HC Deb 28 July 1980 vol 989 cc1017-20
1. Mr. Barry Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Wales by what amount unemployment has risen in Wales since 3 May 1979.

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Nicholas Edwards)

About 18,000, seasonally adjusted, or 34,000 unadjusted.

Mr. Jones

That is perhaps the most ominous statement that the right hon. Gentleman has so far made to Parliament. Does he know that 7,000 luckless steel workers and textile workers are now chasing fewer than 400 jobs in my constituency? Will he, therefore, take this opportunity to repudiate the now infamous Swansea speech of the Prime Minister in which the policy was promulgated that to solve our unemployment difficulties migration might be used as an instrument of policy? That truly enraged many people in Wales. Will the right hon. Gentleman give answers that give hope to our young people? Will he understand that an exodus for jobs undermines the dignity of labour? The Government must do better than this.

Mr. Edwards

My right hon. Friend, speaking at Swansea, never suggested that migration was the answer to the problems. I say here and now that it is not my policy nor the policy of the Government that the problems we face in Wales should be solved by large-scale migration out of Wales.

Mr. Anderson

What did she mean, then?

Mr. Edwards

I have in front of me the transcript of my right hon. Friend's words. I was sitting next to her when she spoke. She spoke about people's reluctance to move even comparatively small distances. She talked at length about the measures being taken by the Government to create new jobs in Wales, the money that we are spending on sites, the generous redundancy payments and the responsibilities of Government to encourage employment to come to Wales. I repudiate entirely the implications of the hon. Gentleman's question.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I appeal for shorter questions which will lead to shorter answers to questions.

Sir Anthony Meyer

Does not the security of employment of Wales in the future depend on people leaving jobs in obsolescent industries and moving into good jobs in new industries? Does my right hon. Friend consider that the resources available to the Welsh Development Agency to help provide new jobs are adequate to meet the present situation?

Mr. Edwards

The WDA is currently building, or starting to build, nearly 3½ million sq ft of factory space in this financial year. To enable it to provide even more resources, it is today announcing that it has secured an arrangement with Norwich Union Insurance for the injection of a further 5½ million in addition to the £3 million promised by the National Coal Board pension fund. That, together with the sale of other factories, will produce an additional £10 million of resources over the next two years.

Mr. Anderson

Last July the Secretary of State and his friends downgraded Swansea for regional development purposes. Since that time, the unemployment rate has risen to 10.1 per cent. and is deteriorating so it will certainly rise to 12 per cent. by next May. Does not this situation justify reconsideration of Swansea's regional development status?

Mr. Edwards

We made it clear when the last upgradings were announced that we would keep the position of Swansea under review. It has to be compared with similar unemployment problems elsewhere. As we are operating a regional policy that is based on consistency of treatment between different parts of the United Kingdom, Swansea must expect its problems to be examined in relation to similar problems in other parts of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Geraint Howells

In view of the serious unemployment in mid-Wales, to which areas of Wales does the Secretary of State advise school leavers to go to look for work?

Mr. Edwards

I am glad to say that there are opportunities, even in these difficult times. When I was asked a question earlier this year about the number of advance factories in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, five were unoccupied. I am glad to say that four of them were filled this year and we are building another six.

Mr. Hooson

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the appalling unemployment statistics owe a great deal to the previous Government's lack of foresight in tackling serious industrial problems that could have been handled more easily?

Mr. Edwards

Serious though the increase in unemployment is, it has risen less sharply since we came into government than in the first 12 months of the Labour Government's period in power. The then Prime Minister said simply and unequivocally: It is caused by paying ourselves more than the value of what we produce.

Mr. Alan Williams

Does the Secretary of State feel no shame whatsoever that he has pushed unemployment in Wales to the highest level since the 1930s, knowing that it is bound to go still higher? Does he realise that, according to an answer from his Department on Friday, 60,202 redundancies have been declared in Wales, the equivalent of 200 each working day since the Government came to office? Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the forecast by the Cambridge economic policy group that by 1983 unemployment in Wales will rise to 15 per cent., or 167,000? Is he truly proud of his role at the last election as the political Judas goat who led the people of Wales into this misery?

Mr. Edwards

The first priority, if we are to avoid even higher unemployment, is to defeat the inflation which to a considerable extent was unleashed by the previous Government's spending policies. The former Chancellor of the Exchequer said that if wage rises exceeded the 5 per cent. level asked by the previous Government, massively rising unemployment would be caused. The Opposition have helped to encourage such wage increases and we are now suffering the unemployment.

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