HC Deb 21 July 1986 vol 102 cc5-6
3. Mr. Roy Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what are the latest unadjusted figures for unemployment in (a) Newport, (b) Gwent and (c) Wales; what were the equivalent figures in May 1979; and what has been the percentage increase in each case.

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

On 12 June 1986 the total numbers of unemployed claimants in the Newport travel-to-work area, Gwent and Wales, were 12,775, 29,229 and 173,708, respectively. Unadjusted figures for 1979 are not available on a comparable basis.

Mr. Hughes

Has the Secretary of State recently looked at the population statistics for Newport? They show that the population is apparently declining in numbers. Moreover, there is evidence that it is the young who are leaving. Is that any wonder when, for a week or so, the local press has been full of reports of our young people frequenting amusement arcades, with all the debauchery that is associated with them? Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that last Saturday I received a deputation of ladies, who presented me with a petition containing horrific details about glue sniffing in one area of the town? After more than seven years in office, is it not time that the Government started to think about providing some real jobs for young people?

Mr. Edwards

I am glad to say that Gwent is one of the areas that has proved to be successful in attracting a wide range of new industries. The kind of approach adopted by the hon. Gentleman to these matters will hardly encourage investment of the kind that we all want.

Mr. Gwilym Jones

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the continued creation of new jobs is important, not the old dreary ritual of despair that we keep getting from the Opposition? Is not one of the best pointers the latest survey from the Cardiff chamber of commerce, published in this morning's Western Mail? That survey, carried out among its members throughout south Wales, shows that approximately two thirds expect to increase their business in the coming year. Does my right hon. Friend also agree that we ought not to ignore the fact that over 20 per cent. of them report difficulties in recruiting suitable labour, especially skilled tradesmen?

Mr. Edwards

I am sure that my hon. Friend is quite right. There are other favourable indications, such as a very high level of factory allocations by Government agencies this year. Inquiries to the small business unit are at an all-time record high and there is continued success in attracting a high proportion of the United Kingdom's total inward investment.

Mr. Anderson

Does the Secretary of State tell the House that the welcome reduction in inflation is wholly due to the success of the Government's policy and that the alarming increase in unemployment is wholly due to external factors?

Mr. Edwards

I make no claims of the kind just put into my mouth. We are attracting a high level of investment in new jobs in Wales, and there are some signs that unemployment is stabilising and marginally improving relative to the situation elsewhere in the United Kingdom. That suggests that at least the long decline of the basic industries from which we have suffered for so long is coming to an end and that the Welsh economy is more arid more dependent on the large number of new companies that we attracted in recent years and on the large number of new small businesses that are starting up.