HC Deb 04 June 1984 vol 61 cc12-3
10. Mr. Barry Jones

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

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

Last month there were 168,799 unemployed claimants in Wales. In May 1979 the estimated number of claimants was 77,177, an increase of 118.7 per cent.

Mr. Jones

Are not those sombre, disturbing and tragic figures a bleak reminder that Wales is rapidly approaching the point when 50 per cent. of its unemployed people will be long-term unemployed? Can I persuade the right hon. Gentleman to increase urgently and significantly the budget of the Welsh Development Agency? For how much longer will the right hon. Gentleman come to the Dispatch Box as the hapless apologist for Cabinet policies which doom Wales to long-term and mass unemployment?

Mr. Edwards

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman welcomes the CBI's trend survey, which was published today, and the April Wales survey, which confirmed a significant improvement in the Welsh economy. It would not be right to increase at present the budget of the Welsh Development Agency, but substantial sums are being spent on encouraging new development. Applications for selective financial assistance in the first part of this year are running at an all-time record level.

Mr. James Callaghan

Will the Secretary of State confirm that of those 168,000 unemployed claimants 40 per cent. have been unemployed for more than one year and 20 per cent. have been unemployed for more than two years? What new initiatives does the right hon. Gentleman have to offset the social decay that is eating into families and, indeed, communities in the parts of Wales where that is happening? Would it be more realistic and, perhaps, more honest, to say to those men and women that if present policies continue it is highly unlikely that they will ever get a job again?

Mr. Edwards

I share the right hon. Gentleman's anxiety about the problems faced by the long-term unemployed. The MSC is devoting a good deal of its efforts to the problem to which he referred. I believe that by far the greatest contribution that we can make towards solving these problems is to continue policies that are attracting an increasing number of new companies to establish themselves in Wales, to provide jobs that we need in the future in the new industries.

Mr. Grist

Exactly so. Will my right hon. Friend comment on the new industries that are coming to south Wales, such as the Comdial Corporation, which will be setting up in the constituency of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan) and Mitel, Inmos and the other major new industries, which are taking the place of the old industries which were closing under the Labour Government?

Mr. Edwards

I could read a long list of new companies which have established themselves during the past 18 months and which will provide many new jobs in Wales. The number of industrial visits, applications and inquiries continues to be extremely high. WINvest, our new inward investment organisation, has had an outstandingly successful first 15 months of operation.

Mr. John

Will the Secretary of State confirm that, not withstanding the visits and interest shown, jobs are still being lost in Wales faster than they are being created? By how much is the trend upwards, and what does he intend to do about it?

Mr. Edwards

Undoubtedly, firms will continue to close as new firms will open. There is a far longer list of new firms opening and new jobs being created now than there is of closures. The Welsh CBI trends survey confirms that labour-shedding has substantially stopped. That is confirmed by the latest unemployment figures. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will welcome the fact that there has been a small reduction.

Sir Raymond Gower

I approve of what my right hon. Friend has said, but is it not obvious that any significant long-term growth must depend largely upon European and international action? Will he continue to press that matter with his colleagues in Cabinet?

Mr. Edwards

I am sure that that is right. Labour party policies, which seem to deny us a future in Europe, would be utterly destructive of job prospects in Wales.

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