HC Deb 09 June 1986 vol 99 cc1-4
1. Mrs. Clwyd

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what action he proposes to take on the current unemployment figures for Wales.

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

The Government will continue the policies which have created low inflation and improved growth, established a wide range of employment and training measures, produced a steady improvement in infrastructure and the industrial environment in Wales, and have achieved success in attracting inward investment and stimulating the growth of small businesses. We intend to develop the important initiatives that we have announced to achieve urban renewal and to encourage the adoption of new technologies, adaptability and the response to market needs that are required if jobs are to be created.

Mrs. Clwyd

Is the Secretary of State aware that male unemployment in Britain is now nearly twice as high as it is in France, Germany, Italy and the United States and that in my constituency, month after month, male unemployment continues to be the highest in Wales? Can the right hon. Gentleman tell my constituents when they can expect an end to their misery, apart from there being a change of Government?

Mr. Edwards

We have created more new jobs in this country than have been created in the rest of the European Community countries put together. Because I understand the particular problems in the hon. Lady's constituency, we have pressed on with the construction of the important new road giving access to her constituency and launched the valleys initiative, which I am sure will play a major role in the Cynon Valley.

Sir Raymond Gower

Has my right hon. Friend noted that his colleagues in the Cabinet have prophesied that a large number of jobs will emerge from the spectacular Channel crossing enterprise? In the Welsh setting, does he agree that many new jobs would emerge from a similarly spectacular undertaking, such as a second crossing of the Bristol channel, with or without a Severn barrage, and that that would form a valuable part of the infrastructure to which he referred?

Mr. Edwards

My hon. Friend will be aware that guidance has been given on the opportunities to be gained in Wales from the Channel crossing. We are pressing on with the consultants' study on the possibility of a second Severn crossing, and we have received the consultants' report on a possible Severn barrage, which the Government are considering. My hon. Friend will know that this Government have already launched major initiatives in south Cardiff and elsewhere, which will provide considerable opportunities.

Mr. Foot

The right hon. Gentleman talks about the valleys initiative making a major contribution to the creation of jobs. What figure does he have in mind? How soon will the improved figures operate and how do they compare with the figures for jobs still being lost to the valleys?

Mr. Edwards

We have announced the valleys initiative and are now waiting for the first bids and proposals from the local authorities. This is just the start of that initiative. We shall want to reinforce it if successful bids are made. This is just one of a number of initiatives to help job creation in the valleys.

Mr. Raffan

Following the recent great good news that 650 new jobs are to be created in the Delyn enterprise zone, will my right hon. Friend congratulate Delyn borough council and its chief executive, John Packer, and his officials on their tremendous achievement in bringing about such a significant turnaround so soon after the closure of Courtaulds, Greenfield? Will he also pass on my sincere thanks, and those of the borough, to his extremely hardworking officials for their contribution? Will he join me in reminding the people of Delyn that those new jobs will be safe only as long as this Government remain in power, because of the Labour party's outright opposition to enterprise zones?

Mr. Edwards

I specifically congratulated the Delyn borough council in the speech that I delivered at the opening of the new Shotton coating plant on Friday. The leadership which that local authority has shown in its management of the enterprise zone has been outstanding —and I said so. I also detailed the long list of major new investment decisions that have been announced in Clwyd in recent months.

Mr. Geraint Howells

How many people will be made redundant in the Agricultural Advisory Service in Wales? How many will be made redundant by amalgamating Pwllpeiran Hill experimental farm with Trawscoed? For what reason is the right hon. Gentleman pursuing such a policy?

Mr. Edwards

I shall write to the hon. Gentleman in more detail. Speaking from memory, 10 jobs will be lost in the Agricultural Advisory Service. I shall write to the hon. Gentleman about the farm question.

Mr. Best

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the key to greater job prospects is improved communications and, to that end, that the dualling of the A55 along the north Wales coast will have a greater impact on job prospects for my constituency than any other measure? Will my right hon. Friend say a little more about the new initiative that he has just announced— the rural enterprise scheme— which I understand will appeal to the whole of my constituency?

Mr. Edwards

My hon. Friend is quite right. The Conway crossing, which will be the largest single road scheme ever undertaken in this country, will add to the list of major projects to which I referred earlier. We have just launched the rural enterprise scheme with the new grants scheme — DRIVE —and shortly we shall launch the Agrifood initiative. Those are important aids to the difficult and changing situation in the countryside.

Mr. John Morris

Does the Secretary of State expect Welsh unemployment figures to be up, or down, a year from now?

Mr. Edwards

I follow the right hon. and learned Gentleman's practice of never making forecasts about unemployment figures.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

Will the Secretary of State address himself to the issue of unemployment in Gwynedd in the context of the heavy reliance of that county on employment in the electricity generation industry? In view of the fact that neither this nor any other Government are likely to commission a further nuclear power station in Trawsfynydd, will the Welsh Office take an initiative to ensure alternative employment in that area on a long-term planning cycle?

Mr. Edwards

I note what the hon. Gentleman said. I note also that in recent weeks and months he has been extremely careful in his choice of words about the possibility of a replacement for the nuclear power station. As he knows, the CEGB is involved in consultations on proposals for a replacement. It would be foolish to close the door to those options at this stage.

Dr. Marek

Can the Secretary of State say how many of the jobs that have been created are part-time and how many are full-time?

Mr. Edwards

I could not specify that immediately. I have not listed the number of jobs. Certainly quite a number of part-time jobs have been created. It is one of the changing patterns of employment and of occupation that we must recognise. Many people welcome the opportunity to do part-time work, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman recognises.

Mr. Barry Jones

I remind the right hon. Gentleman that in Wales nine travel-to-work areas suffer unemployment in excess of 20 per cent. and a further four areas, at 19 per cent., are bordering on 20 per cent. So far as the Cabinet split is concerned, does the right hon. Gentleman agree with the Home Secretary that tax cuts are not everything? Can the people of Wales have a change of economic policy? If the right hon. Gentleman will not listen to the people of Wales, will be take note of election results and opinion polls, which suggest that the Conservatives, without a change in policy, will be wiped out in Wales?

Mr. Edwards

Of course tax cuts are not everything. Tax incentives are required to get the maximum productive capacity out of this country. The Government are devoting record resources to the National Health Service. We have built 90 per cent. of the factories that are being built in Wales by the Welsh Development Agency. We are carrying out the largest road building programme ever undertaken in the Principality. We have built more modern hospitals and provided more medical facilities than any previous Government.

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