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Unemployment (Caernarvon)

Volume 981: debated on Monday 17 March 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Wales, what proposals he has to combat the anticipated severe increase in unemployment in the Caernarvon area.

I am fully aware of the unemployment problems facing the Caernarvon area and I am planning to discuss the situation with Gwynedd county council.

Is the Secretary of State fully aware of the magnitude of that increase? Is he aware that 1,300 redundancies have been registered with the local employment office in Caernarvon in recent weeks and that that adds to the escalating unemployment rate? Does he accept that the CEGB has been run down in Dinorwig, that the Bernard Wardle factory has been closed and that several public works have come to an end? Is it not therefere ridiculous to downgrade the Arfon area from a special development area to an ordinary one, when the unemployment rate will probably exceed 20 per cent?

I am fully aware of the situation in Gywnedd. I therefore hope to discuss the matter with Gwynedd county council within the next month. We have said that if the unemployment situation changes, we shall review those areas affected. That applies to this part of Wales as to others. I am also pressing on with the A55 road programme. That is of great importance to the area.

Three major projects will begin in the coming financial year; Bangor bypass, Colcon stage I and Hawarden bypass. In total those projects will cost £125 million. We are treating that programme as a matter of urgency.

What contribution does the programme of arson against country cottages in North Wales make to the creation of employment opportunities in that area? Has my right hon. Friend re-ceived from Plaid Cymru an unequivocal denunciation both of the acts and of the motives behind those acts?

I hope that all hon. Members will condemn actions that damage and destroy property, and that endanger life. I agree that such acts seriously damage the economy of the area. They weaken the tourist industry and they may prevent or deter new investment. I hope that all hon. Members and all political parties will vigorously condemn those acts. I hope that Plaid Cymru Members will join in that condemnation.

Is not the Secretary of State aware of the statements that I have made during successive sittings of the Standing Committee on the Housing Bill? Will he not draw those statements to the attention of his hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer)?

It might have been helpful if the hon. Gentleman had repeated his condemnation—if that is what it was—in unequivocal terms today. I have not read his remarks. However, if he condemned that arson, I welcome his statement.

May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on taking such a close personal interest in the affairs of North-West Wales and its economy? Does he not agree that we should stimulate small firms in that area? Will he therefore consider whether the WDA's present scheme for giving loans at lower rates of interest in rural areas and in small towns should be extended to other parts of Wales?

My hon. Friend is right. We attach great importance to encouraging small firms. We are taking several measures in order to meet that end. I have asked the WDA to concentrate its investment programme on the small firm sector. Loans at concessionary rates of interest are available to firms in rural areas. The agency has joined banks in launching a guarantee scheme. I hope that my hon. Friend will draw these various schemes and the services available from the agency to the attention of all interested and potentially interested customers.

In order to mitigate any effect on outside investment that may result from such arson, has the Secretary of State had discussions with the Home Secretary—as I understood he was to do—to ensure that no more irresponsible programmes stem from the BBC? Does he not agree that those programmes demonstrate that the BBC has colluded with arsonists and has presented unbalanced programmes which act as an incitement to arson?

I am in touch with my right hon. Friend. I expressed my views beforehand about holding the programme. I do not accept the case put forward by Sir Michael Swann in his letter to The Times justifying the programme. I believe that the programme gave a platform for the view of a small minority, which will encourage further such acts. The chief constable for North Wales has stated that it will make his task more difficult. I hope that the broadcasting authorities will consider carefully the consequences of their actions, when property and life are being put at risk.