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Labour Statistics

Volume 130: debated on Monday 21 March 1988

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To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what are the latest unemployment figures for (i) Wales, (ii) West Glamorgan and (iii) Neath and what were the comparable figures for the same period in 1979.

On 11 February 1988 the number of unemployed claimants in Wales, West Glamorgan, and Neath districts were 145,458, 19,461 and 3,456 respectively. Unadjusted figures for 1979 are not available on a basis that enables a valid comparison to be made.

What would the right hon. Gentleman's reaction be to those figures if they occurred in his own constituency? As for the quality of the jobs to which he has referred this afternoon, do they carry the same earning power as those that have been lost? What assurances can he give to places that are suffering colliery closures, such as my own area with the Abernant colliery, that new jobs will replace the jobs that have been lost?

I deplore unemployment anywhere. In the recent recession, there was a substantial increase in unemployment in my constituency. Indeed, it reached the kind of figures that is now the average for Wales as a whole. In terms of the jobs coming into Wales, since the last Question Time we have had announcements from major American, German, Japanese and Welsh firms, which are all putting in a great deal of investment and providing many new jobs. It is time that the hon. Gentleman, and others, cheered up about it.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the local economy in north-east Wales is recovering extremely strongly, as can be seen by the fact that unemployment has fallen faster there than in any other parts of Wales during the past year—in Delyn by 24·1 per cent., in Alyn and Deeside by 22·9 per cent. and in Wrexham by 22·5 per cent.?

Yes, I am pleased that the latest figures for advertisements for vacancies show an enormous increase. For example, the latest figures for the Liverpool Daily Post show an increase of 33 per cent. and the Western Mail and South Wales Echo show an increase of 47 per cent. over the same time last year.

Does the Secretary of State agree that the cuts in home improvement grants in the Budget will create more unemployment in Wales, especially as we have the poorest housing stock in Britain? Does he not think that we should retain those grants?

I was amused to see the great outcry about that. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will put this matter into perspective. On the average loan for house improvements the result of the Budget change will be a detriment of £1·32 per week, but for the same person the tax savings from the Budget will be £4·58 per week. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that the Budget is bad is totally wrong.

Do those figures not reveal that yet again in terms of unemployment south Wales is the blackspot of Europe? Will the Secretary of State reconsider the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams), that in the past 12 months—February to February—our decline in employment is the eighth worst of 11 regions? Would this not be a good time to launch a housing drive, especially when one considers that Scotland, with double our population, spends four times the amount that we spend on housing? Perhaps the Secretary of State is perfectly content to see homelessness rise and Rachmanism take over.

The one thing that the hon. Gentleman is always guaranteed to do is to depict south Wales as a blackspot, but he does great harm to it every time he does so. I am glad to say that this year the local authorities alone in the valleys of south Wales will spend £48 million on housing improvements. The success of this Government in improving the housing of Wales compared with the failure of the Labour Government is remarkable.