HC Deb 20 February 1978 vol 944 cc982-6
4. Mr. Wyn Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what further steps he intends to take to reduce unemployment in Wales.

Mr. John Morris

The Government will continue to pursue their present policies aimed at increasing economic activity and creating the conditions necessary for growth and additional employment. In this connection I have today approved the Development Board for Rural Wales' plans for erecting 13 advance factories in 1978–79.

Mr. Roberts

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the present unemployment figure of 93,000 in Wales would be about 20,000 higher were it not for the job creation and work experience programmes, that the situation we are now facing is the grimmest that we have faced for many years, and that the best thing that the right hon. and learned Gentleman can do is to advise the Chancellor of the Exchequer to lower taxation to provide an incentive for people to work and to provide work?

Mr. Morris

I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will take cognisance of the hon. Gentleman's advice in due course, but I cannot anticipate his Budget. With regard to the steps that have been taken, they do not amount to a totality of about 20,000 jobs. In all, 53,000 jobs in Wales have been saved—I know there are various components in this regard—as a direct result of Government measures. Since the hon. Gentleman is speaking for his party, I should have thought that he would have welcomed the announcement for Mid-Wales.

Mr. Hooson

Does the Secretary of State agree that, while the world economy is so sluggish, the outlook for large industries, both public and private, is bleak? The best chance of stimulating employment opportunities is by encouraging small businesses and small enterprises, and to give them confidence to employ more people. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman have a word with the Chancellor of the Exchequer to see whether this can be done in the Budget?

Mr. Morris

Certainly. In the course of the year my right hon. Friend has already responded to suggestions that small businesses should have help. He did so in the course of some of the measures that were taken last year. In addition, in the last year I have deliberately tilted towards small businesses approvals under the advance factory programmes.

Mr. Anderson

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that important as small businesses are to the Principality, and given the unlikelihood of major investment from the private sector, large and small, the biggest possible boost to solving our unemployment problem would be a substantial restoration of the public sector cuts but that if that happened it would be hotly contested by the Conservative Opposition?

Mr. Morris

We know the attitude of the Conservative Opposition with regard to the public sector in Wales. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to remind the House of it. In Wales the public sector plays a very important part in job provision.

Sir A. Meyer

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the Rhyl area in my constituency, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the whole of Wales, is excluded from the Welsh development area? Will he do something about making a sensible allocation of aid to Wales as a whole?

Mr. Morris

The hon. Gentleman knows that the allocation of development area status is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry. The hon. Gentleman has made that point from time to time, and I am fully aware of his representations.

Mr. Ioan Evans

Will my right hon. and learned Friend consider the suggestion made by the Heads of the Valley local authorities that we should consider a development corporation for the Heads of the Valley to work with the Welsh Development Agency or some similar body? At the same time, will he consider the memorandum submitted by the Wales TUC for positive proposals for dealing with structural unemployment, which may be with us for many years to come?

Mr. Morris

Structural unemployment is a general matter. With my colleagues I have studied, and shall continue to do so, the general points that have been made.

I do not think that a Heads of the Valley development corporation would be a right step in itself because the WDA has concentrated a great deal on the problems of the valleys. The amount of energy, enterprise and finance that has gone into the upper parts of the Gwent and Glamorgan valleys is an indication of the view that is taken by the WDA. I give it every encouragement to spend a great deal of its time and money in that part of Wales.

Mr. Wigley

Will the Secretary of State think again about the possibility of encouraging the WDA to give more aid to the Development Corporation for Wales? It has been increased since the WDA came into existence, but the corporation would like to extend its activities and to seize potential. The right hon. and learned Gentleman should look at this as a possibility.

Mr. Morris

I am in close contact with the development corporation. The WDA gives it a substantial allocation, which, as the hon. Gentleman has said has been increased. The corporation receives its funds from three sources, including local authorities and industry. All of that is welcome. I hope very much that, instead of having a whole host of people going out to sell Wales, local authorities will concentrate their subventions on the development corporation, because I believe that is the best way of doing it. The main problem is to get industry to Wales. One can fight after-wards about where in Wales it should go.

Mr. Corbett

Will my right hon. and learned Friend pay particular attention to the needs of small farms in view of the appalling weather conditions in South Wales? Will he assure the House that he will take urgent steps today to see what specific help can be given—using the Armed Forces if necessary—to rescue livestock, and indeed small farms, which are threatened? Will he ensure that some urgent action is taken?

Mr. Morris

I can assure my hon. Friend and the House that I am in constant touch with the situation. I was getting situation reports late last night. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Jones), is not present this afternoon because the Prime Minister has asked him to co-ordinate activity in Cardiff. He is giving me regular reports to ensure the necessary co-ordination, so that action with regard to small farmers and individuals who regrettably are detained in their homes, and unable to use hospital services, can be quickly and speedily considered.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

I proposed to ask your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, on a later Question to raise this point. May I specifically ask whether the Secretary of State can assure us that, where Service helicopters are used to rescue livestock, farmers will not be landed with prohibitive bills as a consequence but that the Government will look sympathetically at the whole question of the charges involved for the use of helicopters?

Mr. Morris

I am aware of this problem. All I can say at present is that it will be looked at urgently and speedily. What is important is to get on with the job of using, under most difficult conditions, whatever resources we have to ensure that human beings, and animals where necessary, are given every assistance.

Mr. Hooson


Mr. Speaker

As an exceptional measure, and in view of the exceptional conditions, I shall again call the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson).

Mr. Hooson

Will the Secretary of State make an early announcement about this, otherwise farmers may be tempted, for example, not to call in the helicopter service? I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman will find that in 1947 and 1963 some people did not call in helicopters, which might have helped their livestock, because they were afraid of the charges. It is important that a public announcement be made as early as possible.

Mr. Morris

I can assure the House that this problem was raised with me this morning by the Under-Secretary of State. It is right that hon. Members should raise it this afternoon. I am not aware of any cases that have arisen of people not availing themselves on financial grounds of whatever resources are available. The problem is to ensure that the resources are deployed to the maximum effect. This is a difficulty, but I can assure hon. Members that I shall look at the matter as speedily as possible.

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