HC Deb 20 December 1982 vol 34 cc655-6
5. Mr. Anderson

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many persons were in full-time employment in Wales in May 1979 and how many at the latest available date.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

Figures based on the census of employees in employment indicate 860,000 in June 1979 and 724,000 in June 1982, but other surveys suggest that these do not give a full picture of the employment situation.

Mr. Anderson

Surely those figures are on a comparable basis. Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that at the time when he assumed office in May 1979 the number of employees in employment in Wales was at an all-time high, whereas at present it is at an all-time low since records were begun on that basis in 1948?

Mr. Edwards

There is increasing evidence that the quarterly series is not giving a full picture of what is happening. The labour force survey and the 1981 census data suggest that the registration of new small businesses and the numbers of self-employed have not been recorded properly. It is clear that the unemployment figures and the numbers in employment tell the same story—that we are at present suffering severely from the recession.

Mr. Tom Ellis

As Wales has for too long been dependent on old, basic industries such as steel, coal and agriculture, what is the Secretary of State doing to persuade the Welsh Development Agency to undertake direct entrepreneurial activities to introduce new industry, particularly advanced technology industry, into Wales?

Mr. Edwards

I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman's basic assessment, and he will know that we have had considerable success in getting the new factories that we have been building occupied by some of the newer industries. That is important for the future. He will also know that under its former chairman the Welsh Development Agency started reviewing its strategy and that at one stage of its development it launched its new Hafren Investment Company. The new chairman, who has only just taken over, is obviously taking a fresh look at the strategy and is having detailed discussions about it with me.

Sir Anthony Meyer

Is my right hon. Friend aware that most of the people I meet in Wales want the Government to make much greater efforts than they are making to bring down unemployment? Is he also aware that those people have no confidence whatever in the policies put forward by either of the Opposition parties, because they will not bring down unemployment?

Mr. Edwards

Clearly, a policy based on a substantial devaluation and major expenditure programmes, without an adequate incomes policy, would lead to high inflation and, later, to high unemployment.

Mr. Barry Jones

Are not the figures that the right hon. Gentleman has given very disturbing for everyone who lives in Wales? Why is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to remain the chief apologist for the deindustrialisation of Wales?

Mr. Edwards

Of course the figures are disturbing, but to talk of deindustrialisation, bearing in mind that there has been an all-time record number of factory allocations and a rapid build-up of new business, shows a complete failure to understand what is happening. The hon. Gentleman need only look at the Deeside industrial estate to see that what he says is absolute nonsense.

Mr. Wigley

Does the Secretary of State accept that, whatever method of counting is used, the total number of people in employment in 1978, compared with the similar figure for 1982, shows a drop of about 60,000 to 70,000, and that that implies that those 60,000 to 70,000 people have either left Wales or have dropped out of economic activity? Should not that figure be added to the increase in unemployment since this Government came to office? Will he confirm that?

Mr. Edwards

Information arising from the labour force survey and the 1981 census leads us to think that there are probably about 800,000 people in employment in the United Kingdom as a whole who are not included in the figures based on the census of employees to which I referred. If a reasonable proportion of that number is applied to Wales—the kind of proportion that one generally gets in these matters—the gap is not that described by the hon. Member.

Mr. Alec Jones

Does the Secretary of State agree that a series of parliamentary answers and the statistics published by the Department of Employment show, first, that the number of people in employment in Wales rose by 30,000 comparing 1974 with 1979, and, secondly, that that figure has fallen by 145,000 since the right hon. Gentleman became responsible for Wales? Does that not show that he has succeeded in destroying more jobs in Wales than were created by 20 years of regional policies? Instead of listing the number of new jobs, will he publish a balance sheet showing how many jobs he has destroyed and how many jobs he has really created?

Mr. Edwards

I do not believe that the people of Wales are in the least impressed by statements such as the one just made by the right hon. Gentleman, who suggests that the present problems are entirely the result of policies of this Government, or have occurred regardless of the world recession, or of the disastrous policies that were pursued by previous Governments—which have destroyed our industrial competitiveness—or the increases in wage costs which the right hon. Gentleman encouraged and set in train.

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