HC Deb 30 April 1984 vol 59 cc9-11
9. Mr. Barry Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many people are unemployed (unadjusted and inclusive of school leavers); how many were unemployed in May 1979; and by what percentage unemployment has increased since May 1979.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

In April 1984 there were 169,630 unemployed claimants in Wales. In May 1979 the estimated number of claimants was 77,177—an increase of 119.8 per cent.

Mr. Jones

Against the background of those grave and distressing figures, will the Secretary of State take this opportunity to tell the people of Deeside, 8,100 of whom are out of work, why the Nissan project was not located on Deeside, notwithstanding the fine efforts of the local authorities and trade unions to bring the project to Deeside, and other campaigns that sought to bring it to Wales? Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House that he would rather resign than see the Llanwern steelworks close? Bearing in mind that the Government are working on steel privatisation plans, is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to say which plants in Wales the Government are thinking of privatising?

Mr. Edwards

I do not believe, Mr. Speaker, that you will allow me to answer all those questions.

The Nissan company has not spelt out precisely why it chose a particular site. I believe that, after having been well out of consideration, the Shotton site made it a closerun race. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that that was because of the efforts made not only by the local authorities and trade unions but by my Department., the Welsh Development Agency, WlNvest and everyone else involved. We have established that Shotton is a first-class site.

I know of no threat to Llanwern, although, because of a strike that seems to be supported by the hon. Gentleman, it will not receive the coal it needs.

Sir Anthony Meyer

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the likeliest contribution to providing more jobs in Wales is the certainty of Britain remaining in the EEC? What contribution has the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) made? He was against the EEC in 1963, for it in 1967, sat on the fence in 1975, was against the EEC in 1979 and is back on the fence again in 1984.

Mr. Edwards

If find it surprising that my hon. Friend can even discover where the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) stands on any matter. Last year was a record year for inward investment in the United Kingdom, and Wales obtained well over 20 per cent. of that investment. That occurred largely because of our membership of the European Community.

Mr. Foot

In view of the terrible figures announced by the Secretary of State, will he respond to the repeated demands of the Opposition that more money should be allocated to the Welsh Development Agency? Has he in the past month been to the Treasury to demand those resources?

Mr. Edwards

No, I have not. We have had, yet again, another quarter in which there has been an all-time record allocation of Government factory space in Wales. The figures for selective financial assistance applications and resulting jobs are again at an all-time high and show that the recovery of the economy is strongly under way. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman welcomes the fact that, during the past 12 months unemployment has decreased. There are signs that the recovery is spreading far more widely through the economy.

Mr. Gwilym Jones

Does my right hon. Friend agree that wild demagoguery and irresponsible statements by the NUM officials both in and visiting south Wales are likely to have a most negative effect on all the excellent efforts to bring additional employment to the area?

Mr. Edwards

Industrial disputes of any kind can only damage future job prospects for the areas concerned.

Mr. Geraint Howells

Is the Secretary of State aware that unemployment in the Teifi valley between Cardigan and Lampeter has been more than 20 per cent. for the past 10 years? What plans does he have to try to solve that problem?

Mr. Edwards

I am, of course, aware of the rural unemployment in that part of Wales. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have given considerable support to the Development Board for Rural Wales in its efforts, which are having a great deal of success, to bring new jobs to mid-Wales.

Mr. Anderson

Will the Secretary of State put his hand on his heart and tell the House whether he has any confidence that, if present policies continue, the unprecedentedly high unemployment figures will be reduced?

Mr. Edwards

I have great confidence that there will continue to be a flow of new industries with growth prospects for Wales, which is the best prospect for a reduction in unemployment. Last year there was an increase in the number of people in employment in the United Kingdom. That is an encouraging trend, as is the increased number of people employed in the service industries throughout the United Kingdom. We believe that those trends are broadly followed in Wales, although the regional breakdown is not yet available.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

How will the Manpower Services Commission's proposals for the closure of some jobcentres and the withdrawal of advisory services from others help the unemployed claimants of Wales?

Mr. Edwards

The hon. Gentleman refers to proposals put by the MSC management to its board for an extension and enlargement of its jobcentre programme and for the modernisation of many jobcentres to make them more available and more efficient. I understand that the board has now decided to consider those proposals further and to undertake certain experimental schemes. It is clearly for the MSC to take those proposals forward.