HC Deb 19 November 1984 vol 68 cc5-7
5. Mr. Barry Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many unemployed people there are in Wales compared with 1979 as a total and as a percentage of the total; and how many are long-term unemployed.

21. Mr. Ray Powell

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many people are unemployed in Wales at present compared with the 1979 figures; and how many of these are long-term unemployed.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

On 11 October 1984 unemployment claimants totalled 178,561, compared with 78,739 in October 1979, an increase of 99,822 or 126.8 per cent. Of the October 1984 total, 71,902 had been unemployed for over a year. Comparable figures for 1979 are not available.

Mr. Jones

Following that set of figures, the autumn statement was a crushing disappointment to the unemployed in Wales. Will the Secretary of State take an urgent initiative and chair an all-Wales conference aimed, at creating new jobs by means of a programme of additional public works? Will he invite, for example, the Wales TUC, the CBI, county and district authorities and Members of the Houses of Parliament to such a conference? May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that, under his regime, since 1979 Wales has lost 100,000 manufacturing jobs and suffered more than 145,000 redundancies? The people of Wales need hope and a change of policy.

Mr. Edwards

I do not believe that hope and a change of policy would necessarily be the results of the kind of talking shop which the hon. Gentleman wishes to establish. I am glad to say that the numbers in employment have begun to rise and that this year, in the period from January to October, there were 11,000 new jobs associated with projects for which selective financial assistance applications had been accepted, compared with 8,800 in the whole of 1983. That is one of the many signs that substantial investment in new projects is taking place in Wales, and that, of course, offers the best hope for new jobs.

Mr. Powell

Why did the Secretary of State want to juggle the unemployment figures once again? Was it for the primary purpose of trying to allow constituency Members of Parliament to have accurate figures of the unemployment position? If so, I should like to draw his attention to the fact that for a number of months I have complained about 8,000 people being out of work in Ogmore and there being only 100 jobs at the jobcentre. I have analysed the new figures that have been presented, and I should like to know why there are now 4,907 people out of work in the Ogmore constituency and only eight jobs at the jobcentre. Surely that alone shows that the information continually being given at Welsh Question Time is misleading or completely misrepresenting the facts that are presented to us week after week and month after month.

Mr. Edwards

I have given the facts for which the hon. Gentleman asked. I am aware that Bridgend is one of the areas that have been most successful in attracting new projects. I am glad to say that that continues to be the position and that it is providing a substantial number of additional jobs.

Mr. Best

In the interests of jobs in Wales, will my right hon. Friend continue to urge south Wales miners to follow their colleagues in Yorkshire and elsewhere rather than the headstrong, self-willed and political ambition of one man who clearly has no interest in the future of the coal industry in south Wales?

Mr. Edwards

I agree. I understand that the lion. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) attended the disgraceful conference at Aberavon, during which the general secretary of the TUC was shouted clown. Furthermore, I understand that the hon. Gentleman spoke during the conference. I hope that he, like the general secretary, condemned the violence and urged that a ballot be held, particularly as in his part of Wales many miners have voted with their feet and returned to work.

Sir Anthony Meyer

Can my right hon. Friend estimate the number of jobs in Wales that have been lost permanently, not temporarily, as a result of the loss of markets caused by Mr. Scargill's politically motivated strike?

Mr. Edwards

Undoubtedly, that must be one of the most worrying features. The losers will be principally the miners and the mining industry, because it is more difficult to recover lost markets than to hold on to existing markets. I am afraid that the strike will cause great long-term damage.

Mr. Foot

With regard to the appalling figures which the Secretary of State has announced, when the new regional policy is announced, will the areas in Wales most hard hit by mass unemployment have an increase in assistance and regional aid in real terms?

With regard to the strike, my right hon. Friends the Members for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) and for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock), have been seeking throughout to get an honourable, decent negotiated settlement. Has the right hon. Gentleman done anything from the beginning of the strike to try to secure such a result?

Mr. Edwards

I am glad to hear that Opposition Members are trying to end the dispute. I hope that they will speak out loud and clear for a ballot and condemn the violence, and the disgraceful scenes that we saw at Aberavon, as clearly as the general secretary of the TUC has done.

Mr. Abse

Will the Secretary of State explain his continuing disinterest in the whole of the coal industry in Wales, which has been exemplified by his failure even to attend pit premises during the whole period that he has been Secretary of State? Does he not think it right that, when we have this anguished situation, instead of corroborating the confrontist and provocative attitude of our turbulent Prime Minister, he should pay a tribute to the sense of community, solidarity and loyalty that are among our values in south Wales? Irrespective of the judgment that one makes, as was said by a former Conservative Prime Minister in the House, such values need to be sustained, not condemned, by a Secretary of State if this nation is to survive.

Mr. Edwards

If we are to talk about moral stands, I agree with Mr. Alan Watkins, who wrote in The Observer that the scenes at Aberavon last week were a disgrace to the Labour movement. If Mr. Watkins expresses surprise that those scenes were not condemned by the right hon. and learned Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) and the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies), I must express equal surprise that they were not condemned by the hon. Gentleman.