HC Deb 30 June 1986 vol 100 cc684-6
4. 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.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

On 8 May 1986 the total numbers of unemployed claimants in the Newport travel-to-work area, Gwent and Wales were 13,021, 29,828 and 179,225, respectively. Unadjusted figures for 1979 are not available on a comparable basis.

Mr. Hughes

Will the Secretary of State undertake to scrutinise the Newport figures closely? Is he aware that male unemployment is far higher than female unemployment? If the Minister deducts from the figure the many thousands travelling to Newport to pursue their work, he will see that male unemployment in Newport is very high indeed and compares with blackspots such as Ebbw Vale and the top of the Rhymney Valley. Bearing in mind Newport's favourable geographical position and its communications network, is that not a severe indictment of the Government's economic policies?

Mr. Edwards

On 8 May 1986 unemployed claimants in the constituency totalled 4,986 and in the Newport travel-to-work area the total unemployment rate was 16.1 per cent., and the male unemployment rate was higher at 19.3 per cent. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the jobs are provided for those in the area not only within but outside Newport along the M4 up to Cwmbran and beyond.

Mr. Alex Carlile

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the Development Board for Rural Wales has shown a particularly well-directed and determined aggression towards reducing unemployment in its area? Does he also agree that the time has come for the board's area of rural Wales to be increased substantially?

Mr. Edwards

I certainly agree that Mid-Wales Development is doing a good job. I was in New Town on Friday opening new premises for Laura Ashley and visiting other premises. There is no doubt that the board is providing many job opportunities throughout the area that it covers. I have considered its possible extension, but I have decided that on balance the arrangements should remain as they are. As the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, we have recently altered the arrangements under which the Welsh Development Agency covers the rural area and it has introduced a number of new measures which will extend its activities in other parts of Wales.

Mr. Raffan

In view of its important implications for jobs in north-east Wales, what is the current position of Delyn borough council's application for the extension of the Delyn enterprise zone to cover the former Courtaulds Greenfield site, and will my right hon. Friend be supporting the application?

Mr. Edwards

I could not fail to notice the vigour with which my hon. Friend has advanced the case for the application, which I am considering carefully. I must also consider all the other bids that are being made by other areas which have special claims. My hon. Friend will know that we have made substantial special capital allocations available to Delyn and the enterprise zone, which is proving extremely successful.

Mr. Anderson

Does the Secretary of State share the Opposition's concern that such new jobs as are coming, welcome but inadequate, tend to be for females and part-time and therefore low paid, increasing the relative poverty within Wales?

Mr. Edwards

I remember an Opposition Member telling me some years ago that one of the effects of the recession would be to destroy job opportunities for women in Wales. He said that that would be one of the adverse consequences. We cannot be entirely unhappy about the fact that there is a tendency for more women to go to work. It is not entirely a bad thing, to be criticised. It is also true that much of the substantial capital investment that is taking place is creating jobs for men and women. That is particularly true, for example, of the large-scale capital investment which has been taking place in the steel industry, the aluminium industry and other heavy industries.