HC Deb 11 April 1983 vol 40 cc535-6
7. Mr. Ray Powell

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what are the total numbers of jobs lost in each of the coal, steel and manufacturing industries in Wales since May 1979.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

I am informed that manpower on the National Coal Board's colliery books is estimated to have reduced by some 4,500 from April 1979 to February 1983 and that employment in both BSC and the private steel sector fell by approximately 32,700 in broadly the same period. It is estimated that the numbers in employment in the manufacturing industries fell by 92,000 in the period June 1979 to September 1982. This figure takes no account of the self-employed.

Mr. Powell

In view of the figures that the Secretary of State has announced of the total number of redundancies since the Conservative Government took office, will he tell the House and Wales—although he is not prepared to forecast—whether there is any chance of a recovery to the 1979 position? In reply to a previous question the right hon. Gentleman said that 38,000 jobs were being or had been created, but the figures that he has just announced show that Wales has lost about 120,000 jobs. When does he envisage an end to the present unemployment in Wales?

Mr. Edwards

I stated two contrasting facts. During the recession, the Government have introduced a record number of new factories to Wales. Although the Opposition advocate massive reflation, the French Government, who have followed such a policy, are now introducing unparalleled austerity measures and a cutback in growth.

Mr. Wigley

Does the Secretary of State accept that at a time of such high unemployment it is crazy to close coal mines when coal can be mined and to pay miners to do nothing rather than pay them to mine coal? Surely it is better to maximise employment in the coal industry at a time of high unemployment.

Mr. Edwards

It is right to maximise employment in the most productive pits. It is not a sensible policy for the coal industry to devote disproportionate amounts of limited resources to loss-making pits rather than to new investment and the creation of jobs for the future. The Government must tackle many problems today because that course of action was followed so often in the past:.

Sir Anthony Meyer

Distressing as are these job losses in the nationalised industries, do not the vast losses that are still being incurred by those industries represent an outpouring of public money that could save many more jobs if it were channelled into more productive areas, such as profitable pits and tourism, which are capable of great expansion?

Mr. Edwards

The figures that I gave for manufacturing industries did not include figures for some of the sectors to which my hon. Friend has referred. Much of the talk about losses in the coal industry comes ill from the Opposition, because during the period 1964 to 1970 there were 18,000 job losses in the coal industry in Wales.

Mr. Barry Jones

Does the Secretary of State agree that there are nearly 170,00 Welsh people out of work?

Mr. Edwards


Mr. Rowlands

What is the right hon. Gentleman going to do about it?