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Volume 827: debated on Monday 29 November 1971

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asked the Secretary of State for Wales whether he will now meet the Welsh Advisory Committee of the Trades Union Congress to discuss the level of unemployment in Wales, in view of the latest figures of redundancies.

Yes, I hope to do so very shortly.

I am pleased to hear that reply, because the position in Wales, with more than 50,000 unemployed and with 15,000 redundancies notified at the end of October last, means that unemployment is now at crisis level. The step taken by the right hon. and learned Gentleman will perhaps correct the impression given, rightly or wrongly, that his inactivity was resulting in the displacement of two generations of Welsh people who sought employment.

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I have had three meetings with the Welsh T.U.C., and I look forward to having further discussions with it.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that in my constituency, some unemployment is already being experienced, and a great deal more is likely in the haulage industry due to the failure of the Government to provide permits to haulage firms to use their lorries on the Continent? Would he be good enough to have a word with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment and ask him to look into this problem?


asked the Secretary of State for Wales what special steps he proposes to take to alleviate unemployment amongst young people in Wales.

A lasting reduction in unemployment among young people in Wales can only be brought about by renewed economic growth. We are pledged to achieve this. More immediately I am in close touch with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment about the part Wales shall play in the National Association of Youth Clubs scheme which he announced last week.

Does not the Secretary of State appreciate that most of us on this side of the House welcome the initiative of the youth clubs in Wales in this connection? At the same time, in Wales there are 50,000 reasons why we are extremely critical of the Government's unemployment policy. Would not the right hon. and learned Gentleman at least accept that he has a special responsibility to the young unemployed in Wales, and would he consider approaching directly public authorities, local authorities, nationalised industries and even private firms urging them to increase the number of apprenticeships?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is very important that there should be an increase in apprenticeships. As he knows, there has recently been a considerable increase in training facilities. I am fully aware of the seriousness of the unemployment situation. That is why I am glad that such massive reflationary Measures, many of which were announced last week, have been taken by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

In view of all these questions about unemployment, has my right hon. and learned Friend noted that in the New Statesman and in Tribune, which are by no means devoted to the support of the present Government, there have been deep criticisms recently about the sharp growth of unemployment in the latter days of the Labour Government? As the present Government also inherited a inflationary situation, does not that explain our difficulty?

If this Government are at fault, it is in their misjudgment of the deep-seated effect of the deflationary policies pursued by the previous Administration and of the effect of the serious wage-cost inflation with which we were left in 1970. That is why the massive and unprecedented reflationary policies announced by my right hon. Friend will be the only answer to the problems we face.

Is not the Secretary of State aware that by dismantling the regional development policy, mainly with the abolition of investment grants, the Government are responsible for what they are doing, which has resulted in 70 per cent. fewer jobs and 50 per cent. fewer industries coming to Wales than a year ago? This is the direct result not of the actions of the C.E.I. or anyone else but of the Government.

The hon. Gentleman is wrong. The regional policies announced by the Government offer a great inducement to industry to go to the areas when there is an upturn in the economy nationally.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that in North Wales at least, one slightly brighter spot in a very grim employment picture is that the whole picture for school leavers has begun to show signs of improvement?

Yes. Although the matter has been serious, I am happy to say that the majority of school leavers are in employment.

Whilst we all accept that there were difficulties during the period of Labour Government, would the Secretary of State explain why more new jobs were created in Wales during a period of deflation under a Labour Government than are now being created in a period of reflation under his Government?

I can explain that. It was because the deflationary policies pursued from 1966 onwards took some time to work through the economy. On top of that there was the unprecedented wage-cost inflation which was left for the present Government when we took over last year.


asked the Secretary of State for Wales what estimate he has made of the effect of additional Government expenditure in Wales on overcoming unemployment.

No precise estimate can be made but the additional Government expenditure announced in recent months is designed to improve employment opportunities in Wales substantially.

Is it not a novel doctrine of a so-called considered Government, which the Prime Minister promised, that measures are now being taken without any calculation of their likely effect? Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say how many jobs will be provided by the miserable 5 per cent. of the total amount allocated to Wales in last week's announcement?

The hon. Gentleman is extraordinary in the way he tries to denigrate the major proposals for Wales, the £21 million which comes with the infrastructure, the £9 million extra to be spent on roads and, in addition, the share of the acceleration of the nationalised industry expenditure. The hon. Gentleman tries to make light of that. Clearly, it will mean many jobs for Wales, but it is impossible to be precise about numbers because the jobs will be done by local authorities and many other bodies and it is impossible to get the figures.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the time has come to stop tinkering round the edges of the problem, which is all that the Government have so far done in Wales? Does not he take the view that we must now have a crash programme for employment in Wales?

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman heard the figures I gave. These are major additional figures to be spent within the next one and two years.