HC Deb 02 March 1987 vol 111 cc575-7
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; and if he will give the equivalent figures for 1979 on the most nearly comparable basis.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

On 8 January 1987 the total numbers of unemployed claimants in Newport district, Gwent and Wales were 9,990, 28,672 and 176,866 respectively. Unadjusted figures for 1979 are not available on a comparable basis.

Mr. Hughes

Do not these figures yet again reveal that the Government's policies are not working, particularly in Newport? To improve matters, will the Secretary of State prevail on the Central Electricity Generating Board to build a coal-fired power station at Uskmouth? That would be a useful development near the south Wales coalfield and would boost employment in the area during its construction and operation?

Mr. Edwards

The hon. Gentleman is wrong in saying that the Government's policies are not working. I have already said that there has been a substantial fall in unemployment in Wales. That is true of Newport, where the unemployment rate has fallen from 16.8 per cent. to 15.6 per cent. over the 12-month period. I shall draw the hon. Gentleman's remarks to the attention of the CEGB.

Mr. Harvey

Will my right hon. Friend welcome the fact that in the latest CBI report on quarterly trends, 16 per cent. of respondents say that they expect to take on new labour this year? Will he condemn the gloom that the Labour party shows at the good news that unemployment is declining in Wales?

Mr. Edwards

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend, arid I shall have more to say on the subject later this afternoon.

Mrs. Clwyd

As the Secretary of State knows, there has not been a substantial drop in unemployment in my constituency in the Cynon valley. Will the right hon. Gentleman be precise and tell me how much that has cost in the Cynon valley in lost taxes, unemployment benefit and redundancy payments in addition to the cost in human misery? When will the right hon. Gentleman create some jobs in the Cynon valley?

Mr. Edwards

The hon. Lady knows that unemployment has fallen over the period in the Cynon valley, as elsewhere, that firms such as Hitachi are making major investments, and that there is substantial urban development grant support and urban programme support in the area. The prospects for the valley have probably been altered more than by any other event by the Government's action in completing the splendid new road access to the heart of the valley.

Mr. Raffan

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there has been an 11.5 per cent. drop in unemployment in my constituency during the past year? This is largely due to the dramatic success of the Delyrt enterprise zone. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Labour party's concern about unemployment might begin to carry some credibility if it changed its position on enterprise zones from outright hostility to unqualified support?

Mr. Edwards

I wholly agree with my hon. Friend, especially about the success of the Delyn enterprise zone. The other enterprise zones in Wales are also making a notable contribution. The enterprise zone in Swansea has created some 2,300 jobs since we set it up.

Mr. Alex Carlile

Does the Secretary of State agree that one of the reasons for the high continuing unemployment in Wales is the fact that not enough people are employed in improving homes in bad condition? Is he not trying to conceal that fact by requiring local authority housing officers to sign a declaration under the Official Secrets Act in connection with a Welsh Office survey on housing conditions which is taking place at the moment?

Mr. Edwards

The hon. and learned Gentleman is quite wrong. As he knows, there has been a major programme of house renovation and improvement — indeed, the largest ever undertaken. We wish to have an accurate and full survey carried out. It is perfectly normal that those who are engaged in such operations should observe the normal rules of confidentiality until the report is prepared and that they should not go through the process that is all too common nowadays in Government, or around Government and local government, of leaking partial information before there is a complete and comprehensive report.

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