HC Deb 28 July 1980 vol 989 cc1024-7
5. Mr. Ioan Evans

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what are the latest figures for unemployment in Wales; and how many unemployed are under 25 years of age.

7. Mr. Coleman

asked the Secretary of State for Wales, what is the latest level of youth unemployment in Wales.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

Total unemployment was 116, 839 on 10 July 1980. No age analysis is yet available, but the number of school leavers included in the total was just over 19,000.

Mr. Evans

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that young people in Wales have very few job opportunities at present? Will the Secretary of State ask the Prime Minister to withdraw her statement in Swansea that if people were not willing to move as their fathers did the economy could not thrive? It was offensive to the people of South Wales—when we remember that their uncles and relatives had to emigrate to England in the past in order to get jobs—to tell them that, once again, they must leave Wales to find jobs. Why do not the Government bring the jobs back to Wales?

Mr. Edwards

We are increasing resources to deal with the problems of young school leavers. In the speech referred to by the hon. Member, my right hon. Friend spoke of reallocating resources where needed to mitigate the hardship of the unemployed. She did not talk about large-scale migration. Indeed, she said that she recognised that it is the Government's job to try to mitigate the effects of change, to try to give people a chance and opportunity to take new jobs; some to move to them, some jobs to move to the people—all of them willing and able to adapt to the new technologies, the new products without which there can be no success for Wales or for Britain. Surely the hon. Gentleman cannot disagree with those wholly sensible sentiments.

Mr. Adley

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I have been told by British Rail that at the moment there are 10,000 unfilled job vacancies with the railways?

Mr. Evans

In Wales?

Mr. Adley

Yes, including a considerable number in Wales. Will my right hon. Friend, therefore, make sure that this information, assuming that we all consider British Rail to be a good employer, is available to those who are looking for work in Wales?

Mr. Edwards

Of course I shall ensure that the information is made available. Many job opportunities are available at any one time. Many people are moving into new jobs and a considerable proportion of school leavers who have joined the roll immediately on leaving school will get jobs in the coming months. Those who do not will be covered by the guarantee given by the Manpower Services Commission to provide them with a place under the youth opportunities programme.

Mr. Coleman

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that young people in Wales do not need any help from the hon. Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley)? We want jobs in Wales. Will the Secretary of State repudiate any thoughts or ideas of the Prime Minister about the migration of our people from Wales because this is an obscenity being perpetrated upon the young people of Wales? Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House how he feels about being a record breaker among Secretaries for Wales in relation to the present level of unemployment in Wales? Is he not ashamed of that?

Mr. Edwards

I am a record breaker in the amount of resources I am devoting to the task of creating new factories and new factory spaces in Wales. It must be self-evident, even to the hon. Gentleman, that if we create new factory locations people must be prepared to move, perhaps short distances, to work in them.

Mr. Rowlands

Now he has said it.

Sir Anthony Meyer

Is it not a fact that the way to safeguard jobs is to provide new jobs with a future and not to go on supporting jobs in industries which are, inevitably, obsolescent?

Mr. Edwards

There is no doubt that if we are to emerge from these problems, which affect not only Wales but the whole of the United Kingdom, we must be prepared to adapt to change and fill the jobs in the new growing industries. That must mean flexibility and a new approach to these problems. The Government have shown that they recognise that they have a major part to play in assisting the process of change.

Mr. Abse

When representatives of the Welsh Office appeared before the Select Committee in March, they declared that the Government's immediate and long-term objective was to stem the flow of outward migration. When did that policy change? Since we assume, as we must, that the Secretary of State was not attempting to deceive the Select Committee when he appeared before it and did not tell it of this major change of policy, was he told of the Prime Minister's speech? Or was the Secretary of State being treated with the contempt that is implied in other matters? Is he regarded as a dogsbody in that the Prime Minister does not even tell him when she is about to insult Wales as she did in her speech advocating migration?

Mr. Edwards

The hon. Gentleman is always very eloquent. It is a pity that before he attacks someone's speech he does not read what was said. If he did that his words might carry more conviction. More people came to live in Wales last year than left Wales.

Mr. Alan Williams

Does the Secretary of State realise that it is absolutely no good trying to wriggle and to withdraw the statements that we all know were made by the Prime Minister? Those statements were reiterated last week by the Secretary of State for Employment. Was the right hon. Gentleman consulted before the statement by the Secretary of State for Employment or the Prime Minister? If not, that fact confirms that the right hon. Gentleman is simply a makeweight in Cabinet. If the right hon. Gentleman was informed, and if the Prime Minister's speech is a confirmation of advice that he gave, he has absolutely no right to represent the people of Wales in Cabinet. The only thing he can do, with any honour, is to pack his bags and go.

Mr. Edwards

If, as I gather, the right hon. Gentleman seeks to argue that, in the face of major industrial change, there should not be some mobility, that says very little for the ability of our country to adapt to the changes that are taking place in the world. If we follow the right hon. Gentleman's advice we will not be able to compete in the world and we shall have even higher unemployment. Those are the policies he advocates.

Mr. Evans

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of that unsatisfactory reply I give notice that I intend to raise the matter on the Adjournment.