§ 2. Mr. Ron Davies
asked the Secretary of State for Wales what was the number of long-term unemployed for the Rhymney valley district, Mid Glamorgan County and Wales, respectively, at the latest available date.
§ Mr. Nicholas Edwards
As at September 1984 the number of claimants unemployed for over a year were 3,491, 15,505 and 72,720 respectively.
§ Mr. Davies
Does the Secretary of State accept that those shameful figures are an indictment of the 419 Government's policies? Will he confirm recent press reports that he is fighting a rearguard action in the Cabinet in defence of regional policy? Will he now give the House an assurance that there will be no diminution in the areas covered by special development area status or in the funds available to them? In the light of those appalling figures, if he is not in a position to give that guarantee will he announce that he intends to resign his Cabinet post?
§ Mr. Edwards
Clearly such unemployment figures must be a matter of concern to us all, although they are the result of policies that were pursued over very long periods, not by this Government, but by previous Governments, including many Socialist Governments, who helped to create the conditions that we are now having to tackle. Final decisions about the regional package have not yet been taken, but there will be a continuing and effective regional programme in Wales, as elsewhere.
§ Mr. Hooson
Will my right hon. Friend make an estimate of how many Welsh jobs were lost as a result of previous Labour Governments closing many Welsh coal mines because they were uneconomic?
§ Mr. Edwards
I should not like to make such an estimate, but it is clear that successive Governments have felt it necessary and right to close uneconomic pits, and that a larger number were closed by former Labour Governments than by Conservative Governments.
§ Mr. Rowlands
Is the Secretary of State aware that of nearly 500 school leavers in the Merthyr borough this September, only about 20 have obtained permanent jobs? Given the chaos and confusion in this Government's economic and energy policies, what hope can the right hon. Gentleman offer to the youngsters who have just joined the dole queue and who have come on to the would-be employment market that they will not become, like the rest of us—or rather, the rest of the people—the long-term unemployed?
§ Mr. Edwards
It should not be for me to comment on whether the hon. Gentleman is employed, or whether he is employed profitably. However, this Government have introduced massive programmes to help the unemployed, particularly the young unemployed, and their training. As a result of those programmes and the guarantees that we have given to school leavers, I believe that a very high proportion of those youngsters will find jobs or continue in training.
§ Mr. Roy Hughes
Given the appalling situation that is illustrated by the figures that the Secretary of State has given the House this afternoon, is he not just a little concerned about the Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement yesterday on "Weekend World" that there is very little that he can do about it? Does he not appear to be like some latter day Asquith, just waiting for something to turn up?
Will the Secretary of State suggest that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should try to organise a few Lloyd George breakfasts to try to find some new ideas and fresh initiatives with which to tackle this terrible problem?
§ Mr. Edwards
I noticed that even the deputy leader of the Labour party was careful enough to warn his conference that excessive hopes should not be raised about what Governments can do about creating jobs in the short term. I hope that the hon. Gentleman noted what my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer said about the 420 undoubted relationship between wage levels and the amount of employment, and that he will take note of the remarkable increase in the number of apprentices in the electrical contracting industry as a result of a sensible deal on their wage levels.