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Unemployment Statistics

Volume 14: debated on Monday 30 November 1981

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2.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is the increase in unemployment in Wales since May 1980.

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what are the actual numbers and the percentage increase in unemployment since May 1979 when he assumed office.

At 12 November 1981 the seasonally adjusted level of unemployment stood at 158,400, an increase of 77,200 or 95.1 per cent. over the corresponding level at May 1979, and of 65,000, or 70·5 per cent., over the May 1980 level.

Will the Secretary of State assure us that he will strongly resist attempts to make real cuts in unemployment benefit? Has he read of the unprecedented scenes in Shotton high street last week when several hundred men queued to apply for the 200 smelter jobs at Shotton? Bearing in mind the youth unemployment lobby today, how does he propose to bring to Wales real jobs for the young unemployed?

In my speech last week I began my remarks on unemployment benefit by saying that the options for the greatest economies had been closed. I argued that that was not an area in which significant cuts could be made.

I know of the scenes to which the hon. Gentleman referred. We are undertaking a massive programme of infrastructure improvement, of building advance factories and of provision for attracting new industry into the area. We have greatly extended the special measures and the youth opportunities programme.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the policies of the Labour Party, including withdrawal from the EEC, would be likely to push up unemployment in Wales by as much as 100,000? Is he further aware that the Social Democratic Party has so far come up with no suggestions for dealing with the unemployment crisis? Is he also aware that unless the Government do something about unemployment, without clobbering those who are already unemployed, they will lose the next election?

I have already said to my hon. Friend that I do not think that that is an area where there is room for substantial savings in public spending. I have made that absolutely clear, but I do not in any way underestimate the scale of the problem. It is encouraging that, in a year of severe recession, we have succeeded so far in allocating an all-time record number of advance factories to provide more factory space and more potential for jobs than in any comparable period in Welsh history.

Will the Secretary of State confirm that while the unemployment figure fell marginally in the rest of Great Britain, it increased, albeit marginally, in Wales last month? Is he aware that the unemployment figure of 170,000 represents about 3,000 additional people in the dole queue for every month in which the right hon. Gentleman has held office? Did the right hon. Gentleman see the Western Mail article last week that referred to the fact that Tenby, which he represents, has the rare distinction of being the worst unemployment black spot in Wales? May I therefore urge the right hon. Gentleman to consult his colleagues and see that we have a debate in Government time on the present level of unemployment?

This Government have given far more opportunities for debates on Welsh affairs than were provided by the Labour Government. We shall continue to do so. However serious unemployment in Tenby is, and although the percentages are too high, it is absurd to describe it as the worst unemployment black spot in Wales, because, as in other seaside towns, there are seasonal unemployment factors. It is worth noting that, though there has been a serious increase in unemployment in Wales it has not risen anything like as fast as in many other parts of the United Kingdom.

In view of the complacent nature of that reply, I beg leave to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.