asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on the latest level of unemployment in North Wales.
Current levels of unemployment remain high, but considerable progress continues to be made in developing the area and attracting new investment.
Is the Minister aware that, under this Government, unemployment in north Wales has nearly doubled? Is that not a disgrace? Does the Secretary of State accept that job losses in the steel and textile industries, particularly in the Flint area, affect regions such as Merseyside, which, over the weekend, saw another 700 jobs lost at the Plessey factory at Huyton? When does the Secretary of State expect the economy to upturn so that we can provide more jobs in north Wales and Merseyside?
I am aware of the problems in north Wales and Merseyside. That is one of the reasons why the Government have spent some £350 million on roads and industrial infrastructure and enterprise zones in Clwyd since we came into office in 1979.
I joined my right hon. Friend in welcoming last week's announcement that the garment manufacturer Seddons is to set up a new plant in Delyn enterprise zone, employing initially 140 people. Is he aware that Delyn borough council expects to make a further significant job announcement within the next month?
I noticed Mr. Sharps doing a television broadcast recently in which he was optimistic about the prospects for that enterprise trust. I congratulate the local authority on the drive and energy that it has been putting behind the zone.
When will the Secretary of State be in a position to make an announcement about the availability of EC aid in areas of rural north Wales which are not at the moment within assisted area zones?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we are still considering that matter. I cannot gibe him a firm date.
The right hon. Gentleman is too serene in his ignorance. Is it not the case that in Clwyd and Gwynedd there are 37,000 jobless people and some 2,000 vacancies? Has he the guts to tell the Prime Minister to change her economic policy, or does he remain her lackey?
The hon. Gentleman should be aware, if he visits his constituency, of the considerable new investment there, and the fact that it is one of the most attractive areas in the whole of the United Kingdom for foreign investment and for new companies setting up. That should be a matter for pleasure and congratulation.
asked the Secretary of State for Wales what are the latest unemployment figures available for the Wrexham area and for Wales.
Some 7,736 and 173,422 respectively.
The Secretary of State knows that he was unable to do anything about the Courtaulds closure. Dunlop is now proposing to close, and the Secretary of State, in an answer to me on Friday, was able to say only that he could take into account Clwyd's detailed proposals for allocation of planned resources. Will the Secretary of State do something to avert the closure at Dunlop? If he cannot, how long will he stay as Secretary of State, with the appalling level of unemployment in the Principality? The right hon. Gentleman should either do something about it or resign.
The hon. Gentleman should remember that in the past 12 months, in the Wrexham area, Laura Ashley, Metal Box, F.W. Bender, TetraPak and Sharp Corporation have announced new or major expansion projects. I have already pointed out that the Government have spent at least £350 million on industrial measures in Clwyd, and we shall continue to use every means at our disposal to attract new investment to the area.
Given the fruitless hard work that the Secretary of State for Wales recently put into the Brecon and Radnor by-election, and as unemployment was one of the main issues at Brecon, what statement will the right hon. Gentleman make on the by-election result? Does he not think that he owes to Wales, now that it has given its verdict on his employment policy, a full statement as to what new steps are to be taken? Will he merely repeat the old lessons and tell Wales that under this Government it must endure the same sort of unemployment as we have seen in the past few years? Has the Minister no comment to make on the Brecon and Radnor result?
All political parties should consider carefully the results of by-elections. I shall do so. The Labour party will no doubt also consider the complete panic of the electorate when it suddenly realised that might elect a Labour Member of Parliament. When one watches and listens to the performance of the hon. Gentleman, who can blame it?
Just which of the policies being advanced by the Opposition does my right hon. Friend consider would be most productive in bringing fresh jobs into Wales?
One feature of the Brecon and Radnor by-election was that the Opposition parties did not advance any policies, and that they were careful not to do so. The only close ally and supporter of the Labour party who advanced any policies was Mr. Scargill. He was the gentleman whom everybody on the Opposition Benches supported throughout the strike but who was so destructive of Welsh industry and Welsh employment.
How would the Secretary of State explain to the man on the top deck of the Brecon omnibus the logic of falling regional aid at a time of rising unemployment? Does the new "middle way" include a rethink of regional policy?
I know enough about Brecon and Radnor to know that they do not have double-decker buses there.
Despite the arrogance of the Secretary of State in his replies to some of the questions, particularly about unemployment in Wales and the Brecon and Radnor by-election, is he prepared to offer the House and the country an apology for his statement regarding disabled people when he referred to the Brecon and Radnor by-election?
Order. That is very wide of this question, which deals with unemployment.
None the less, Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to say that I have already written to a number of people expressing my regret and apologies for a carelessly phrased off-the-cuff remark that I should not have made. As someone who has introduced a major measure for the improvement of the care of the mentally handicapped and who has a close relative who is mentally handicapped, the last thing that I should wish to do would be to cause offence. Of course I apologise.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker—
Order. I shall take points of order later. We are running behind time.