HC Deb 21 June 1976 vol 913 cc1071-3
1. Mr. Wigley

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will draw up, publish and execute an economic development plan for Wales aimed at reducing unemployment and outward emigration, raising economic activity rates and personal average income levels, and providing an economic infrastructure of roads and services that facilitate the balanced development of the Welsh economy.

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. John Morris)

No, Sir. The Government's economic regional and related policies, which are well known, are all aimed at achieving the objectives referred to by the hon. Member.

Mr. Wigley

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that there will be considerable dismay in Wales at the fact that the Government not only do not have an economic plan but have no intention of preparing one? Is he aware that unemployment in Wales has risen from 3.2 per cent. in June 1974—the year the Government came to power—to more than 8.5 per cent. this year? Is he satisfied that in the absence of a plan the Government are having any impact on the economic problems of Wales?

Mr. Morris

There will be no such dismay. I received a report from the hon. Gentleman's party in March this year which was full of inaccuracies. I sought to rebuff them in a long and detailed reply. His party said there should be more emphasis on selective growth points, but did not disclose which parts of Wales should be written off—which is the other side of the coin. Plaid Cymru says there should be more investment in infrastructure and less on direct grants, yet I am chastised by the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas) for investing in prestige projects like the M4. I hope the hon. Member will tell his constituents in Gwynedd of the importance that I attach to building, in due course, the Bangor General Hospital and improving the A55.

Sir Raymond Gower

Leaving aside the merits or demerits of such a plan, does the Secretary of State agree that the economic position in Wales is appalling and that he cannot gainsay the figures of increased unemployment? Does he recall that when the unemployment figures were far lower he and his colleagues, in opposition, regaled the House with a mass of questions and called the then Conservative Government heartless and ineffective? Is not the record of his own Government grotesquely worse?

Mr. Morris

Unemployment is a major problem throughout the United Kingdom; it is not confined to Wales. Our major priority is to conquer inflation, because that is the best guarantee of securing employment and greater investment. It would be much better if the hon. Member supported our efforts instead of walking on the other side like the proverbial Levite.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

Is the Secretary of State not aware that we now have record unemployment and a record fall in industrial production? Is he aware that unemployment in Wales, which had improved notably in proportion to that in the rest of the United Kingdom, is now the worst outside Northern Ireland? Is he aware that, instead of making plans that have such disastrous consequences, he should get off the backs of individuals and allow them, through a system of incentive and reward, to get on with the job of reversing the disaster that he has caused?

Mr. Morris

I am not quite sure what the hon. Gentleman means when he talks about getting off the backs of individuals. He castigates the Government for the level of unemployment. I regard it as far too high and I want to use every possible means to bring it down. But while the hon. Gentleman attacks us for the level of unemployment, he then demands swingeing public expenditure cuts, which would make the position far worse.

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