HC Deb 16 July 1990 vol 176 cc666-7
5. Mr. Martyn Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on levels of unemployment in Clwyd and north Wales generally.

Mr. David Hunt

Unemployment in both Clwyd and north Wales has fallen substantially. In May 1990 the unemployment rate in north Wales stood at 5.7 per cent., whereas four years ago it was 15.2 per cent. The rate in Clwyd is 4.9 per cent. whereas it was 14.7 per cent. four years ago.

Mr. Jones

I thank the Secretary of State for those figures. Leaving aside the fact that they have been fiddled something like 29 times since 1981—each time downwards, apart from once—does the Secretary of State acknowledge that if 1,200 jobs are lost at Brymbo, they will increase the figure for male unemployment by 17 per cent. in Clwyd alone? If the right hon. Gentleman is to have any credibility as Secretary of State for Wales, he must do something about Brymbo, and do it soon.

Mr. Hunt

The hon. Gentleman knows about the range of activities in relation to Brymbo. The Welsh Development Agency is, with my full support, exploring a number of options to secure the future of that important community. I wish that the Opposition would start to pay tribute to the achievements of the people of Wales in having created a success story which has meant such dramatic falls in unemployment.

Sir Anthony Meyer

Does my right hon. Friend share my astonishment that the Labour party should choose to raise that issue at this juncture? Is not it a fact that employment in Clwyd is one of the Government's most glittering success stories, and is not that due to the policies that have been pursued by three successive Secretaries of State for Wales in making the maximum use of the instruments available to them? Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is an achievement of which we should all be proud?

Mr. Hunt

I quite agree. Lord Crickhowell and my immediate predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker), laid a tremendous foundation for the future prosperity of Wales. I sometimes wish that Opposition Members would join their colleagues in local government—

Dr. Thomas

Not all of us.

Mr. Hunt

I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. I sometimes wish that Labour Members would join their many colleagues in local government in working in a positive partnership—as some do—to secure the future of the people of Wales and to improve their conditions even further.

Mr. Barry Jones

With the long recess imminent, will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether he believes that the excellent Brymbo work force has a steelmaking future? They have fought so spiritedly and so hard for more than two months and need a word of encouragement about steelmaking from the right hon. Gentleman. We do not want him to be impotent in this instance. The right hon. Gentleman's former colleague in Cabinet, the former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, did Wales a disservice in his infamous interview with The Spectator. The right hon. Gentleman may know that there are 43 West German companies in Wales and 900 in Britain, and that one sixth of West Germany's manufacturing companies here are located in Wales. Was not the right hon. Gentleman glad to see his former Cabinet colleague go, having done such damage to Britain's interest?

Mr. Hunt

To answer the only question that falls within the limits of the tabled question, I advise the hon. Gentleman that I have had the opportunity of meeting representatives of the work force at Brymbo and have been able to assure them that I am aware of the tremendous progress that they have made, individually and collectively, in terms not only of the quality of their work, but of productivity. However, it is right not to raise hopes to a false expectation. Suffice it to say that every possible effort is being made to find a solution that secures the future of that community.

Forward to