HC Deb 30 October 1995 vol 265 cc4-6
3. Mr. Barry Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many people are unemployed in (a) Clwyd and (b) Wales; and what were the figures for May 1979. [37830]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Rod Richards)

In September 1995, the seasonally adjusted number of persons on the claimant count in Wales was 68,700. The unadjusted figure for Clwyd in September 1995 was 13,065. There is no comparable figure for Clwyd for May 1979.

Mr. Jones

Will the Minister and the Department take a keen interest in the long-term future of jobs at Merseyside and North-Western electricity board, as 300 compulsory redundancies were predicted during the takeover? Is he aware that some 2,000 aerospace jobs have been lost in my constituency in the past two years? We cannot afford to lose any more skilled jobs. Will he undertake to visit the headquarters of MANWEB to discuss its future?

Mr. Richards

I am aware of press speculation of redundancies at MANWEB and, while it is a matter for the company, no one wants uncertainty for its employees or forced redundancies. There is also an awful lot of good news in and around the hon. Gentleman's constituency—particularly with regard to Broughton, which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State visited on 26 September this year. The Raytheon Services Centre is staying open, while Sharp UK has announced an investment that will create 50 jobs. The Almedica Services Corporation has announced an investment that will lead to a further 200 jobs being created, while Warwick International is creating 60 more jobs. Kemitron in Hawarden is creating 100 jobs, while Mita UK in Abergele—in my constituency, as it happens—is proposing an investment that will create 70 jobs.

Mr. Sweeney

Will my hon. Friend join me in welcoming a piece of investment that is very important to my constituency? The new Barry hospital, which cost £8 million, was opened last Thursday by her royal highness Princess Margaret, and I look forward to that hospital providing a wonderful service to my constituents in the years to come.

Mr. Richards

I am delighted that there has been further investment in the NHS in my hon. Friend's constituency. Such investment has formed a part of the policy of the Government since 1979, and my hon. Friend may be assured that the health service is safe in our hands.

Mr. Rogers

Further to the Secretary of State's response to Question 1 regarding the number of working days lost—

Madam Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must rephrase his question so that it relates to unemployment. We cannot operate in retrospect—we are now dealing with Question 3.

Mr. Rogers

Further to any replies which have been given here today in relation to unemployment in Wales, is the Minister aware of the number of working days lost through unemployment? What is his message to the young people of the valleys whom we represent? In some communities, unemployment among young people is more than 80 per cent., while among adults the figure is well over 30 per cent. The Government's new revolution in south Wales seems to have passed the valleys by. Does the Minister have any comment on the matter?

Mr. Richards

I am astonished that the hon. Gentleman should raise the issues of unemployment and days lost through strikes. Had there been a count of the number of days lost through strikes in July this year when the Labour party was on strike—one out, all out as the Labour party slogan seems to be—there would have been an additional 28. I notice that all Labour Members took their pay for that day, even though they were not here at their place of work.

Mr. John Marshall

Will my hon. Friend estimate what would happen to the level of unemployment in Wales and in Clwyd if we were to introduce a national minimum wage, which in other countries has destroyed jobs, and to sign up to the social chapter, which would discourage inward investment into Wales?

Mr. Richards

My hon. Friend makes two extremely valid points. There is no question but that, if a minimum wage were introduced, unemployment in Wales, in Clwyd and in the United Kingdom as a whole would soar and that the introduction of the social chapter would have the same effect. Fortunately, between now and the general election, the Government will ensure that the electorate are informed of the dire consequences of introducing either of those two disastrous policies.

Mr. Ron Davies

The Under-Secretary of State's statement in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) will be welcomed by Opposition Members. I trust that he will join me in congratulating the Labour-controlled Clwyd county council on its sterling work to attract investment and jobs to that area. Does he agree that, if we are to overcome the appalling legacy of the past 16 years—the 150,000 jobs that have been lost in Wales and the fact that, every month, we go down the regional pay league—we must have a much more positive partnership between the public and private sectors? If so, will he acknowledge the vital work being done by the Welsh Development Agency? Perhaps he could confirm that, when the present round of forced asset-stripping of the WDA comes to an end, it will be Welsh Office policy to restore the previous level of grant to the WDA.

Mr. Richards

I certainly would have joined in with what the hon. Gentleman had to say about the WDA's good work had he bothered to turn up in July. I am not sure which is worse—the new Ron, the old Ron, or no Ron. The hon. Gentleman is wrong to say that the Government's economic policy since 1979 has been a disaster. It has been an outstanding success in Wales—we transformed the clapped-out economy that we inherited from the Labour party into a high-tech, modern economy with new, meaningful, high-tech jobs. That is the consequence of 16 years of Conservative Government, to which the WDA has contributed, as the hon. Gentleman knows, although the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) has refused to acknowledge it. As for the future funding of the WDA, the hon. Gentleman will find out in due course.

Madam Speaker

Order. We are not in debate. This is Question Time.

Forward to