HC Deb 15 June 1981 vol 6 cc711-2
1. Mr. Ioan Evans

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is the latest figure available for the number of people unemployed in Wales, Mid-Glamorgan and Aberdare; and what percentage these figures represent of the working population.

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

On 14 May 1981, there were 148,722 persons unemployed in Wales, 28,603 in Mid-Glamorgan and 3,451 in Aberdare; the equivalent of percentage rates of unemployment of 13.7 per cent., 14.8 per cent. and 15.8 per cent. respectively.

Mr. Evans

How could the Secretary of State say at the weekend that Wales has come through the recession remarkably well when it has suffered more from unemployment that any other region in the United Kingdom, apart from the North, as the figures that he has just given show? Is he aware that this Government's policies have deliberately increased unemployment, so that it is far worse than in any other country in Europe?

Mr. Edwards

I entirely repudiate the suggestion that the Government's policies have created the situation. Unemployment has risen under successive Governments. Competitiveness and the ability to produce goods are what is important. In my speech, I pointed out that other areas had seen numbers of jobs deteriorate faster. The Welsh share of United Kingdom unemployment has fallen from 6.3 per cent to 5.8 per cent. In view of our severe steel redundancies, it is clear that the other industrial sectors in Wales have stood up remarkably well.

Sir Raymond Gower

I support and applaud the Government's initiative in retraining, the massive building of new factories and the administrative and budgetary changes to help small companies, and thus deal with unemployment, but will my right hon. Friend and his Cabinet colleagues remember, in their anxiety to help new small companies, not to neglect the interests and needs of older small companies, which are facing difficulties?

Mr. Edwards

Indeed. A prime objective of the Government's policy has been to reduce public borrowing, and thus interest rates, and to create a situation in which the burden of taxation can also be reduced.

Mr. Wigley

Is not the time ripe for a major capital investment programme, so that we can pay people to work on many much-needed projects, such as building new houses and roads in Wales, instead of leaving them rotting on the dole?

Mr. Edwards

The trouble is that all programmes have to be paid for, but we have a substantial public expenditure and construction programme in Wales at present, which is by far the largest programme of site preparation, factory building and road construction so far undertaken in the Principality.

Mr. Hooson

To complete the record, by how much did unemployment increase in Wales, Mid-Glamorgan and Aberdare under the previous Government?

Mr. Edwards

Unemployment more than doubled under the previous Government, and trebled in the constituency of the present Leader of the Opposition, when he was Secretary of State for Employment.

Mr. Alec Jones

How can the Secretary of State reconcile the figures that he gave and the fact that most knowledgable people in Wales expect unemployment to be worse by the end of the year with his statement at the weekend that Wales has come through the recession remarkably well? On what evidence did he base his statement, or was it merely based on optimism and ignorance?

Mr. Edwards

I based my statement on the facts. The position in Wales has not deteriorated as fast as that in the United Kingdom as a whole. In the previous year, we allocated almost a record amount of new factory space in Wales. In the first five months of this year the number of formal applications was up on the same period last year, as was the number of inquiries and applications for selective financial assistance. Taken with the major package of expenditure on infra-structure, those factors hold out hope for the future. I am happy to be able to say, for example, that Alpha Electrostatic Flocking Ltd announced today that it is setting up a new factory in Bridgend on the Kenfig industrial estate; that is only one of many new companies that are coming into being.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. This matter comes up again.

Mr. Ioan Evans

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

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