HC Deb 18 June 1979 vol 968 cc894-5
12. Mr. Denzil Davies

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is the likely effect of the Budget changes on the level of unemployment in Wales over the next 12 months.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

Unemployment levels in Wales depend on a number of factors, of which the Budget measures are only a part. I cannot give any forecast; but, as I told the House in the debate on Welsh affairs on 23 May, the underlying trends remain unfavourable and it will take time for our measures to produce an improvement.

Mr. Davies

I think that we can all agree that it will take a great deal of time for certain of the measures in the Budget to operate successfully. Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the latest Treasury paper that forecasts unemployment of 2 million in the United Kingdom? If he has not seen it, does that mean that the Welsh Office is not now on the Treasury's mailing list? If he has seen it, what is the corresponding level of unemployment in Wales as forecast by the paper?

Mr. Edwards

I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman, with his previous experience, should indulge in such speculation. He will be well aware that his Government refused to give unemployment forecasts of the sort that he is now asking me to give.

Mr. Alan Williams

In view of the Government's intention to cut £250 million off aid for industry and the Secretary of State's known aversion to aid for capital-intensive industry, will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether the project that I negotiated prior to the general election for £134 million-worth of investment in South Glamorgan is to be a casualty? The project was before the European Commission at the time of the election. Is that to be a casualty of the right hon. Gentleman's new cuts and prejudices?

Mr. Edwards

No decisions about future investment in industry of the sort to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred have been taken and, therefore, no projects immediately before us are affected.

Mr. Geraint Howells

The Secretary of State is well aware of the high level of unemployment in my constituency, especially in Cardigan, Lampeter and Llandyssul, where it varies between 15 per cent. and 17 per cent. In view of the many children leaving school at the end of the term, what plans has he to help the youth of Ceredigion and other parts of Wales to find work?

Mr. Edwards

All the Budget proposals are geared to stimulate the private sector and to encourage small businesses, which are so important to the area and to which the hon. Gentleman referred in an earlier question. It will take some time to undo the long-term damage that was inflicted by the policies of the previous Administration.

Mr. Alec Jones

It is clear that the right hon. Gentleman is extremely coy and reluctant to give any estimate of unemployment figures in Wales for the coming year. Does that mean that he has made no estimate or that he is ashamed of the figures that the estimates suggest?

Mr. Edwards

The previous Administration refused to give any unemployment estimates, which are notably and markedly unreliable. As I said in the Welsh affairs debate, all the information that I had on taking office was that the underlying trends left to me by the previous Administration indicated rising unemployment, which, with no policy changes, was likely sharply to increase later in the year.

Mr. Alec Jones

What is the estimate?