HC Deb 24 March 1986 vol 94 cc594-6
5. 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 was the percentage increase in each case.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

The unadjusted February 1986 figures for Newport, Gwent and Wales are 213,288, 30,602 and 188,405. Unadjusted figures for 1979 were produced on a different basis and cannot properly be compared with this year's figures.

Mr. Hughes

Is the Secretary of State not concerned about the mounting redundancies and closures in the area? The recent example of Standard Telephones closing its electronics factory at Newport is but a case in point. On the Secretary of State's recent visit to Japan, was he able to capitalise, by way of new investment, on the good will which I found on my recent visit shortly before his?

Mr. Edwards

I cannot say that all the Japanese industrialists whom I saw had the name of the hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes) on their lips. I do not know what influence he may have had for goood or evil, but I am certain that in the coming months there will be further significant investment by Japanese companies in Wales and that that investment will far exceed the job losses to which the hon. Member referred.

Mr. Raffan

When will the two pilot schemes announced in the Budget—job start and job counselling —for the long-term unemployed be implemented and extended throughout Wales? How many extra staff will be taken on at jobcentres in Wales to ensure that job counselling is effective and covers all the long-term unemployed?

Mr. Edwards

We shall put the new schemes into operation as quickly as possible. I am meeting the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission this week to discuss the detailed implementation and the exact numbers that are to be applied in Wales. In advance of that meeting I would rather not add to my general comments.

Mr. Geraint Howells

Is the Secretary of State able to tell the House when the unemployment figures for Wales will take a downward trend, because during the past seven years they have been going up and up?

Mr. Edwards

The hon. Gentleman has asked that question on so many occasions he should know the answer. I have no intention of making such forecasts. However, I can tell him that very substantial capital investment in industry is taking place in Wales. We are continuing to attract about 20 per cent. of the inward investment for the whole of the United Kingdom, and we have recently had some notable successes, such as attracting Renishaw to Cwmbran. We know of a considerable number of major new investments which will create jobs in Wales and which will be announced in the coming months.

Mr. Gwilym Jones

Does my right hon. Friend agree that last week's Budget was the best prescription for the country continuing to generate more new jobs faster than all other countries in Europe?

Mr. Edwards

I agree that the Budget will contribute to more new jobs. It also confirms that the Government's underlying policies are leading to continued growth faster than elsewhere in the Community, and to falling inflation. We have introduced a tripartite package of measures designed to help enterprise, the young and the long-term unemployed. They are in addition to the substantial range of measures that we have already announced to help the unemployed and to improve youth training.

Mr. Rogers

Does the Secretary of State accept that the measures that he says have been undertaken are simply not working? Is he aware that on the Penrhys housing estate, which has a community of 3,000 people and unemployment of over 80 per cent. among both young and old, severe problems are being caused because the measures that the Government have introduced are not working? Why does the Secretary of State not accept that and do something positive instead?

Mr. Edwards

The hon. Gentleman has asked me to do something positive. I remind him that the Government have introduced the priority estates programme, which is already beginning to result in improvements on the estate that he has mentioned. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not running down an important programme which is designed to improve conditions on an estate which has been in its present state for some years, and which was not built under the auspices of this Government. We have taken positive measures, which have been greatly welcomed, and I believe that they will improve conditions on the estate to which the hon. Gentleman referred.

Mr. Best

Contrary to what the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) said, is it not a fact that the special employment measures that the Government have introduced are working extremely well? For example, is it not a fact that 61 per cent. of those who become part of the enterprise allowance scheme are still trading two years after having joined it?

Mr. Edwards

Yes, I believe that is right. I have no doubt that the scheme has been extremely successful.

Mr. Rowlands

A couple of weeks ago the Secretary of State announced his valley community investment scheme, and there were high hopes that the Budget would bring additional moneys for the Welsh Development Agency and the construction industry. Why has the right hon. Gentleman been left so empty handed after the Budget? Our valley communities need new investment through the WDA.

Mr. Edwards

If an earlier question had been asked, I would have said that the WDA, which has spent about £624 million between January 1976 and March 1986, will be spending about £76.8 million in 1986–87. That is substantial expenditure. There will be a great deal spent in the valleys, including expenditure on derelict land. As I told the House during the Welsh day debate, the expenditure of the WDA will be directed especially at making effective the valleys' initiative, which I launched and which the hon. Gentleman supported, and for whose support I am grateful.