends on iron and steelmaking, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will give full credit to the fact that closures have been deferred until 1980–81 and that this action has preserved 6,000 jobs. I do not think it is within my scope to make a statement about the steel industry which goes further than that.
§ Mr. Loyden
Is my hon. Friend aware that these figures will dramatically worsen in the event of any closure of Shotton or the reduction of steel-making there? Is he also aware of the effect on new jobs in the area, and that the closure of Shotton would have a direct effect upon the already intolerable position concerning unemployment in the Merseyside area 1488 in particular and the North-West in general?
§ Mr. Fraser
I appreciate the effect that it would have on unemployment. These are matters to be considered by my right hon. Friend, and because of the need to preserve and create jobs we are setting up other instruments like the Welsh Development Agency and the National Enterprise Board in order to deal with the matter.
§ Mr. Wigley
Is the Minister aware that, whereas there would be a significant effect on the Merseyside economy, the effect on the old county of Flintshire would be equivalent to as much as 40 per cent. of the economy of the county, and that it would be devastating on the new county of Clwyd, and significant on the new county of Gwynedd in North Wales? In these circumstances, and in the light of the astronomical unemployment figures announced last week for Wales, will the Minister give an assurance that there is no question whatever of a job reduction in the Shotton steelworks?
§ Mr. Fraser
I am not aware of any reduction. I have told the House that 6,000 jobs have been preserved until 1980–81. I am not wishing to be unresponsive, but I think that further matters of detail are for my right hon. Friend.