HC Deb 10 June 1991 vol 192 cc587-91
5. Mr. Denzil Davies

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what has been the percentage increase in unemployment in Wales over the last (a) six months and (b) three months.

Mr. David Hunt

The figures are 24 per cent. and 13 per cent.

Mr. Davies

Those figures prove, if any proof was necessary, the disastrous effect of 12 years of Tory economic policies on Wales.

Mr. David Hunt

indicated dissent.

Mr. Davies

Instead of shaking his head, will the Secretary of State now admit that the Tory policies of the past 12 years have led not to an economic miracle but to an economic mirage? Does he further agree that those policies have converted and continue to convert Wales from a nation of producers and manufacturers into a candy-floss service economy, ill-equipped to meet the challenges of the 1990s?

Mr. Hunt

It is not often that I accuse the right hon. Gentleman of talking nonsense, but he has just done that. In March 1979, the work force in Wales was 1,140,000. Since then it has risen and the December 1990 figure was 1,194,000. In the past five years the number of long-term unemployed has reduced greatly. A great deal is happening in Wales to the good. Many businesses are reinvesting and we have a record level of inward investment.

Sir Anthony Meyer

Will my right hon. Friend reflect on the state that the Welsh economy would be in today if it were still dependent on those smokestack industries in which the Opposition are so rootedly entrenched? Is not it a fact that under the stewardship of my right hon. Friend and his predecessors, the Welsh Development Agency and other bodies have brought about the diversification of the Welsh economy, which has enabled it far better to resist the ravages of recession?

Mr. Hunt

I agree with my hon. Friend and I am delighted to announce 14 marvellous projects which will be a tremendous boost for Wales. There are to be 14 new industrial projects, creating more than 700 new jobs and involving investment of more than £20 million. They are tangible evidence of the marvellous willingness and confidence of companies to invest in Wales.

Mr. Rowlands

Is not the Secretary of State very well aware of the serious job crisis in the communities that I represent following the closure of Thorn EMI and Hoover—neither of which is a smokestack industry? Is he further aware that we will be increasingly dependent on the development of local business, enterprise and industry? Has he recieved assurances from the major banks that they will be backing the valley businesses and communities both with overdraft facilities and, with the current crisis in interest rates, by passing on the reductions in interest rates during recent months?

Mr. Hunt

I share the hon. Gentleman's concern about the position in Merthyr. I hope that he will not—he did not do so today—try to say that the Thorn EMI closure is a direct result of the recession, because it is not. Nevertheless, it is a serious blow, with serious job consequences. We shall be doing everything possible to attract new businesses to Merthyr and we shall do our bests to persuade and encourage businesses already there to grow and expand.

On the hon. Gentleman's point about the banks, during recent weeks and months I have met their representatives in Wales and at their head offices in London, where I have put across the message that Wales has a thriving economy, that growth prospects are as marvellous as ever and that we hope to continue to have the banks' full support.

Mr. Barry Jones

Like the Secretary of State, I welcome the developments by Sony, British Airways and Toyota. However, will he admit that the Government neither understand nor care that their economic policies are hurting ordinary people in Wales? Has he forgotten that unemployment in Wales has risen by a quarter during the past six months, yet the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said that that is a price worth paying? Indeed, the Secretary of State glibly said that Wales is bucking the trends. That is not good enough and he should admit his responsibility for the recession that is hurting Wales.

Mr. Hunt

We in Wales cannot isolate ourselves from the recession in the United Kingdom, just as the United Kingdom cannot isolate itself from the consequences of recession in many developed countries. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will recognise that, as well as announcing major news about jobs today, I have announced 41 projects this year, involving more than £246 million of new investment. I am happy to announce today that the total amount of inward investment in Wales last year and this year has just breached the £1 billion barrier.

Mr. Livsey

Will the Secretary of State note that he should reduce employment in the Welsh Office by sacking those officials who engineered what was, relatively speaking, the theft of the painting of Adelina Patti from Craig-y-nos castle in my constituency? Does not he have a moral duty to return the painting, which was sold to the National Museum of Wales for £9,000? Should not that painting be returned to Craig-y-nos castle, where it has hung for most of this century? The taking of the painting was a disgrace—it was, literally, selling off the family silver.

Mr. Hunt

I am not aware of any situation other than that the painting was properly valued and properly sold.

6. Mr. Flynn

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many people in Wales are doing more than one job and are thus counted more than once in the employment figures.

The Minister of State, Welsh Office (Sir Wyn Roberts)

Precise information on the number of people with more than one job, included in the civilian work force in employment estimates in Wales, is not available. However, the labour force survey estimated that 30,000 people in Wales had a second job in the spring of 1990.

Mr. Flynn

With their new-found interest in veracity, will Ministers note that 750,000 people are counted twice in the employment figures for Britain? Moreover, many millions of people are treated as full-time workers although they are doing part-time work and others, who are unemployed, have been redefined as sick or retired.

Will Ministers leave their Walter Mitty world of manic optimism and come into the real world in Wales every month, where, more and more people are feeling the daily insult of enforced unemployment? When will they hear clearly the message of Monmouth that the Government are clapped out and discredited and that they should go and go quickly?

Sir Wyn Roberts

I should have thought that the people of Wales and all hon. Members would prefer to listen to the excellent news given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State a few months ago. He announced that so far this year the Welsh Office had supported 41 projects involving £246 million of new investment which have created nearly 3,700 new jobs and safeguarded well over 600 others. Fourteen projects were announced today. That is very good news for the people of Wales.

With regard to the 30,000 people in Wales who may have a second job, I remind hon. Members that many of us also have two jobs.

Mr. Ron Davies

Does the Minister accept that those items of good news, welcome though they are, are dwarfed by the bad news that we regularly receive in our constituencies? In Caerphilly, unemployment has increased by 37 per cent. in the past 12 months. We received a hammer blow when Penallta colliery was closed as a direct result of the Government's policies. At the same time, we are seeing the more insidious seeping away of the employment provided by smaller, localised enterprises. Does not the Minister realise that the real causes of rising unemployment are high interest rates and the Government's disastrous economic policies?

Sir Wyn Roberts

The hon. Gentleman dwarfs the good news. He talked about the closure of Penallta colliery. Nobody closed more collieries than the previous Labour Government. We had the task of bringing new jobs to Wales and we have done so with energy, vigour and success.

Mr. Dickens

Does my hon. Friend agree that if a person has two jobs, it does not necessarily mean that he is on low pay, as witnessed by the number of Labour Members who are also lawyers and journalists?

Sir Wyn Roberts

I agree with my hon. Friend, although perhaps I fall into that category myself; as a Member of Parliament and a Minister, I have two jobs. I must tell the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn), who asked the original question, that the estimate of 30,000 people in Wales with two jobs must be treated carefully, because it is based on a sample of only 3,000 households and is subject to sampling errors. Of those 30,000, 24,000 were employees, 5,000 were self-employed and 1,000 were on Government training schemes.

Mr. Barry Jones

But still the redundancies rain down on Wales because of the Government's serious economic errors—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) is a Front-Bench spokesman and should leave the calling of Back-Bench hon. Members to the Chair rather than trying to interrupt in such a disgraceful manner. He should know better.

Mr. Rogers

The hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens) had only just arrived.

Mr. Jones

Will Ministers now acknowledge the seriousness and the depth of the recession in Wales? They repeatedly say, "Do not blame us—we are only the Government, we have no responsibility for the redundancies that keep raining down on the Welsh people." Since the Secretary of State took office, unemployment in Wales has increased dramatically, but neither the Minister nor his right hon. Friend has any strategy to deal with the problem.

Mr. Speaker

I call Mr. Hain. I am sorry—I call Sir Wyn Roberts first.

Sir Wyn Roberts

The Government have a strategy, as the hon. Gentleman knows only too well. Our task is to bring down inflation, and we are succeeding in that task. We know that bringing down inflation will increase unemployment, but only when we have reduced inflation will the country be able to return to its path of economic growth. We have taken such steps as are necessary to allow the economy to recover and get back on to that path of growth from the end of this year, and our policy is succeeding.

Does the hon. Gentleman support a high rate of inflation? I should not be surprised if he did, because high inflation rates were traditional under Labour Governments, especially the last, when the rate reached 27 per cent.

Mr. Speaker

I now call Mr. Peter Hain.

Mr. Hain

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is better to be called twice than not at all.

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