HC Deb 26 March 1984 vol 57 cc9-11
9. Mr. Barry Jones

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

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

On 9 February 1984, unemployed claimants in Wales, seasonally adjusted and excluding school leavers, totalled 163,500 compared with an estimate of 78,200 in May 1979, an increase of 109.1 per cent.

Mr. Jones

Those figures are very serious and the right hon. Gentleman should be ashamed of them, bearing in mind the human misery that they represent. As nearly 1,000 people are jobless in Connah's Quay in Deeside, out of a total of 8,000 jobless on Deeside, will he confirm that when the pulp paper mill at Shotton comes on stream local labour will be recruited? What news does the right hon. Gentleman have of the Nissan project? Does he expect a decision by the end of this month? Does he join me in praising the Clwyd county authority and its chief executive for the good job that they have done?

Mr. Edwards

United Paper Mills will provide about 270 jobs. That is one of a long series of new projects which will provide substantial employment in the area and which I am sure will be welcome. A decision from the Nissan company is expected within the next few weeks. The hon. Gentleman will know that not only has the Clwyd county council done good work but there has been a united effort to present the attractions of the site by my Department, the Welsh Development Agency and everyone concerned. It is a matter for congratulation that it is one of the final short-listed sites, which says a great deal for the reputation and qualities of the area. Of course, the decision remains with the company.

Mr. Alex Carlile

Will the Secretary of State tell us what representations he made to the Foreign Secretary about the devastating effect on employment in Wales of the recent proposals about dairy farming, bearing in mind that 50 people have already been made redundant at Fulwood and Bland at Ellesmere in Shropshire as a result of those proposals?

Mr. Edwards

The problems facing the community go wider than the very real problems of the dairy industry. As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is at a meeting in Brussels at this very moment to carry these decisions forward, I cannot add to the full statement that was made during the debate in this House last Thursday.

Sir Raymond Gower

Is my right hon. Friend aware that anxiety about unemployment is quite as strong on the Government Benches as anywhere else? Is it not a fact that a long period of world recession is now being followed by a period in which there are at least some hopeful signs, and should it not now be our ambition to sell the advantages of Wales to industry and not bemoan the past?

Mr. Edwards

The fact that during the past year we have attracted well over 20 per cent. of the total inward investment coming to the United Kingdom is evidence that foreign companies, at least, understand the remarkable changes that are taking place, even if Opposition Members do not.

Mr. Anderson

Did the Secretary of State see the table in The Times last Friday on comparative regional GDP per head, which showed that Wales is now bottom of the regional wealth league in the country — with the exception, of course, of Northern Ireland? Will he bear in mind those awful figures in forming his employment and social policies?

Mr. Edwards

I did not see the figures. It is precisely because we realise the problems that have been inherited over several generations in Wales that we have been taking such energetic action to improve the infrastructure, construct the factories that are needed and produce record training programmes, so that we have a skilled work force that is ready to exploit the opportunities that exist.

Mr. Mark Robinson

In contrast to the Opposition, my right hon. Friend has often mentioned the new jobs that are being created in Wales. Will he say how many jobs would have been lost in Wales if the Labour party's policy of withdrawal from the Common Market had been put into effect?

Mr. Edwards

What I do know is that the considerable number of major new inward investment projects that we have obtained, of which Sharp is the most recent, could not, and would not, have been obtained if we had been outside the Community.

Mr. Foot

Will the right hon. Gentleman now answer the question that I put to him before, which he was apparently unwilling to answer? Does he not agree that the most immediate way in which he could help to deal with these terrible figures would be to increase the amount of money allocated to the Welsh Development Agency? Will he take urgent steps to ensure that that happens?

Mr. Edwards

No, Sir. I do not agree that that is the most important way. The most important way is to continue the economic measures that will assist the general industrial recovery that is taking place and to reduce the tax and other financial burdens that the Government of which he was a member loaded on to the back of Welsh industry.

10. Mr. Roy Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is the figure for youth unemployment in Wales at the latest available date.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

On 9 February 1984 there were 5,847 unemployed school leaver claimants in Wales.

Mr. Hughes

When will the Secretary of State come to realise that our young people are now living in a land of no hope because the Government's monetarist policies have killed off so many jobs in Wales? Whereas the Budget sent the Stock Exchange through the roof, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that by this time next year unemployment both in Wales and in the country as a whole will be even higher than today?

Mr. Edwards

The hon. Gentleman should welcome the fact that such a high proportion of school leavers who left school last year have found employment or a place on one of the special schemes. He should also welcome the fact that the figures this February are substantially lower than at the same time last year.