HC Deb 04 December 1995 vol 268 cc7-9
7. Mr. Roy Hughes

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what is the figure for male unemployment in Wales at the latest available date; and what is this figure expressed in percentage terms. [1862]

Mr. Hague

In 0ctober 1995, the seasonally adjusted number of males on the claimant unemployment count in Wales was 82,700; or 11.1 per cent. of the male work force.

Mr. Hughes

Do the Government recognise the damage that their policies are doing to Newport and Gwent? For instance, the Secretary of State has recently vetoed the Newport barrage scheme, which could have done so much good for Newport and the surrounding area. At the same time as he has the audacity to talk about accountability, I understand that he is mindful to grant a licence to the obnoxious Browning Ferris waste disposal plant. If he did, he would be flying in the face of the wishes of the people of Newport. That is not accountability at all; it is totalitarianism.

Mr. Hague

Unemployment in the hon. Gentleman's constituency has decreased by 12.7 per cent. in the past year; unemployment in Gwent has decreased by 2,000, or 11 per cent., in the past year and unemployment in Wales has decreased by 7,300, or 6.6 per cent., in the past year. I would therefore differ from the hon. Gentleman in his belief that policies that the Government have pursued are destroying jobs.

Mr. John Marshall

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the level of unemployment in Wales is affected by the level of inward investment? Does he believe that the level of inward investment would be encouraged by a tax-raising Welsh assembly or by the adoption of a national minimum wage?

Mr. Hague

No, I do not. We have succeeded in reducing unemployment in recent years because we have encouraged investment, because we have had lower taxes on employment than other countries in Europe and because we have had no truck with job-destroying measures such as a minimum wage or the social chapter.

Mr. Rowlands

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his predecessor volunteered a specific initiative on male unemployment, especially in view of the serious amount of male economic inactivity? The initiative never came into being. Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to make a specific set of proposals to cope with that very serious problem in our communities?

Mr. Hague

My predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood), initiated the programme for the valleys, which has been followed by substantial reductions in unemployment in the valleys area. I am always very willing to discuss additional initiatives that might reduce unemployment, provided that they fit the overall framework that has been so successful in reducing unemployment recently.

Mr. Dafis

Has the Secretary of State considered what the effect would be on unemployment in Wales if the rumours that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury proposes to close certain Welsh quangos and merge them with English ones were ever to come to fruition? Does he accept that, if there were any such proposals in relation to Tai Cymru, the Higher and Further Education Funding Council for Wales or the Countryside Council for Wales, there would be a furious reaction in Wales? Will he give us an assurance that he will ensure that any such move is blocked?

Mr. Hague

I have no proposals to make at the moment about the future of any of the organisations that the hon. Gentleman mentioned, and I am not aware of any intentions on the part of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary.

Mr. Morgan

Has the Secretary of State read the Press Association report of this morning's press conference by Welsh Water, following its takeover of Swalec, that 1,000 jobs are at risk from the merger? Will the Secretary of State therefore give the House an assurance that, in order to pay back the £700 million cash that Welsh Water will borrow to finance the takeover of Swalec, it will not resort to mass sackings of 1,000 of its own staff and electricity staff, or rape the Welsh environment by cutting its capital expenditure on new sewerage works or on meeting its legal statutory requirements to give Wales 50 European blue flag beaches by 2000, as previously agreed? Will the Secretary of State agree to ask the President of the Board of Trade to refer that bid to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission?

Mr. Hague

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Director General of Fair Trading will consider that matter with the Director General of Electricity Supply and the Director General of Water Services, and will then give advice to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade as to whether the bid should be referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. I shall ensure that all the opinions that are given to me are passed on to the Director General of Fair Trading.