HC Deb 22 November 1982 vol 32 cc564-5
3. Mr. Barry Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what has been the total increase in unemployment in Wales, Clwyd and the Deeside travel-to-work area since May 1979; and if he will make a statement.

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

Between May 1979 and October 1982 the numbers unemployed increased by 102,062, 13,779 and 5,837 respectively.

Mr. Jones

Given the massive beating that the steel industry in Wales has taken in the past few years, what action is the Secretary of State taking to assist it? Does the right hon. Gentleman know that there are widespread fears in Wales about further steel redundancies? Is he prepared to meet tomorrow union and civic leaders who will be travelling from North Wales to the steel lobby to express their deep concern about the future?

Mr. Edwards

I am in close touch with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry and with the chairman of the BSC in considering the chairman's proposals. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already announced that he hopes to reach conclusions before Christmas.

Sir Anthony Meyer

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the vast sums needed to maintain crude steel production in the United Kingdom, even at its present reduced level, might be better employed in creating new jobs in which there is a better chance of competing with the rest of the world?

Mr. Edwards

It is worth recording that, due to the efforts made so far, not least by the work force, the major plants in Wales have a good chance of competing with the rest of the world. That is the best guarantee of their future.

Mr. Tom Ellis

Does the Secretary of State agree that for historic reasons private investment capital is not as readily available in Wales as it is in England and that, accordingly, public investment must play a greater role?

Mr. Edwards

In the past few years there has been substantial public investment. However, we must use it to trigger more private investment. That is one of the objects of the urban development grant scheme. I am gratified by the number of proposals that have been brought forward and I hope that that will attract significant additional private sector investment in Wales.

Mr. Alec Jones

As the unemployment figures have been massaged downwards, there are about 10,000 Welsh people who are still unemployed but who are no longer registered as such. Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the number employed in Wales has fallen by 125,000 since he took office, which means that fewer people are now employed in Wales than in any year since the war?

Mr. Edwards

I confirm that I have given figures on the historic basis and not in connection with the changes announced last week by the Secretary of State for Employment. I accept that during the severe recession there has been a significant fall in the number of those employed.