§ 9. Sir Raymond Gower
To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many regional selective assistance and regional development grants have been made or offered for projects in Wales in the last 12 months; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Wyn Roberts
In the 12 months to 31 October there have been 153 offers of regional selective assistance, and 1,390 regional development grant approvals.
§ Sir Raymond Gower
Is my hon. Friend able to say how this assistance has been spread across Wales? Has a certain proportion of this assistance gone to those areas in Wales that most need help of this kind?
§ Mr. Roberts
The assistance and the grants have been spread fairly evenly throughout Wales. As one would expect, special attention has been paid to the highly industrialised areas. However, there has been a fairly even spread, not only across Wales, but as between overseas companies and British or Welsh-based companies.
§ Mr. Rowlands
If it is such a great success story, will the Minister tell the House how many people were in full-time employment in Wales in 1979, and how many are in full-time employment now?
§ Mr. Roberts
The hon. Gentleman knows the answer to that question. More people were in employment in Wales in 1979, but I am also right in saying that at that time there was considerable hidden unemployment. The trend was downwards, and the people of Wales knew it. That is why we were elected. As for the investment to which I have just referred, that involves £104 million in grant, with a total investment of £767 million. Nearly 24,000 new jobs are forecast, and over 2,000 jobs have been safeguarded. That is very different from the position in 1979.
§ Mr. Win Griffiths
Will the Minister confirm that as unemployment in Wales has risen the Government have reduced the amount of money that is available for regional assistance and the number of areas that qualify for it? Will he also confirm that fewer jobs are available today in Wales than in 1979 and that the increase in employment is explained by the number of people leaving Wales to look for jobs rather than by a real increase in the number of jobs in Wales?
§ Mr. Roberts
The hon. Gentleman's last point is absolutely wrong. The fact is that unemployment in Wales has been going down for the past 17 months. Wales has had a faster decline in unemployment than almost any other region of the United Kingdom. There is no getting away from those facts.
With regard to regional assistance, as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in his Autumn Statement, regional assistance is due to be increased. I know that the hon. Member for Caernarf 759 (Mr. Wigley) is arguing with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor about the figures, but I will leave that argument to them.