§ 1. Mr. Ioan Evans
asked the Secretary of State for Wales what are the latest unemployment figures expressed numerically and as a percentage in Aberdare, mid-Glamorgan and Wales; and how they compare with those for May 1979.
§ The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Nicholas Edwards)
On 13 January 1983, unemployed claimants in Wales totalled 180,664 or 17.5 per cent., in mid-Glamorgan; 34,102 or 17.0 per cent., and in Aberdare 4,021 or 18.3 per cent. In May 1979, unemployed claimants totalled 77,177 or 7.0 per cent. Comparative figures on this basis are not available for Aberdare and mid-Glamorgan, but in May 1979 unemployed registrants totalled 1,961 or 8.9 per cent. and 15,471 or 8.2 per cent. respectively.
§ Mr. Evans
In view of the massive increase in unemployment—the real figure today is perhaps more than 200,000—will the Secretary of State re-examine those areas that have lost their special development area status? Does he agree that, in my constituency, where there has been a massive increase in unemployment, restoration of special development area status would help the National Coal Board to give the pilot scheme to the phurnacite plant? Will the Secretary of State examine that urgently?
§ Mr. Edwards
The hon. Gentleman will realise that a major review of that type might lead to upgradings in areas other than Wales, which might damage Wales. The fact that we have such a massive factory building programme and are attracting so many new allocations shows that present policies are benefiting Wales. Although the hon. Gentleman did not say so, I am sure that he will welcome the National Coal Board's decision to go ahead with the Ancit development in his constituency for which he has pressed so often and for so long.
§ Mr. Wigley
Does the Secretary of State agree that the fact that 36 unemployed people are chasing every job in Wales shows that the Government's employment policy has sunk to rock bottom and that there must be a change of policy if we are to see better times?
§ Mr. Edwards
Of course I share the hon. Gentleman's worry. That is why we have such a massive programme 612 of special measures. We are spending about £1½ billion on special measures in Britain during 1982–83. In the light of the problem that the hon. Gentleman has described, I am sure that he will recognise the importance of the new youth training scheme, on which we plan to spend nearly £1 billion next year.
§ Sir Raymond Gower
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the evil of unemployment is affecting centralised states such as France, and devolved ones and even small independent states such as southern Ireland equally and greatly? Does that not show the immensity of this international problem and evil?
§ Mr. Edwards
Everyone recognises that unemployment is a major international problem that has got worse and is getting worse in many countries. I am sure that my hon. Friend will welcome the fact that some of the indicators, not only in Britain but in the United States and elsewhere, show signs of growing optimism for the rest of the year.
§ Mr. Alec Jones
Although most of us accept that unemployment is a major international problem, why is it so much worse here than anywhere else? Why is it that countries that have fewer advantages than we are better off? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the greatest tragedy in the figures that he gave is for school leavers and that there are 321 unemployed school leavers in Aberdare, 2,000-odd in mid-Glamorgan and nearly 8,000 in Wales as a whole? What hope of a permanent job can he offer those young people?
§ Mr. Edwards
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that many of those school leavers are getting jobs and/or training under the programmes that we have announced. A high proportion of them are getting jobs in the time scale that was laid down by the Manpower Services Commission. I am sure that he will especially welcome the new youth training scheme and all the opportunities that it provides for the proper training of our work force. That must be one way in which to improve our competitiveness the lack of which is, perhaps, the essential reason for our loss of many markets and the fact that our position is worse than that of some other industrial countries.