HC Deb 03 July 1978 vol 953 cc3-8
3. Mr. Michael Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has received about the number of people unemployed in the Cardiff area.

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

As I informed the hon. Member on 3rd April, my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Jones) received a deputation led by the Lord Mayor last November, and my Department has continued to keep in close touch with the local authorities. Several correspondents have also referred to this matter.

Mr. Roberts

Does the Secretary of State accept the view of the Cardiff Chamber of Commerce that the disastrous decline in industrial jobs in Cardiff would best be reversed by small, labour-intensive units? Does he consider that the hope of reward in the form of tax cuts is essential to attract the entrepreneurs, including recently compensated redundant steel workers, into new businesses to create jobs for Cardiff?

Mr. Morris

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would be the first to welcome the enormous amount of money—£13 million—that the Government have made available to meet the results of the steel closures which have been accelerated. As regards tax cuts, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the last Budget, offered a great deal of assistance to small businesses. I am sure that that will have an effect.

Mr. Roderick

Has my right hon. and learned Friend made an estimate of the additional numbers who would become unemployed in Cardiff and in Wales generally should the Tory Party's proposals for cuts in public expenditure be carried?

Mr. Morris

It is not possible to make such an estimate. As I understand it, there is a fierce argument going on inside the Shadow Cabinet between the axe-men and those who are likely to be axed. The public expenditure cuts for which the Tory Party is looking seem to range from £2,500 million to £4,000 million. In any of these contingencies Wales, which is so dependent on public expenditure, would undoubtedly suffer terribly if we had the misfortune of a Tory Government.

Mr. Grist

Is the Secretary of State aware of the grave imbalance in Cardiff between the service and manufacturing sectors in employment? Will he take account of the fact that there is agreement between the Labour and Conservative Parties over the need for the movement of the Ministry of Defence to Cardiff, which is in contrast to the attitude taken by Plaid Cymru?

Mr. Morris

I find it difficult to understand how anyone who cares for the future of Cardiff and who is aware of the need to provide more employment could oppose the decentralisation of Government Departments to Wales. We have a very good record in this respect with regard to Swansea, Cardiff and Newport. Both directly and indirectly, this proposal will prove to be a great help to the Cardiff area.

Mr. Geraint Howells

Is the Secretary of State aware that the unemployment figure in Mid-Wales is very high indeed—

Mr. Speaker

Order. This Question is to do with the Cardiff area.

Mr. Wigley

Will the Secretary of State confirm that, by virtue of being the capital city of Wales, Cardiff has disproportionately more jobs in the Civil Service, in Government Departments and in the private sector than a city of similar size in the provinces of England? Will he therefore agree that, by creating more jobs, the Welsh Assembly will be for the benefit of the people of Cardiff?

Mr. Morris

We need to bring more jobs to Cardiff generally, whether by way of Government dispersal, by way of Government assistance to meet the cost of steel plant closures, by development of the surrounding areas of Llantrisant or by the siting of Ford at Bridgend, within 20 miles of the city of Cardiff. In all of these ways we must continue the drive to ensure that there is an improvement in the job potential of Cardiff.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

The Secretary of State spoke of a bracket of £2,500 million to £4,000 million of possible public expenditure cuts. Since that was almost exactly the bracket which covered his own Government's public expenditure cuts, forced on them by the IMF, may I ask him to tell us what effect those cuts had on unemployment in Wales?

Mr. Morris

The unemployment figures in Wales are well known. If the hon. Gentleman will confirm that the activity now going on in the Shadow Cabinet means that it is trying to discover further public expenditure cuts, he should put a figure to this so that we know where we stand.

4. Mr. Wyn Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what are the latest figures for (a) males, (b) females and (c) school leavers unemployed in Wales.

Mr. John Morris

This June there were 60,633 men and 25,901 women, totalling 86,534 unemployed in Wales. These figures include 6,307 school leavers.

Mr. Roberts

Now that the Government have agreed, after a great deal of vacillation, not to impose the 2½ per cent. increase in the employers' national insurance contribution, may I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to have a look at other deterrents to employment such as the Employment Protection Act? If he does not believe me when I say that that Act is a deterrent, may I ask him to consult employers?

Mr. Morris

The hon. Gentleman will have read some of the articles which have recently been written concerning the effect of the Employment Protection Act, showing that it has no significant effect upon the provision of jobs. I am sure that one of the greatest deterrents acting upon those who want to come to Wales is the fear that there may be a Tory Government who will want to impose cuts in the industrial assistance that we are giving and who will want to reduce the assistance that we are giving to job creation. People are also frightened that any chance of building the A55 in North Wales would disappear over the horizon if the Tory Party came into office.

Mr. Roy Hughes

I appreciate that the problem of unemployment among school leavers is serious, but may I ask whether my right hon. and learned Friend has been able to work out any estimate of how this figure would increase if the Conservative Party's public expenditure proposals were implemented?

Mr. Morris

That is not possible until the Tory Party manifesto sees the light of day and we know which side of the Shadow Cabinet has won. I want to know whether those who now occupy the Tory Front Bench are axemen or are liable to be axed. Then I would know what was likely to happen.

Mr. Geraint Howells

While appreciating the problems of Cardiff, Mr. Speaker, may I ask whether the Minister is aware of the number of school leavers in Mid-Wales and the corresponding unemployment figure? Is he satisfied that the financial resources of the Development Board for Rural Wales are great enough to ensure that it can stem depopulation and create jobs for young people in the future?

Mr. Morris

I am sure that the hon. Member welcomes the additional £700,000 which I announced last Wednesday for the Development Board for Rural Wales. It is up to the board to spend the money made available to it. If it were able to spend more, I would be most anxious to provide more money. Given the determination of the Manpower Services Commission and the resources provided to it and its area boards by the Government, I should like an indication from both sides of the House that the commission will be helped in its task of finding jobs or alternative occupations for young people this coming autumn.

Sir Raymond Gower

Since the right hon. and learned Gentleman seems to be anxious about the possibility of trouble arising from cuts in public expenditure by a Tory Government, may I ask him to recollect that when taxation was severely cut by a former Conservative Chancellor—Mr. Butler as he then was—it was followed by a decade of unparalleled prosperity?

Mr. Morris

The hon. Gentleman knows how little progress was made with the country's economy in those 13 wasted years. Will the hon. Gentleman help me? Will he give me some assurance before election day, whenever it comes, about which areas of public expenditure will suffer in Wales?

13. Sir Raymond Gower

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has received concerning the numbers of people unemployed within the county of South Glamorgan and in the town of Barry, respectively; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. John Morris

I have received several representations relating to unemployment in South Glamorgan but no separate representations about unemployment in Barry—save that the hon. Member has another Parliamentary Question down today.

Sir R. Gower

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that since the end of the last war the areas of South Glamorgan and the part around Barry have escaped the worst scourge of unemployment which has affected the valleys? Is he also aware that now, for the first time since the war, those areas are experiencing unemployment figures and problems comparable with the other areas? Will he take account of this fact when considering the allocation of grants and so on for Wales in the future?

Mr. Morris

Certainly. I am well aware of the problem, and the worsening of the problem, since the accelerated closure of East Moors. That is why I am sure the hon. Gentleman would be the first to welcome the additional moneys—£13 million—that have been made available for assisting the very areas with which he is concerned.