HC Deb 19 February 1990 vol 167 cc642-4
6. Mr. Roy Hughes

To ask 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. Peter Walker

On 11 January 1990, the numbers of unemployment claimants in the Newport district, Gwent and Wales were 4,754, 14,051 and 90,349 respectively. Unadjusted figures for 1979 are not available on a basis that enables a valid comparison.

Mr. Hughes

There have been at least 23 changes in the method of compiling unemployment statistics, all of which have reduced the overall total. Is poll tax yet another secret weapon in the Government's armoury to reduce the figures? The cost of collecting rates in Wales was £9 million, whereas poll tax will cost more than £25 million to collect, the cost of which will have to be borne by the charge payers. Is not it sheer hypocrisy by the Government to lecture our local authorities on financial prudence when they behave in this way?

Mr. Walker

The income for the local authority in Newport must greatly benefit from the fact that unemployment there was 92 per cent. higher at the time of the general election than it is now.

Mr. Denzil Davies

Is not the Secretary of State aware that there are 120,000 fewer industrial employees—involved in manufacturing, production and making things—in Wales now than there were in 1979? Is it any wonder that income per head in Wales is lower than in 1979 and that we are the poorest region in Britain?

Mr. Walker

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, because the figures that he has just mentioned were given in a reply by me, the main drop involves those employed in the coal industry. I am glad that in the past three years there has been a big increase in the number of jobs in manufacturing. I am also pleased—obviously the right hon. Gentleman is not—that there has been an enormous increase in the number of jobs in the service industries. Many people in Wales delight in the fact that there is an enormous increase in both industries.

7. Mr. Jack

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many people were employed in Wales in (a) 1979 and (b) in December 1989.

Mr. Peter Walker

In September 1989, the latest date for which information is available, there was a civilian work force in employment in Wales of 1,158,000. In September 1979, the figure was 1,160,000.

Mr. Jack

My right hon. Friend's interesting answer reflects some of the problems with which he has had to cope in the restructuring of the Welsh economy. Can he be more specific and tell the House some of the initiatives that he has taken to boost employment in manufacturing and service industries? What programmes will he be pursuing in the next 12 months towards those objectives?

Mr. Walker

If one takes into consideration the increased numbers in higher education in Wales compared with 1979, the figures for 1989 were higher than the 1979 ones. I am delighted that a range of initiatives have brought the financial services to Wales and a great deal of overseas investment. During the past three years Wales, with 5 per cent. of the population, has had 20 per cent. of all the inward investment into Britain.

Mr. Foot

Does the figure that the Secretary of State gave mean that the Government have just got back to the employment figure for Wales that existed in 1979 when he, along with his associates, ran an election campaign to say, "Labour isn't working"? Will he respond to the invitation that I have given him many times, to make in Wales the speech that he occasionally makes in England, and give the figures of how much has been poured down the drain through the huge numbers of unemployed that have existed throughout the past 10 years? Those figures are still very high and much higher than in many parts of England.

Mr. Walker

As the right hon. Gentleman knows better than anyone else, pits closed on a large scale under Labour Governments, as well as Conservative Governments. In the past 10 years there has been an enormous drop in the numbers employed in both the coal and steel industries, yet, in spite of that, this year there are as many people in employment as there were in 1979. I am glad that there is a great diversity of jobs, mainly in the private sector.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the difference between the time of the Labour Government and today is that those in work are working for companies making profits, so their jobs are much more secure than they were under the Labour Administration?

Mr. Walker

Perhaps the most important fact for Wales is that it now has a diversity of job opportunities that it never had before.