§ 4. Mr. Speller
To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what are the unemployment figures in the towns of Barnstaple, Ilfracombe and South Molton in 1979 and the present day: and if he will make a statement on the future employment prospects in this area.
§ Mr. Forth
The figures are 1,441 and 1,656, although they are not comparable, the travel-to-work area having been redefined and changes having been made in the coverage of the count. With unemployment at only 4.5 per cent. for the Barnstaple and Ilfracombe area, prospects for future employment are excellent, bearing in mind the fact that there are over 500 vacancies locally.
§ Mr. Speller
Does my hon. Friend accept that the figures of 4.5 per cent. unemployment in the Barnstaple and Ilfracombe area and a mere 2.5 per cent. in South Molton show how wise we were to take away grant that was based on development areas and to substitute good roads and infrastructure? Can he promise me that when we get our downstream bridge, unemployment may virtually disappear in north Devon?
§ Mr. Forth
I join my hon. Friend in celebrating the success in job creation in his constituency in the past few years. He is tempting me on to the territory of another Department. I shall resist that temptation, but I undertake to raise the point that my hon. Friend raises with the Department of Transport to see what can be done.