HC Deb 22 November 1982 vol 32 cc570-1
11. Mr. Roy Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is the latest figure of the number of people unemployed in Newport, Gwent; and what percentage of the working population in Newport this represents.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

As at 14 October 1982 a total of 13,821 were unemployed in the Newport travel-to-work area, representing 15.4 per cent. of the working population.

Mr. Hughes

Does the Secretary of State recall that not so long ago I was describing Newport as the workshop of Wales, but that now approximately 16 per cent. of its population are unemployed, largely as a result of the policies of this Government, whom he has so assiduously supported? Does his conscience tell him at times that he should resign or, as Max Boyce would put it, is it not time for him to put the tools on the bar?

Mr. Edwards

I note that despite the reductions in employment in the steel industry in the area, unemployment is well below the Welsh average. I also note that there are nearly 1 million sq. ft. of Welsh Development Agency premises in the wider travel-to-work area around Newport. I note also, with pleasure, that the Cwmbran development corporation's factories are being occupied almost as fast as it can build them. In fact, only planning problems with the county council means that more factories are not available. It shows that the area is attractive to incoming industry.

Mr. Grist

Would my right hon. Friend care to guess at the unemployment that might result in Newport from the massive increase in public expenditure espoused by the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Hughes) and his proposal that Britain should leave the European Economic Community?

Mr. Edwards

Leaving the EEC would immediately put a stop to inward investment like that in Mitel, which is to provide about 1,700 jobs in the area. If we had a 30 per cent. devaluation without an effective incomes policy there would be a massive and destructive increase in inflation. Anyone who imagines that there will be an effective incomes policy under a Labour Government can imagine anything.