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Labour Statistics

Volume 82: debated on Monday 8 July 1985

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8.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many people in Wales are jobless; how many were jobless in May 1979; by how much the total has increased as a figure and as a percentage; and what is the current figure of long-term unemployed.

On 13 June 1985 there were 173,422 unemployed claimants in Wales. The increase over the estimated equivalent figure of 77,200 in May 1979 is 96,222 or 124ยท6 per cent. The latest figure for the long-term unemployed relates to April 1985, when 75,573 had been unemloyed in Wales for over one year.

Given those frightening figures, why cannot Wales benefit from a major change in economic policy? Does the right hon. Gentleman not understand that the Welsh people want their welfare state strengthened and unemployment tackled with urgency? Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that the rejection at Brecon and Radnor of his personal nominee, Mr. Butler, who was an adviser of the Prime Minister and the right hon. Gentleman, represents a crushing vote of no confidence in Welsh Office Ministers?

I agree that the Brecon and Radnor electorate want the welfare state to be strengthened. That aim will continue to be the Government's policy. The economic growth that is taking place provides the best guarantee for future employment. I very much welcome the recent statements by the CBI Welsh Council, which show the growing optimism of those in industry for economic activity in Wales.

Is there not much evidence throughout the Western world that politicians and other people are most anxious that economic recovery should lead to a reduction in unemployment? Is it not nonsense to pretend that there are people in this country who want high unemployment?

Whatever is happening in the rest of the Western world, can the right hon. Gentleman give my constitutuents any reassurance about the proposed closure of the Cardiff veterinary investigation centre, with the halving of staff numbers, and the possible loss of 200 staff in the Export Credits Guarantee Department? This morning I received representations from two constituents who are worried about their future employment.

The right hon. Gentleman knows that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food put forward a consultative paper on the future of the veterinary service. We are considering representations on that matter. On the ECGD, I understand that the management has put forward some proposals for future re-organisation within the ECGD. At present, no details of the manpower consequences are available. This matter is at an early stage of consultation.

Will my right hon. Friend remind the Labour party that last year Wales obtained nearly a quarter of the total jobs created by inward investment in the United Kingdom โ€” four times as many as Labour's feeble Welsh Office team created during the Labour Government's last year of office?

That is true. We have had that remarkable record for a part of the United Kingdom that represents 5 per cent. of the population. I am glad to say that, of the 1,000 or so manufacturing units in Wales that are known to have opened during the past 20 years, about 400โ€“40 per cent.โ€” have opened since May 1979.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the unemployment percentages that he cited in answer to the question by my hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) will he further increased by redundancies at BP Llandarcy and Star Wrought Products at Briton Ferry? One thousand jobs have been lost during the past three months in the borough of Neath. When will the right hon. Gentleman change his regional policies? Does he not realise that, because of the policies pursued by the Labour Government, when he came to office unemployment in Neath was much lower than it is now? When will the right hon. Gentleman do something about this? Why does he not get out?

I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would at least welcome the decrease of about 5,000 in unemployment in Wales compared with last month and the considerable relative improvement in Neath's position. That improvement was introduced during the last regional policy review.