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Employment

Volume 885: debated on Monday 27 January 1975

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5.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales whether he will make a statement on the additional powers which he has now taken in order to ensure a higher level of employment in Wales.

From 1st July I shall be responsible for administering selective financial assistance. This is one of the most important means of helping to stabilise and develop industry in Wales.

That is very fine, but is the Secretary of State aware that all his praiseworthy efforts are being largely undone by those of his ministerial colleagues who, by their vindictiveness against the self-employed or by the penal rates of capital transfer tax which they propose to apply to family businesses, are liable to take away many more jobs than he can ever create? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman admit that the time has come to save jobs rather than to clobber those who do not vote Labour?

The hon. Gentleman must be living in a wholly different world. As regards saving jobs, I remind the hon. Gentleman that he voted for the British Steel Corporation's proposal to close down Shotton within a very short period. I wholly reject the hon. Gentleman's suggestions.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend get in touch with his colleagues in the Department of Industry to bring forward the legislation on the National Enterprise Board and hasten the day when we have a Welsh development agency, which will carry out the functions of the board in Wales? Will he make representations to the agency at an early date to use the derelict land in the valleys of South Wales for industrial development, rather than take good agricultural land elsewhere?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his positive remarks. We shall speed on with our proposals for the National Enterprise Board, and I hope that within a very short time we shall publish our consultative paper on the Welsh development agency. My office has made it a priority that the money available for derelict land should go to sites needed for industrial development and housing. The programme we have published, with limited resources, has been welcomed throughout Wales.

The Secretary of State says that we are living in different worlds. Is not the world in which we are living one in which Welsh unemployment is rising? Is the substantial recent increase in Welsh unemployment considered a satisfactory outcome of Government policies? To what level does the right hon. and learned Gentleman expect Welsh unemployment to be forced by those policies?

I assure the hon. Gentleman—so that we come back to the same world—that I would never regard any figure of unemployment as satisfactory. I want to do my utmost to reduce the present unemployment figure in Wales. But I find the hon. Gentleman's protestations very odd, coming from a supporter of the previous Government, who saw unemployment rocketing.