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Labour Statistics

Volume 130: debated on Monday 21 March 1988

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2.

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what was the combined total of persons employed in Wales in the coal and steel industries in 1979; what it is in 1988; and what are the equivalent figures for the electronic and information technology industries.

Employment in the steel industry and on the colliery books of British Coal amounted to 86,000 in 1979 and to 32,100 in 1987. Employment in the electronic and information technology industries in the same years was 17,500 and 23,100 respectively. I am pleased to tell the House that Race Electronics of Talbot Green, Mid Glamorgan, today announced a major additional investment of £11 million that will, over the next few years, produce 1,100 new jobs.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reply, which I am sure will be greeted with enormous pleasure in south Wales. Does that trend show the advantages that will come to Wales from modernising the approach to the older, more traditional industries and, more important, the introduction of the new science-based industries?

When the right hon. Gentleman meets tha Alyn and Deeside council later this week to discuss modern industries and electronics, will he bear in mind that the council has good plans for the now redundant site of Connah's Quay power station, which could accommodate modern industry? However, the plan has hit a snag. Will the right hon. Gentleman listen carefully and sympathetically to the problems of the district council, so that Alyn and Deeside has the benefit of that site?

I cannot comment on the specific scheme, but I shall certainly listen to the hon. Gentleman's constituents.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we warmly welcome any announcements of job creation in Wales? Does he agree that for the future of the Welsh economy, it is essential that design, development and research development are carried out within Wales? Would that not amount to a more genuine science-based economy than would intermediate or low technology?

Yes, which is why I am hopeful that developments in the Welsh universities, through new grants to encourage research as joint ventures between industrial companies and universities, will have a considerable impact in Wales.

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that we welcome all new jobs in electronic and information technology, even though, as his figures show, they fall far short of the number of jobs that are needed? Does he recognise that many of the predominantly women production workers in the new industries earn little more than half the average national wage? The new industries are not replacing the lost, high-paid, male jobs.

As 120,000 fewer people in Wales are now either employed or self-employed than when the Government took office, is the right hon. Gentleman not concerned about the latest unemployment figures, which show that Wales is eighth worst of the 11 regions in the decline in unemployment since February 1987?

I am gald to say that, in fact in terms of the rate of reduction on the normal basis that has been used by all Governments—[Interruption.]—Wales is in the top three of the league. So far as the figures are concerned, I note, as always, the deep depression of the right hon. Gentleman. In the past year unemployment in Wales has come down by more than 25,000. The people of Wales find the right hon. Gentleman totally out of touch with the mood of the country.