HC Deb 15 June 1981 vol 6 cc713-5
3. Mr. Barry Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is the number of people out of work in Wales; what is the increase in the number of jobless since May 1979; and if he will make a statement.

14. Mr. Hudson Davies

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is the total number of unemployed persons in Wales; and what is the percentage increase in the numbers unemployed in Wales between May 1979 and May 1980 and between May 1980 and May 1981.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

On 14 May 1981, registered unemployment stood at 148,722, an increase of 65,698 over the total at May 1979. Between May 1979 and May 1980 and between May 1980 and May 1981, levels of unemployment increased by 16.9 per cent. and 53.3 per cent. respectively. Taking the period as a whole, the increase was 79.1 per cent.

Mr. Jones

Can the right hon. Gentleman yet give us any news about the Nissan-Datsun project? Can he assure us that it will come to Wales? Is he aware that 7,854 Deeside citizens are now out of work, some 40 advance factories are empty and an army of young people are leaving school next month? What hope is there of work for the people on Deeside?

Mr. Edwards

The Nissan company has said that it will probably announce its general intention as to the investment, although not necessarily the site chosen, by the end of July. I cannot give any further information about the project. I understand the difficult situation on Deeside. I was therefore pleased that Mr. Cotterill, the local director, could speak of record output at Shotton and a full order book. I am also glad to tell the House that Metal Improvement Company Inc. is occupying a 45,000 sq. ft. factory at the Deeside industrial park to make products relating to the A310 airbus.

Mr. Hudson Davies

Is the Secretary of State aware that the figures that he has given represent a deplorable record of a worsening situation? On a more intimate level, will he concede that, for the 28,603 unemployed in Mid-Glamorgan, the number of jobs available in the same area was 505, which means that only one in 56 has any hope of finding a job? On an even more intimate level, does he further agree that in Rhymney Valley and Caerphilly only one in 80 would have any hope of finding a job? How does he reconcile that with his assertion that Wales has come well through the recession?

Mr. Edwards

I do not wish in any way to understate the difficulties. Nevertheless, in Mid-Glamorgan, as elsewhere, the number of factory allocations has risen, there is a considerable number of inquiries and there are advance factories ready. In the hon. Gentleman's own locality, which he cited, some companies are doing extremely well. A Pengam based company, Morris Cohen (Underwear) Limited, has just taken additional factory space from the Welsh Development Agency, as it intends almost to double the number that it employs.

Sir Anthony Meyer

How many existing jobs would be at risk and how many potential jobs would be lost if the Labour Party were ever in a position to carry out its threat to withdraw from the EEC, to which 42 per cent. of British exports now go?

Mr. Edwards

It would be a total disaster for inward investment in Wales. Most overseas companies would clearly no longer be interested in setting up their plants in Wales. There is the added threat in the Labour Party's programme that, whenever a grant for regional policy assistance is given, it would insist upon a compulsory shareholding in the company. I cannot think of a more disasterous proposal for the future of regional policy in Wales.

Mr. Geraint Howells

In view of the seriousness of unemployment in many parts of Wales, has the Secretary of State any encouraging news to give to school leavers in Wales this summer?

Mr. Edwards

I have tried to paint a balanced picture of a serious problem, in which, in the middle of a recession and a time when on past experience regional policy would not be expected to have much effect, we are none the less allocating almost a record number of new factories, the number of new jobs coming into being is very large and there has been a huge upsurge during the first part of this year in the number of inquiries to the small firms service, which is of particular significance in a constituency such as the hon. Gentleman's.

Mr. Anderson

Whenever I and my colleagues from Mid-Glamorgan have seen the Secretary of State about reassessment of our regional development status, we have been told that the situation is being monitored and, in effect, that unemployment would have to become worse. Is not it now clear that unemployment is getting worse as certainly as night follows day, to quote the Chief Secretary to the Treasury? When, therefore, may we expect a reassessment of our regional development status?

Mr. Edwards

We have said that we are keeping the situation under review. There is no doubt that there is a serious problem in that part of the country, but there is also, I am sorry to say, a serious problem in other parts of the United Kingdom. We cannot look at a particular travel-to-work area in isolation. If the area were upgraded, there would be a much larger number of upgradings in England, which might not be to the benefit of Wales.

Mr. Best

Is not it particularly significant that, whenever there are questions to the Secretary of State for Wales, Labour Member home in on the unemployment statistics? When will they wake up to some of the good things that are happening in Wales? Will my right hon. Friend publish the number of jobs being created in Wales, the number of advance factories being let and the upturn of confidence in Wales? Finally, does he agree that everything that has been said so far by Labour Members will do nothing but create further gloom in Wales and further depress business confidence when that is the opposite of the reality?

Mr. Edwards

I have been publicising those very figures. I also intend to publicise the huge burden of additional cost which "Labour's Programme for Wales" would place upon industry and the particularly disastrous proposal which would ditch regional policy in Britain, including Wales.

Dr. Roger Thomas

Will the Minister, in the light of the irridescent optimism displayed by his speech at Llandrindod Wells, cast caution to the winds and say by how many thousands he expects unemployment in Wales to have fallen when the next figures are announced?

Mr. Edwards

I have always made it absolutely clear that I expect the present rise in unemployment to continue for a period. All the history shows that that is the likely pattern of events. But Wales is particularly well placed, with its attractive infrastructure and good industrial relations, to be ready when the upturn comes. If the hon. Member would say more about the splendid industrial relations performance in many companies in Wales, he would do more good for his country than he does by the sort of comments that he makes.