HC Deb 19 June 2002 vol 387 c267
7. Mr. Chris Bryant (Rhondda)

If he will make a statement about the recent effect in Wales of Government measures to create job opportunities for unemployed people. [59912]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Paul Murphy)

The Government's long-term ambition is that by the end of the decade there will be a higher proportion of people in work than ever before. The Government have seen success both in reducing unemployment to nearly its lowest for 20 years, and in increasing employment, with 1.5 million more people in work than in spring 1997. I am pleased to tell the House that the latest figures for Wales, published last Friday, showed an increase of 3,000 in the total number of people in work in Wales compared to a year before.

Mr. Bryant

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. He will be especially delighted to know that since 1997 unemployment in the Rhondda has fallen by more than 50 per cent. However, there are still many problems facing local industry, which complains that it is difficult to understand the process whereby it can get assistance from the Welsh Development Agency, and is worried that young people do not emerge from school with the entrepreneurial skills that are needed. Will he talk to his colleagues in the Welsh Assembly to ensure that we improve our record on those matters?

Mr. Murphy

Yes, of course I will. My hon. Friend is right to stress that his constituency has benefited—perhaps more than any other in Wales—from the changes, and that he has a committed work force in the Rhondda. I look forward to being with him in the Pop factory in Porth on Friday, where we will celebrate the industrial heritage of the Rhondda and a great future for his valleys.