§ 9. Mr. Geraint Howells
asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many jobs have come to Wales since May 1979; and how many jobs have been lost in the same period.
§ Mr. Nicholas Edwards
Comprehensive information is not available on job gains and losses. An indication of net changes in employment levels can, however, be gained from the Department of Employment's quarterly estimates of employees in employment. Latest available figures indicate a net decrease between June 1979 and December 1980 of 80,000.
§ Mr. Howells
In view of the seriousness of unemployment in Wales, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to say what advice he will give to school leavers this summer, besides advising them to cross the border to England to find work?
§ Mr. Edwards
Unemployment in Wales is serious. That is why we have the massive programme that I have been describing. I am glad to tell the hon. Gentleman that there has been no increase in the percentage of unemployment represented by school leavers. I advise school leavers to continue to provide themselves, especially while at school, with the skills that are best suited for modern industrial development and for the modern techniques that will increasingly be so important.
§ Mr. Anderson
Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that when, about a year ago, the economic department at Bangor university predicted that there would be unemployment of 147,000 in. Wales by the end of the year and 172,000 at the end of 1983, the forecast was greeted with official scorn? The first figure has already been exceeded, showing that it was a serious underestimate. Does not this call for a major programme of regional activity and investment, which this Government will not initiate?
§ Mr. Edwards
I did not comment on the forecasts that were made about a year ago. I do not propose to make a forecast now. As I have said repeatedly, we are undertaking the most substantial programme of site development and infrastructure preparation in Wales chat has ever been undertaken by any Government.
§ Mr. Best
Is my right hon. Friend aware that we all welcome the 43,000 places that are being made available for the youth opportunities programme this year, which means that the Government have doubled the number of places in the scheme since they came to office? No doubt he will accept that that is not a panacea for the ills of youth unemployment. Will he continue to press my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment to investigate and move towards a scheme of vocational preparation for young people that will take them immediately they leave school—[Interruption.]—so that they may be better fitted for the needs of industry?
§ Mr. Edwards
Amid the yowls and yaroos of Opposition Members, which they have been practising recently in the capital's streets instead of in the House, my hon. Friend was making an important point. We must concern ourselves with vocational training and continued retraining so that skills are adapted to new requirements. My right hon. Friend and I are currently considering 475 detailed proposals to improve the arrangements and I hope that it will not be long before further announcements are made.
§ Mr. Rowlands
Does not the right hon. Gentleman's bluster this afternoon expose the fact that the Government's policies are no answer for the problems of Wales? Does he accept that 80,000 jobs have been lost in the Welsh economy as a result of the Government's policies? Instead of talking about inward investment, important though that is, and new factory building, what is he going to do about the 300,000 sq ft of empty factory space at Merthyr Tydfil, a direct victim of imported goods from within the EEC—namely, from Italy? What is his answer to that?
§ Mr. Edwards
As usual, the junior Member for Bolsover never listens to an answer. I was about to say that I welcome the fact that in the recent past rates of absenteeism at Hoover's have fallen to their lowest level ever and are a great improvement on anything that has been achieved in the past. They are down to about 5 per cent., when they used to be about 15 per cent. That is the greatest single hope and prospect for the company's recovery.