HC Deb 24 May 1982 vol 24 cc635-7
9. Mr. Barry Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many unemployed persons there are at present in Wales; how many jobs are expected to be created in the next three years; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

In April 1982 unemployment in Wales totalled 171,349. It is not possible to estimate the number of jobs likely to arise in both the public and private sectors.

Mr. Jones

Does the Secretary of State recollect saying in a previous answer to me that approximately 13,000 jobs were in the pipeline? Would that not be a terrifying gap between the estimated new jobs and the number of people out of work? I remind the right hon. Gentleman that male unemployment in Flint is now edging again towards 40 per cent. Has he read recent newspaper reports that hopes of the Nissan project coming to the United Kingdom may now be fading because trade unions in Nissan are against it?

Mr. Edwards

I am afraid that I have no further information to give the hon. Gentleman about the Nissan project. He is understandably persistent in asking questions about the project at every Welsh Question Time. The position is exactly the same as it was when he last asked a question on the subject.

Sir Anthony Meyer

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is now disquieting evidence suggesting that the effective measures taken by the Government to combat unemployment throughout Wales are proving less effective in North-East Wales? Will he give special consideration to the problems that arise in that area as a result of steel closures?

Mr. Edwards

I am not sure that I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. A number of major new projects have come into the area, as I saw when I recently went round the Deeside industrial estate. In the last week or two there has been the important announcement by Gould UK Ltd. about expansion in Wrexham. As my hon. Friend knows, the area benefits from the highest level of financial assistance and from a number of parts of the regional and special employment packages that are not available elsewhere. He also knows that the area has exceptional road communications and probably an unequalled record of good industrial relations. Therefore, the longer-term prospects should be pretty good.

Mr. Ray Powell

Is the Secretary of State aware of the letter that the Welsh Development Agency sent to me in reply to a question that I asked him on 22 April 1982? Having replied to a question about the development of new units in Wales, can he explain why we have lost 13,000 jobs in WDA units, why we have 348 factories tenanted, 323 vacant and 137 still awaiting tenants?

Mr. Edwards

It is obvious that tenants of WDA factories will be affected by general economic factors, just as tenants of factories elsewhere in the United Kingdom are affected by them. It is not surprising that, during the period, jobs have been lost in existing factories. A considerable number of WDA factories are now vacant because we have carried out the largest programme of factory building ever undertaken in the Principality, and we have succeeded in getting those factories occupied at record levels. As I said in answer to an earlier question, last year's figures were an all-time record. In the first quarter of this year the number of allocations is very nearly double what it was last year.

Mr. Alec Jones

Why is it that the Secretary of State can tell us the number of Government factories, the area of factory space, the number of inquiries and some details of the new firms coming into the area, but cannot give the House full details of all the jobs created or in the pipeline through organisations such as the WDA and the DBRW? It is no good the Secretary of State hiding behind the argument of disproportionate cost when he can give selective figures but not the true figures. Why does he not give us the full story for Wales instead of half?

Mr. Edwards

In a recent letter I gave the right hon. Gentleman the total figures and a long list of the principal factories. If we are to consider every project for which financial assistance has been given and every unit, substantial costs will be involved. The WDA informed me that answering the question from the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell), to which he has just referred, and another question from the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas), took 100 man-hours.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

That is democracy.

Mr. Edwards

I believe that the WDA should use its time to create new jobs in Wales, not to provide unnecessary information.

Mr. Rowlands

How many man-hours does it take to produce the right hon. Gentleman's selective answers?

Mr. D. E. Thomas

How much does it cost to produce the speeches, the drivel, that the right hon. Gentleman turns out in this bloody House?

Mr. John Morris

Can the Secretary of State provide a simple——

Mr. Speaker

Order. Did I hear someone swearing? [Hon. Members: "Yes."] If so, I hope that the hon. Gentleman who made the observation will stand up and withdraw it.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

I most certainly withdraw it, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. John Morris

Can the Secretary of State provide a simple balance sheet of the total number of jobs lost in Wales since he took office and the number that have been created through his agencies?

Mr. Edwards

The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows the unemployment figures. He also knows that the jobs that will be created in the many projects that have been set up will come only after several years, as was the case when he answered such questions. I have just told him in a letter that the developments that we have carried out in the Llanwern and Port Talbot areas following the steel closures should provide up to 6,800 new jobs, 4,000 of which will be in the two travel-to-work areas. That is a significant attempt to deal with the problem.

Mr. Barry Jones

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. With regard to the reply that the Secretary of State gave to me about costs and the estimate of jobs in the pipeline, may I say that two months ago the right hon. Gentleman gave me——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman's argument is not with me. It is not a point of order.