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Employment (Public Sector)

Volume 890: debated on Monday 14 April 1975

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1.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is his policy on the dispersal of jobs in the public sector in Wales away from Cardiff to areas that have suffered from restricted job opportunities and on the centralisation of existing jobs in the public sector; and if he is satisfied with the operation of his policy in this regard.

I make every effort to ensure that public sector employment is located in the most suitable areas in Wales, but I have no proposals for dispersal of existing jobs away from Cardiff.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. Is he aware that in Caernarvon there has been consider- able loss of jobs in the public sector because of the recent removal of employment in the Post Office, the railways, the gas services and the police? There is considerable anxiety that a further loss of jobs will take place because of the move by the Welsh National Water Development Authority to centralise the offices of the river division in Gwynedd. Will the Secretary of State give an undertaking that he will bring pressure to bear on the water authority to resist any such centralisation?

I am sorry to disappoint the hon. Member. The location of the premises of the water authority is a question for that authority under the terms of the Act. I am always mindful of the need to ensure that if there are Government dispersal policies they will be of benefit to Wales generally. We have already achieved a successful programme and we hope to bring Government jobs to Wales in the future.

I recently had the privilege of opening a Crown court building in the hon. Gentleman's constituency.

Swansea and district is grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for his decision in the previous Government to site the MOT centre in Swansea. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer makes a decision tomorrow to abolish vehicle tax, is the Secretary of State aware that we look with confidence to him for some assistance in compensating the area for any job loss which may be involved?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind remarks. The MOT centre brought 3,750 jobs to Swansea. I cannot anticipate the Chancellor's Budget. My right hon. Friend and I are always mindful of the employment needs of West Glamorgan.

Will the Secretary of State confirm that he is aware of the grave employment difficulties facing Cardiff, and will he reject any proposal to take jobs away from the capital city?

I am certainly able to bring comfort to the hon. Gentleman. The Government have a major proposal to bring a large number of Civil Service jobs to Cardiff. This follows the bringing of the Mint to Wales under a previous Labour administration. The hon. Gentleman can be satisfied that plans for the future for Cardiff for Government dispersal jobs are high on our priorities.

Although we do not wish to take jobs away from Cardiff and if Government Departments are to move away into the Principality, will the Secreof State consider setting up offices at the Heads of the Valleys so that Ebbw Vale and other valley towns can have a greater choice of jobs rather than just the basic industries?

It is very much part of my philosophy on the Ebbw Vale problem that there should be much wider job opportunities in the valleys. My hon. Friend will be aware that the Civil Service jobs we shall bring to Wales will demand huge resources of manpower. Civil Service posts for the Cardiff and Newport areas announced last July will bring no fewer than 7,400 jobs. I am mindful of having wider job opportunities in the whole of Wales.

Does the Minister not agree that successive Governments over the last 20 or 30 years have neglected job opportunities in the public sector in mid-Wales? Is he aware of the table mentioned last week in Hansard which says that the number of self-employed is extremely high in three counties in mid-Wales? Cardigan came top of the league, followed by Montgomeryshire and Carmarthen. We are worried about the job opportunities for people in the public sector in mid-Wales.

The hon. Gentleman must be totally unaware of the growth of Newtown—a tremendous success story of the previous Labour Government—whereby we have ensured that the rate of depopulation has been reversed. I am mindful of the needs of mid-Wales for any opportunity that arises.