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Volume 124: debated on Monday 7 December 1987

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To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he has carried out any research into the effects of unemployment upon the health of the people of the Principality.

Is the Minister aware that many in the Principality believe that he and his Government bear a direct and heavy responsibility for increased ill health as a result of unemployment and the increased number of suicides during the years that the Conservative Administration have been in power? Does the Minister recall that Mr. Mark Robinson, who occupied his position prior to the 1987 general election, said on 20 January 1986 that he did not believe that there was any link between unemployment and ill health? Does the Minister agree with that?

There is no known causal connection between the two. Figures show quite clearly, however, that in the area of our society that is most prone to unemployment—socio-economic group five—there is the heaviest toll of ill health. That applies, however, whether individuals are employed or not. There is a serious problem in making the connection that the hon. Gentleman seeks to make. The aim and drift of our policies—for example, the valleys initiative, the reform of primary health care and the community nursing review—are directed at trying to correct the imbalance which we inherited, and which has existed for a long time in health services in some of the more deprived areas of Wales.

We certainly have many more old people. I must admit that my hon. Friend has taken me by surprise statistically.

The relationship may be difficult to assess, but will the Minister consider the position at Merthyr Tydfil, for example, where one in five of the population have been in hospital during the past three months? There have been 7,000 admissions over the past year and 10,000 people have been treated as out-patients. Only 10 days ago Hoover advertised 16 temporary vacancies and 150 queued overnight in the street for application forms. Does that not illustrate a catalogue of neglect on the part of the Government?

The very fact that Hoover has survived and prospered shows quite the reverse. The quality of the health services available to the people of Merthyr, including the Prince Charles hospital and all its facilities — the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) knows that I visited it the other day and saw for myself that it is a marvellous hospital—shows how much we care for Merthyr and other parts of south Wales.