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Labour Statistics

Volume 79: debated on Monday 20 May 1985

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1.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many people are unemployed in Wales and in Clwyd; what were the figures for 1979; and by what percentage each of the totals has increased.

On 11 April 1985 there were 180,031 unemployed claimants in Wales and 24,186 in Clwyd. In April 1979 the claimant-based figure for Wales was 78,383, an increase of 129·7 per cent. A comparable claimant-based figure for Clwyd is not available, but in April 1979 the number of registrants unemployed was 12,070.

My luckless constituents at P.D. Cans of Deeside lost their jobs last month and are still shocked and angry. Why did that company fold up so speedily and mysteriously ? Is it perhaps a classic case of management error and over-extension of financial resources ? Did the company use Welsh Office grants to buy another company from receivership ? Does the Secretary of State agree that the closure of a factory with a 90-strong work force is just as important in human consequences as much bigger closures ?

The company received grants. I do not believe that the amount of grant that it received can have been critical in the decision on whether it went ahead with the acquisition of another company. But it was regrettable that that company failed. I find it hard to believe that the hon. Gentleman is criticising the fact that an application for selective financial assistance at an earlier stage was granted to the company after the application had gone to the Welsh Industrial Development Advisory Board.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that if the serious concern of the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) over unemployment is to be taken seriously, he will have to have Labour's policy document "Work for Wales" independently costed and tell us exactly how much his party will put up taxes to pay for it ?

I entirely agree. Any higher rates or taxes would be detrimental to jobs.

How many nurses, doctors and front-line staff will be made redundant in west Wales due to 90 beds being taken out of use at Llanelli, Carmarthen and Aberystwyth ? Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the position of the East Dyfed health authority, and give it the extra £1·5 million required to make sure that the services remain intact ?

There are more nurses, doctors and front-line staff in the Health Service than there were when the Government came into office. Considerable funds have been allocated to the health authorities in west Wales to deal with the problem of under-funding. Recent recalculation of Dyfed's requirements shows that further attention may have to be given to its particular under-funding problem. We are considering that matter at present.

When will the Secretary of State announce a full expansion of the Welsh Development Agency programme, with the money and resources to make it possible, to deal with those appalling figures ?

The Welsh Development Agency has carried out a massive programme under the Government since May 1979. It has spent some £270 million on factory building and related activities. It has built over 200 advance factories in Clwyd alone. At the moment about 12·5 per cent. of its factory space is vacant. It is also carrying out a substantial programme to encourage investment, particularly by the private sector.