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Unemployment Statistics

Volume 14: debated on Monday 30 November 1981

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5.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many men were in employment in Wales on the same convenient date in each of the years 1960, 1965, 1970, 1975, 1980 and 1981, respectively.

At June in each of the years in question males in employment were 711,000, 708,000, 636,000, 618,000, 590,000 and 541,00.

Does the Secretary of State agree from those figures that, disastrous though the Government's policies have been for Wales, the records of previous Labour and Conservative Governments, especially when one takes into account that the 1960s were a period of a world-wide economic boom, appear to be just as bad?

I also notice that the sharpest fall was during the five years when Mr. Roy Jenkins was Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Government supported by the hon. Gentleman.

How much future growth in employment is likely to come from the microprocessor and associated industries? Why is Wales missing out so desperately on its share of those growth industries?

It is impossible to forecast, but it will be significant. We welcome major new projects in Wales, such as those launched by Inmos and Mitel, which are two of the key organisations. During the last few days I have had discussions at Swansea university, and I shall have similar discussions elsewhere with a view to stimulating science-based and high technology development, particularly in the vicinities of our universities.

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many registered unemployed persons there are in Wales; what percentage this is of the working population; and what proposals he has to improve employment prospects.

There were 170,221 unemployed persons on 12 November 1981, a rate of 15·7 per cent. Our main objective is to restore the competitiveness of industry and the national economy. We are also committed to a major programme of measures to reduce the impact of the recession on the unemployed, particularly the young unemployed.

How can there be competitiveness when our manufacturing industry is disappearing? It will not be there when the economic upturn comes. What measures is the Secretary of State taking to improve employment prospects? What hope can he give to those young people who were on the job express and are lobbying the House of Commons today, and who have no hope of getting jobs because of the Government's policies?

The effort to create new industrial development in Wales is proving astonishingly successful in the middle of a recession. The best long-term hope lies in the creation of new jobs in the growth industries. The improved competitiveness of industries, such as the steel industry at Llanwern and Port Talbot, provides the best guarantee of success. In the meantime, we have massively extended the special measures, which at present cover about 44,000 people in Wales, including more than 17,000 on the youth opportunities programme.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the massive increase in productivity that has been achieved by British industry this year? Is he further aware that only by such means will secure jobs be found in Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom? Does he accept that that increase in productivity contributed to the 41 per cent. increase in engineering exports in the last quarter?

There have been striking export successes, despite the strength of the currency during much of that period. Later this week I shall be meeting the chairman of the British Steel Corporation to discuss the corporate plan. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry pointed out, there has been striking progress towards the achievement of the targets of that plan, which offers by far the best prospect for strength and stability in that industry.

Is the Secretary of State aware that since the Government came into office there has been a 400 per cent. increase in unemployment in Ogmore, 1,000 of the 7,000 unemployed being young people, many of whom are lobbying Parliament today? What do the Government propose to do to alleviate the problem? I remind the Secretary of State and the Government that it costs the country £4,500 per unemployed person per year. That money could be better spent on keeping them in jobs.

I do not seek to mitigate the scale of the problems that we face. I acknowledge that there has been a substantial increase in unemployment in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. The measures that we have been preparing—the infrastructure and other packages—are now producing striking results, with a sharp upturn in the number of inquiries and factory allocations. When figures were announced by my predecessor at the same period in the month in 1978, he talked of "remarkable successes". We have allocated far more factories this year than he did then to provide more jobs.

My right hon. Friend's concern for the young unemployed can be understood and appreciated, but will he represent to his colleagues in the Cabinet the difficulties of the 40 and 50-year-olds who are thrown out of work and whose problems are even more difficult?

Of course, I fully appreciate those difficulties. We can solve the problems only by restoring the health of the economy and by moving into a period when jobs are sustained by our competitiveness and ability to sell goods in world markets. I repeat that remarkable progress is being made. Although the unemployment figures are high, many people are getting jobs all the time, even in this difficult period. About 5,000 people a week move into new jobs in Wales.

Does not the Secretary of State realise that the success stories that he describes so pathetically at every Question Time are completely at variance with the true picture as we see it in Wales? Does he not also realise that the rosy picture that he has attempted to paint again today was not the picture portrayed to me last Saturday at Milford Haven in his constituency? If he is so sure of himself, will he publish the balance sheet that I requested last Question Time, or, better still, let us have a debate so that he can show the black spots and the goodies at the same time?

I do not believe that I have exaggerated. I have acknowledged the scale of the difficulties that we face. I am entitled to remind the House again that when the right hon. Gentleman and the Labour Government did less well they described the position to the Welsh Grand Committee as a "remarkable achievement". I believe that, in a period of severe recession, I am entitled to say that to do even better in the creation of new factories, in the number of allocations and in the provision of new jobs is also a remarkable achievement.