HC Deb 11 April 1983 vol 40 cc531-2
1. Mr. Ioan Evans

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what are the latest unemployment figures for Aberdare, mid-Glamorgan and Wales; and what percentage these are of the working population.

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

On 10 March 1983 the numbers of claimants unemployed were 3,874, 33,141 and 175,816, respectively, giving unemployment rates of 17.7 per cent., 16.4 per cent. and 17.1 per cent.

Mr. Evans

How does the Secretary of State justify the worsening living standards of the hundreds of thousands of unemployed people in Wales when at the same time the Government are giving the new chairman of the National Coal Board a salary of £50,000—which is understandable—and putting £500,000 each year for the next three years in a New York bank? Will he ensure that the capacity of the coal industry in Wales is not cut in the next few months, as has happened in the steel industry in the past three or four years?

Mr. Edwards

I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman, almost as much as any other hon. Member, would believe it right to obtain the best possible management for the coal industry. Mr. MacGregor has clearly displayed a high degree of competence in every sector in which he has been involved. I am sure that he will bring the necessary skills to the management of the coal industry.

Mr. Geraint Howells

I am sure that the Secretary of State is not proud of the Government's record as it affects some of the towns in west Wales where unemployment today is 30 per cent. Therefore, what plans does he have to help them in future?

Mr. Edwards

Clearly we cannot be satisfied with high unemployment, even although it is increasingly matched in other countries. However, I believe that the Government have laid the foundations for economic recovery. All the indicators now show an upturn in the economy, both here and in the United States. I am sure that it is right to build on the foundations that have been laid rather than to throw away the progress that has been made.

Sir Anthony Meyer

In view of the report at the weekend that the Under-Secretary of State for Industry, my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Coventry, South-West (Mr. Butcher), is to have special responsibility for the midlands, will my right hon. Friend assure the House that there will be no change in the Government's policies on regional aid for Wales?

Mr. Edwards

I assure my hon. Friend that this appointment within the Department of Industry does not represent any change in regional policy. It is based on the belief that in a critical area to the British economy, where unemployment is very high, particular attention should be given to the need to ensure that every advantage is taken of the wide range of measures that already exist to produce improved industrial performance in that area.

Mr. John Morris

Will the Secretary of State answer one simple question: when does he expect unemployment in Wales to come down?

Mr. Edwards

Like the right hon. Gentleman in his time as Secretary of State, I have never made forecasts about unemployment, and I do not intend to start now.

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