§ 1. Mr. Barry Jones
asked the Secretary of State for Wales by what amount unemployment in Wales has increased since May 1979; what is the current total of unemployed; and if he will make a statement.
§ The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Nicholas Edwards)
Before I answer the hon. Gentleman's question, I should say that I understand that the right hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Alec Jones) is in hospital. I am sure that all hon. Members wish him a speedy recovery from his illness. I express that wish on behalf of these Benches, and I welcome the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Dr. Thomas) to the Opposition Front Bench for the first time.
Between May 1979 and November 1980, the level of unemployment, seasonally adjusted and excluding school leavers, increased by 42,600 to stand at 123,900.
§ Mr. Jones
Does not the right hon. Gentleman accept that those figures are now very menacing? Is he prepared to introduce any new urgent measures to halt the runaway 2 rise in unemployment? Given that we have already lost 7,000 steel jobs this year, does the right hon. Gentleman accept that fierce resentment was experienced in my constituency when it was discovered that another 1,000 steel jobs were to go at BSC Shotton? What will he do in order to pump new jobs into my stricken area?
§ Mr. Edwards
The right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) knows that dramatic moves will not create jobs overnight. Indeed, the right hon. Member for Rhondda made that same point at the conclusion of an article in today's issue of the Western Mail. As the hon. Gentleman knows, his area has been given the maximum incentives possible under regional policy. There has been a major construction programme. Only today, I announced additional expenditure of £720,000 on urban programme projects. Of that sum, £176,000 additional expenditure has been approved for authorities in North-East Wales. That is one of many components in the package of measures that we are introducing. I understand the hon. Gentleman's concern about the BSC's plan. However, he will know that for some time coking coal has been piling up in the area, and, therefore, the announcement was not entirely unexpected.
§ Sir Anthony Meyer
Despite the world recession, are not some industries showing signs of growth? Does not the best hope for Wales lie in attracting those industries? If we wish to promote Wales, would it not be of enormous help if the Labour Party were to associate itself with my right hon. Friend's efforts to portray Wales as an area that is ready to accept change, however painful the consequences?
§ Mr. Edwards
I am sure that my hon. Friend is right. Indeed, he may have observed that there are representatives of six American companies in Wales. They are looking at specific sites and contemplating investment. They have made it clear that membership of the European Community is a major factor. No greater damage could be done to Wales than if people were to believe the threat that Britain might leave the European Community. The other major handicap is the image that is presented of Wales as an area of decline and industrial disruption.
§ Mr. Alan Williams
I thank the Secretary of State for his good wishes, and I associate this side of the House with the good wishes that he expressed to my right hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Jones). We wish him a speedy recovery.
Unemployment is bad in Wales now, but will it not soon soar above 150,000? As the Secretary of State for Industry has admitted that the Government wasted their first year in office, will not the Secretary of State offer an apology to the 50,000 Welsh victims of the Government's industrial carnage? What hope can he offer to the men and families whose lives have been needlessly wasted by a Government who have shown the blind profligacy of First World War generals?
§ Mr. Edwards
I notice the language that the right hon. Gentleman uses. I also note that when the Labour Party produced a party political broadcast about 10 days ago on unemployment it contained not one single sentence to suggest how it would tackle the problem, which is perhaps hardly surprising when the Leader of the Opposition saw unemployment in his constituency increase from 3.9 per cent. to 13.3 per cent. when his party was in Government.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. There are several questions on unemployment this afternoon. We shall therefore move on.