HC Deb 09 December 1985 vol 88 cc612-4
9. Mr. Raffan

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on prospects for the Welsh economy in the light of the recent enterprise and employment measures announced by the Government.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

Against the present background of sustained growth and falling inflation in the national economy the prospects for Wales are more encouraging than for some years. The Government's measures to encourage and support enterprise and to help the unemployed will ensure that all sections of the economy and community can contribute to and benefit from the opportunities now being created.

Mr. Raffan

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the introduction of the the Government's imaginative measures. They are much more imaginative than anything that the Labour party has ever proposed, let alone done. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the £2.5 million increase in financial support for local enterprise agencies in England will be matched in Wales? Will he tell us how much of the increased funds made available to the British Tourist Authority will be used for the overseas promotion of Wales? When will the two six-month pilot schemes to help the long-term unemployed find work be extended to the rest of Wales, assuming they prove effective?

Mr. Edwards

We shall be monitoring the pilot schemes in Port Talbot and Neath and the other pilot schemes very closely. Obviously, if they prove successful, we shall wish to extend them. Tourism has been the subject of detailed cross-examination by the Select Committee. I believe that my hon. Friend is to give evidence again on that, so I shall leave that point, although the British Tourist Authority has said in a memorandum to the Committee that an estimated 10 per cent. of its total budget relates to the promotion of Wales overseas. As for enterprise agencies, in Wales we have an established system of providing support through the Welsh Development Agency, through the development board and through the urban programme. The level of central funding in Wales compares favourably with that in England, and I am continuing to review the progress of the enterprise trusts in Wales and will announce my spending plans in the normal way.

Mr. Rowlands

If the Chancellor of the Exchequer is saying that Britain is booming, will the Secretary of State say where the boom is in Merthyr and Rhymney?

Mr. Edwards

I do not think that I have used the word boom. I have said, and it is undoubtedly true, that for some years we have seen sustained economic growth. That is an absolutely essential precursor if we are to deal with the problems of areas such as Merthyr. The measures taken by the Government to build a road link from the M4 to Merthyr, and schemes started and completed by the Government will probably do more for Merthyr than any other single measure.

Mr. Best

Is it not a fact that, whereas the Labour party, during its term of office, turned its back on the plight of the long-term unemployed, this Government have taken unprecedented measures to help the long-term unemployed, in the enterprise allowance scheme, in the community programme, and now in the job start scheme? Is it not a fact that the Christmas message that my right hon. Friend can give to the people is that, because of the schemes introduced by the Government, there is a realistic prospect that many of them will have assistance, when otherwise they might have been faced with the prospect of never working again?

Mr. Edwards

I am sure that my hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the importance of those schemes, particularly the community programme. The pilot scheme that has been referred to is also specifically addressed to the needs of those people.

Mr. Ray Powell

Despite the distortion of facts by the Secretary of State, can he explain why, in the Ogmore constituency in 1979, unemployment was 3.7 per cent. and is now 18 per cent.? In Maesteg, male unemployment is now 24 per cent., but will escalate to 40 per cent., as 800 people have been made redundant by the closure of a colliery there. In addition, only last night the Garw colliery closed, which employed 600 miners. That will raise the percentage of unemployment in Ogmore. What positive action will the right hon. Gentleman take, despite the comments by the hon. Member for Ynys Môon (Mr. Best).

Mr. Edwards

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that those people have a Member of Parliament who always encourages strikes, who always promotes anything likely to destroy jobs, and who has never in his life taken a single step ever to create a single job.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

Since the Secretary of State took time off in his constituency last week to attack the report of the Archbishop of Canterbury—"Faith in the City"—does he accept that the same condemnations of the immorality of his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister apply to his tenure of office as Secretary of State for Wales?

Mr. Edwards

If the hon. Gentleman had taken the trouble to read that speech, he would have seen that I was careful not to attack it in those terms, but to answer the economic case that was advanced. I understand—and, indeed, proclaim the Church's right to do so—that the Church has advanced an economic and political argument. When the Church does so, we are entitled to meet that case with economic and political rebuttal.

Mr. Barry Jones

The right hon. Gentleman carelessly talked of sustained economic growth in Wales. May I remind him of the 7,000 jobless people in his constituency and the 20,000 jobless people in his county of Dyfed? When will the people in his constituency have the prospect of real jobs, as over the past six years he has boasted of real economic growth? Is he not the apologist in Cabinet for policies that destroy jobs in his constituency?

Mr. Edwards

No. I did not use the words carelessly. I am happy to repeat the words "sustained economic growth", which is laying the foundation for improved job prospects, just as I am pleased that I have been able to carry out probably the greatest programme of infrastructure improvement and road building for the benefit of my constituents that any Minister has ever carried out, and to set up there an enterprise zone that is already beginning to produce results. I am concerned with taking practical measures to help instead of taking the measures that produced the hyperinflation and the unemployment problem that we inherited.