HC Deb 18 February 1991 vol 186 cc5-6
4. Mr. Ron Davies

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales when he expects the unemployment total in Wales to exceed 100,000.

Mr. David Hunt

In January 1991, the unadjusted total of unemployed claimants was 101,452. The seasonally adjusted total is 96,000.

Mr. Davies

Does the Secretary of State accept that those figures represent much suffering and an appalling waste of human resources in Wales? After 12 years of Tory Government frittering away our national assets, under-investment in education and training, transport, research, industry and employment generally, does the Secretary of State feel neither shame nor embarrassment that he has no new initiatives, policies or prospects for improving the position of the people of Wales?

Mr. Hunt

To be fair, five years ago the headline total was pushing 200,000; it has fallen substantially since. I am certainly doing everything that I can to promote Wales and the development of the Welsh economy. Having carefully considered transport provision, I am happy to announce a boost of more than £8 million in local authority capital provision for urban projects. The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to hear that I am making a £4.9 million transport grant which will enable his county council to make a start on the lower Rhymney valley relief road scheme.

Mr. Ray Powell

I thank the Secretary of State for meeting the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman on Welsh affairs and myself to discuss an issue involving further redundancy and unemployment in Wales. If the Government continue like this, we shall soon reach the figure of 200,000 that he mentioned. I am talking about the 40 or 50 staff of the community action training organisation, which has trained 4,000 people in the past 10 years. It was established as a community initiative, but the Welsh training and enterprise councils, which the right hon. Gentleman was responsible for setting up, have withdrawn CATO's contract for 200 trainees. The Secretary of State should at least announce whether he intends to carry out an investigation to ensure that the TECs did not take a political decision on the closure of CATO.

Mr. Hunt

I am happy to give that latter assurance. After hearing the argument of the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend, I contacted the training and enterprise council. I understand that it had reasons for reaching its decision and I have asked it to make them available to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Raffan

Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming this morning's announcement of the creation of a further 60 jobs at Breger Gibson in my constituency, which brings the total to just under 300? Does he agree that that is a further sign of how much more diversified, soundly based and therefore resilient our local economy has become in the past 10 years, thanks in large part to Government policy?

Mr. Hunt

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The £2 million factory expansion at Holywell, Clwyd, which will create 60 new jobs is indeed welcome. I was happy to be able to make a Welsh Office grant towards the project. As well as creating the 60 new jobs, it will secure the jobs of 230 people who are already employed by the company, which was established as recently as 1986.

Mr. Barry Jones

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his remarks about transport. Is not he deeply concerned at the depth of the recession and the nature of the redundancies in Wales? I have in mind hundreds of redundancies in coal, steel, cement, furniture, clothing and electronics and in famous names such as Pilkington, Hoover and JCB. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the lost BBC and HTV jobs will be very hard to replace? Can he explain why, when unemployment is rising, with the figure of 100,000 in sight, he proposes to cut his industry and employment budget by 35 per cent? Why is that, given that the job situation in Wales is so serious? Will he relent on his plans to make cuts?

Mr. Hunt

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman has tried to suggest that there are planned cuts. I believe that he has done a great deal to mislead the press—unintentionally, I am sure. The industry programme, as last year, shows a decline due to the withdrawal of regional development grants, but that had been expected for some time. My industry programme provides for total gross expenditure of £268 million next year, which is some £15 million above this year's spend. It will still be higher than now in 1993–94, even allowing for the end of RDG. The hon. Gentleman should not seek to bring down our country with talk of gloom and doom. The medium to longer-term prospects for Wales are as good as ever.