HC Deb 07 March 1983 vol 38 cc549-51
6. Mr. Wardell

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what was the rate of increase between January 1980 and January 1983 in the number of persons unemployed for more than 52 weeks in (a) Wales and (b) west Glamorgan.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

Between January 1980 and October 1982 registrants unemployed for more than 52 weeks increased by 197.7 per cent. and 266.8 per cent. in Wales and west Glamorgan respectively. Between October 1982 and January 1983 unemployed claimants in the same category increased by 9 and 7.9 per cent. respectively.

Mr. Wardell

In view of those deeply disturbing figures for a group of unemployed people who do not qualify for the long-term rate of supplementary benefit. and which emphasise the chronic nature of unemployment in west Glamorgan, will the Secretary of State now take steps to designate the whole of the county as a special development area?

Mr. Edwards

I share the hon. Gentleman's concern about the unemployment figures, but the relative unemployment figures in west Glamorgan do not support his case. One can be glad that the initiatives that we are taking—the enterprise zone and the new urban development programme for Swansea—are already giving evidence that they will attract new job prospects to the area.

Sir Raymond Gower

As Governments of the Left and of the Right in all parts of the world are having limited success in their efforts to defeat unemployment, is there not a desperate need for much more international action to ensure a growth of trade and to avoid protectionism, which is a menace to the world?

Mr. Edwards

I certainly share my hon. Friend's view that we must resist the siren voices that call for protectionism. In my travels around the world I notice that job creation activities have been most successful in areas where the free enterprise economy is at its strongest and where controls and constraints are fewest. The area around Greater Boston is an example of the enormous job-creating potential shown by the new industries, which are just the types of industries that we are seeking to attract to Wales.

Mr. Alan Williams

On the basis of the figures that he has just given does the Secretary of State not realise that, whereas in Wales there has been a tragic trebling of the number of people who have been out of work for more than a year, in west Glamorgan there has been almost a quadrupling of that number? On the basis of these figures, how does the right hon. Gentleman justify not only withholding the special development area status for which my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Wardell) asked, but actually removing most of the assisted area status that west Glamorgan enjoyed?

Mr. Edwards

The right hon. Gentleman will know that we set out our reasons for the changes in regional policy when we last reviewed the matter. We had to take account of a wide range of factors, of which the relative position of particular areas is one. The right hon. Gentleman cannot suggest that we are not taking energetic action to improve the environment in the area. As recently as March last month I announced £2 million of urban development grant expenditure, which will transform Swansea both as an area in which to live and for tourism and industrial development.

Mr. Coleman

Are not the figures that have been given to my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Wardell) yet another reminder of how the Government's policies are the cause of such grievous unemployment in south Wales? Is it not time that the electors of south Wales were given the same opportunity to repudiate such policies as was given to the electors of New South Wales so effectively last week?

Mr. Edwards

When the opportunity to decide these matters is taken, I have no doubt that the electors will make their views plain. I will be happy to put before them the record of this Government in tackling the grievous problems that we inherited. I will remind them that every Labour Government since the war have left unemployment higher when they departed from office than it was when they came in.