HC Deb 28 July 1980 vol 989 cc1031-3
10. Mr. Rowlands

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what estimate his Department has made of the number of firms and employees at present on short-time working in Wales.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

It is estimated that at 30 June 1980, just over 19,000 workers were being supported under the temporary short-time working compensation scheme.

Mr. Rowlands

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that that might not include large numbers of work people who are expected to take additional unpaid holidays because of the absence of orders? Will not the right hon. Gentleman go down in the record book not only as the Secretary of State who has served in office during the highest level of unemployment since the 1930s, but also as the Secretary of State who was responsible for the greatest number of people on a three-day working week since 1973, when we last had a Conservative Secretary of State for Wales?

Mr. Edwards

Clearly, if firms have not applied for the temporary short-time working compensation scheme but are using other methods at present, those figures will not be included. What Wales is now suffering from are the consequences of a worldwide recession and the necessity to move away from the high inflation rates that were unleashed by the policies of previous Governments, including the Government of which the hon. Gentleman was a member.

Mr. Barry Jones

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in my constituency 1,300 textile workers are going on short time, as are 3,000 steel workers, because it appears that the Government refuse to peg the strong pound, thus undermining the export trade of those industries? Can he give any news of a major job project for a black spot such as my own in order to create new jobs? Will he also give the undertaking that he does not expect any young people or families in my constituency to leave their homes in order to find work elsewhere?

Mr. Edwards

I have made it quite clear that we do not advocate general large-scale migration as a solution to the problem, although there will have to be mobility of labour in the hon. Gentleman's constituency as elsewhere. I do not think that his other points arise from a question about the temporary short-time working compensation scheme.

Mr. Wigley

When this scheme comes to an end, the many thousands on short-time working are likely to be on the dole, along with 117,000 others. In view of that, will the right hon. Gentleman consider the estimate given by the Welsh Office to the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs of a peak unemployment rate of 125,000? What is his latest estimate of the likely unemployment rate in Wales?

Mr. Edwards

I have never made unemployment forecasts, and I do not propose to do so now.

Mr. Alan Williams

The right hon. Gentleman is wise to take that position. However, does he realise the importance of the figures that he has just given? In addition to the post-war record of 116,800 fully unemployed, there are now 19,000 partially unemployed. Is not it a fact that unless urgent action is taken on interest rates and sterling, most of those 19,000 people will finish up in the hopelessness of a Welsh dole queue? When about 15,000 unregistered unemployed or people on short-time working are added, do not the figures show that more than 150,000 Welsh workers are already feeling the poisonous bite of the Government's economic policies, with the coal and steel redundancies still to be added?

Mr. Edwards

We know that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have always been loth to follow consistent policies for the good of our economy. It is clear that if we are to get interest rates down and produce the economic conditions for new investment and the creation of new jobs, we must persist with the Government's strategy. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman thinks that reducing interest rates is one of the highest priorities; I therefore hope that he will support the policies that will make that possible.