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Unemployment Statistics

Volume 22: debated on Monday 19 April 1982

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5.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales by what percentage unemployment in the Deeside travel-to-work area in the county of Clwyd and in Wales has increased since May 1979; and if he will make a statement.

Between May 1979 and March 1982, unemployment increased by 177·8 per cent., 109 per cent. and 105·2 per cent. respectively. The Government have recognised the special needs of Clwyd by providing substantial additional factory building, at Shotton and by upgrading the Wrexham and Shotton travel-to-work areas.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the latest closure on the horizon in my area is that of Connah's Quay power station, while Courtaulds Flint mill has closed temporarily and the Greenfield paper mill is fighting for its life? Is he aware that those closures affect some 600 jobs in an area with 9,000 out of work and only 1,100 jobs in the pipeline? Will he concede that a major job project must be located on the banks of the Dee? What has happened to the Nissan project?

I have no further news on the Nissan project, but a number of important firms are considering projects in the area. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have welcomed the news that Squibb Surgicare is to take on some 200 people. I recently discussed the future of the Courtaulds works with the chairman of Courtaulds, and he understands the importance of the works to the locality. I have also recently been in touch with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy about the future of the power station to which the hon. Gentleman referred.

In view of the anxiety of people at Point of Ayr that the closure of the Connah's Quay power station may affect their future, will my right hon. Friend join me in pressing my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy to ensure that the project for the liquefaction of coal at Point of Ayr goes ahead at lull speed?

I understand the importance of the power station. At the end of the day, however, decisions about the power station must be the responsibility of the CEGB. As I have said, I have been in touch with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy about this. I can confirm that work is continuing on the liquefaction project, but I have no new information to give my hon. Friend.

Does the Secretary of State agree that his figures clearly show that unemployment in Wales, even using his favoured seasonally adjusted figures, is now 15·1 per cent.? Unemployment is now higher in Wales than in Scotland or any region in England. Does he further agree that the Government's public expenditure White Paper presumes an increase in unemployment of 300,000 in the coming year, and that the Welsh share of that will be about 17,000? If my figures are too pessimistic, will the Secretary of State give his own figures?

The unemployment figures are presented on exactly the same basis as those presented by the right hon. Gentleman when he was in the Welsh Office. The Government have not made, and do not intend to make, any forecasts about unemployment levels for the coming year. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman w ill have welcomed the recent reduction in unemployment levels.