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Labour Statistics

Volume 87: debated on Monday 18 November 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Wales what are the latest figures for unemployment in (a) Newport, (b) Gwent and (c) Wales; what were the equivalent figures in May 1979; and what was the percentage increase in each case.

On 10 October 1985 there were 12,911, 29,173 and 182,734 unemployed claimants in the Newport travel-to-work area, Gwent and Wales respectively. The equivalent figure for Wales in May 1979 was 77,200. The increase was 136ยท7 per cent. Comparable figures for 1979 in Newport and Gwent are not available because of changes to travel-to-work area boundaries and the move to claimant-based figures.

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen last week's report by the Gwent county engineer, Mr. Howard Pullen, who pointed out that, in the past seven years, cash for road maintenance has fallen in real terms by 45 per cent.? Does this not explain why our roads are in such a shocking condition? I remind the right hon. Gentleman that, even in the 1930s, Conservative Governments had the wisdom to take people out of the dole queue in great numbers and to employ them on road maintenance.

Of course I appreciate the need for road maintenance. That is why we have carried out the largest and most expensive road maintenance project yet undertaken in Wales. This is being carried out in Gwent on the M4. The need for a continuing maintenance programme will be very much in mind as I take our decisions on the road programme, which results from the public expenditure announcement by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor.

In view of the figures for Gwent, Wales and Newport that were cited by my right hon. Friend, will he assure me that he will do everything in his power to ensure that, when the Ministry of Defence finally makes up its mind about the disposal of the Vauxhall camp at Monmouth, the Department has it firmly in mind that there should be employment opportunities for Monmouth? I have been trying to find out the Ministry's plans. I hope that my right hon. Friend has greater success than I have had.

I note my hon. Friend's point. I shall take the matter up with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, who has responsibility for that matter.