HC Deb 12 June 1995 vol 261 c489
11. Mr. Alan W. Williams

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what are the latest figures for economic activity rates for (a) the south Wales valleys, (b) Wales and (c) Britain. [26041]

Mr. Redwood

I am advised that the latest figures that we have for the south Wales valleys for economically active rates come from the 1991 census of population. At that time the figure was 52.9 per cent. We have more up-to-date figures from the 1994–95 labour survey for Wales and Great Britain, which stood at 57.2 per cent. and 62.4 per cent.

Mr. Williams

The Welsh Office regularly claims that unemployment in Wales is now down to the British average, and we welcome that; but the unemployment figure tells only part of the story. When economic activity rates are taken into account—especially in the old industrial areas—about 15 per cent. can be added to the male unemployment figure, partly because of early retirement but mainly because people have been encouraged to take invalidity benefit wherever applicable.

In what way do the Government recognise those lower economic activity rates in Wales, and what will be the effect of changes caused by the introduction of incapacity benefit, which will take people off invalidity benefit and put them on to the dole queues? Does the Secretary of State accept that the economies of large areas in south Wales are performing well below capacity?

Mr. Redwood

No, I do not accept that. I think that the right hon. Gentleman is trying to sidestep the fact that unemployment is very low in his part of Wales, which is welcome. In the Carmarthen travel-to-work area, it is 4.7 per cent.; in the Llandeilo travel-to-work area, it is 5 per cent. Many hon. Members would love to have such low levels of unemployment in their constituencies: they show that our policies have been successful.

The right hon. Gentleman seems to be suggesting that all those who are properly registered as being in ill health or disabled should be forced to work. That is not our policy, although it may be Labour's. When people are genuinely disabled or in ill health, they receive benefits and they are not expected to work. It is sad that there are more disabled people in some parts of Wales, but we intend to take care of them rather than doing as the hon. Gentleman suggests.

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