HC Deb 10 February 1986 vol 91 cc619-22
1. Mr. Powell

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many persons, male and female, are unemployed in Ogmore; how many are long-term unemployed and under 21 years of age; and how the figure compares to the other areas of Wales.

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Nicholas Edwards)

On 9 January 1986 there were 4,084 male and 1,238 female claimants unemployed in the Ogmore constituency. Data on age of claimants and duration of unemployment are available only until October 1985, when there were 158 males and 78 females under 20 years of age who had been unemployed for over 12 months. I will, with permission, circulate the comparative information requested in the Official Report.

Mr. Powell

Does the Secretary of State share the views of the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) that his Government and his party must switch to caring Conservatism and caring capitalism? Is he not aware of the total degradation and frustration that unemployment creates in our schools, homes and throughout society? Is he not concerned that the attitudes of desperation are leading to the escalation of violence and crime in the Principality in particular? Is he not concerned about the young who are now taking to drugs? Is it not time that he joined his colleagues in protesting—

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is a very long question.

Mr. Powell

—for a change in attitudes or a change in leadership?

Mr. Edwards

I am greatly concerned by the current levels of unemployment. I do not think that it needs a switch or a change of attitude, because that concern is clearly shared by all Ministers and members of the Government. If the hon. Gentleman refers to changes in attitude, I welcome the substantial changes in attitudes and performance which have happened generally throughout industry. However, I think that it is necessary for those in employment to recognise that pay increases for those in work create unemployment.

Sir Raymond Gower

Is not the description by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) of violence in Wales a gross misrepresentation of the real position and a distortion of the conditions which obtain?

Mr. Edwards

I think that perhaps the most important thing in the future of job creation in Wales is the high reputation which has been gained here and abroad by firms in respect of the attitude and performance of the Welsh work force and those who live in Wales. They have an image, not of violence and hostility, but of a work force which will co-operate to the full to make a success of companies. That is where the future lies.

Mr. Ron Davies

Giver, that in Wales there is little realistic prospect of young people obtaining any sort of work and that they have to rely almost entirely on the youth training scheme, what is the Secretary of State's response to the recent decision of the Mid-Glamorgan area manpower board to refuse to sanction any further youth training schemes in 1986–87?

Mr. Edwards

It is not true that there is no prospect for young people in Wales. It happens that I have been round two major companies in Wales which are taking on labour at the present time, with an average age of 18½. Two of the other companies which I have recently been round in south Wales have an average age of under 27. The truth is that many young people are obtaining employment. I am concerned that agreement has not yet been reached in Mid-Glamorgan about proposals put forward by the Manpower Services Commission. I believe that these problems can and will be overcome. I note with satisfaction that other providers of training have said that they would provide and take up the training places if necessary. I hope that in the reality that will not prove necessary.

Sir Anthony Meyer

As the Labour party has now as good as admitted that there is nothing that it can do about unemployment in the short term, is it not clear that the best and quickest alleviation of the problem lies in further expansion of the community programme? Will my right hon. Friend do all that he can to press for the removal of the remaining obstacles in the way of an expansion of that programme?

Mr. Edwards

I agree with my hon. Friend that the community programme is very important for the long-term unemployed. At the end of December last year there were over 12,000 filled places in Wales, and the aim is to expand that total to 20,500 by June.

Mr. Foot

In view of the answer that the Secretary of State gave about training, does he not think it absurd and intolerable that the Government should be insisting, through the Manpower Services Commission, that extra funds should be made available by local authorities, particularly in the areas that are hardest hit, to keep the training schemes going? Why does the right hon. Gentleman not come out boldly and say that the Government should pay for that? Has he cleared up the confusion of his colleague, because the Employment Minister said only a couple of weeks ago that no burden would be put on the local authorities? Why should we have to bear that burden in Wales?

Mr. Edwards

I take it not very well when the right hon. Gentleman, of all people, lectures this Government on youth training, while his Government totally failed to make provision for proper youth training, and this Government have launched the largest programme of youth training ever undertaken in this country and are now extending the YTS from one to two years. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman left us such a monstrous backlog to catch up.

Mr. Wigley

Despite the youth training jobs and the other jobs that have been brought on stream, does the Secretary of State not recognise that, with unemployment more than doubled since his Government came to office in 1979, the time has come for there to be a change of policy? How much worse does the situation have to get before we have that change of policy?

Mr. Edwards

I notice that the hon. Gentleman does not tell us what the policy is that will produce growth without inflation, although I hope that he will at least welcome the fact that we are in the fifth year of growth, that inflation continues to fall, that we have the fastest growing economy in Europe, that manufacturing investment has grown steadily since 1983, and that a large number of firms in Wales are undertaking massive investment and massive expansion and are taking on people, as I have discovered when visiting several of them in the past few weeks.

Mr. Best

Is it not a fact that the measures that the Government have introduced — the community programme, the enterprise allowance scheme, the job start scheme, and all the other measures to help the long-term unemployed — are the envy of any Socialist Government, and are far more imaginative than anything put forward by the Opposition when they were in government? Will my right hon. Friend remind the House of how many jobs have been created in this country compared with other European countries, and of the percentage of those employed in this country compared with other countries in the EEC?

Mr. Edwards

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to all those matters. The fact is that the scheme would not have been the envy of the Labour Government, because they failed to take the necessary measures which have been introduced by this Government against a most difficult background.

Mr. Roy Hughes

Will the Secretary of State confirm that regional aid to Wales has fallen by 40 per cent. since 1979 and is due to fall further until 1990? With such massive unemployment, as outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell), is not the trend towards social disintegration? Is it not time that the right hon. Gentleman realised that Wales has been at the receiving end, not of caring capitalism, but of naked, aggressive and irresponsible capitalism?

Mr. Edwards

The hon. Gentleman talks about regional policy. It is effective in relative terms, and Wales is very well placed, as is borne out by the fact that over about three years we have obtained about 20 per cent. of all inward investment to this country, and in 1985 we obtained 48 overseas projects—over double the 1983 figure. Only last week we secured for Wales one of the best high technology research British-based companies. Renishaw Research Ltd. is opening a new factory in Gwent, and more than 500 people will be taken on by this world-leading firm.

Following is the information:

Constituency Males Females
Alyn and Deeside 78 67
Clwyd North West 92 73
Clwyd South West 101 58
Delyn 76 61
Wrexham 137 82
Carmarthen 63 52
Ceredigion and Pembroke North 58 56
Llanelli 77 79
Pembroke 107 124
Blaenau Gwent 155 77
Islwyn 93 33
Monmouth 67 49
Newport East 152 95
Newport West 134 95
Torfaen 93 83
Caernarfon 64 33
Conwy 63 31
Meironnydd Nant Conwy 30 17
Ynys Mon 80 69
Bridgend 77 53
Caerphilly 179 69
Cynon Valley 158 70
Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney 254 147
Ogmore 158 78
Pontypridd 179 81
Rhondda 237 112
Brecon and Radnor 35 31
Montgomery 28 20
Cardiff Central 167 85
Cardiff North 57 34
Cardiff South and Penarth 141 83
Cardiff West 153 112
Vale of Glamorgan 85 65
Aberavon 110 86
Gower 81 49
Neath 70 92
Swansea East 172 127
Swansea West 223 127
Wales Totals 4,284 2,755

Note: The bandings of the analysis of the age of claimants and duration of unemployment are such that data in respect of those aged under 21 years cannot be extracted. The figures are for claimants aged under 20 who have been unemployed for over 52 weeks.

Mr. Speaker

I have allowed a long run on this first question. We must now get on. I ask the House for shorter supplementary questions.

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