§ 11. Mr. Ron Davies
asked the Secretary of State for Wales what are the male, female, youth and total unemployment rates for Mid-Glamorgan for the latest available date.
§ Mr. Nicholas Edwards
On 10 January 1985 in Mid-Glamorgan there were 26,264 males unemployed, a rate of 23.3 per cent., 9,884 females or 13.1 per cent., giving a total of 36,148, or a rate of 19.2 per cent. The number of unemployed youngsters between 16 and 19 in October 1984 totalled 7,800 or 4.1 per cent.
§ Mr. Davies
First, may I suggest to the Secretary of State that he has a word with the chairman of British Rail? I am sure that British Rail could reduce the unemployment figures by employing a few extra linesmen to hasten the unfreezing process for the HS125 service from Cardiff to London.
Will the Secretary of State confirm that the figures that he has recited reflect the fact that in Mid-Glamorgan there are 37 unemployed adults for every vacancy that exists? Will he also confirm that in the Rhymney Valley 1,500 young people are searching for jobs and that on 10 January there was not one vacancy? How will the cut of £60 million in regional aid solve the problem?
§ Mr. Edwards
I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House would wish to express regret at the death of some linesmen on British Rail last night in a sad and unhappy accident, and I take this opportunity to do so.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman at least welcomes the fact that there has been a substantial reduction in the number of unemployed school leavers in Wales, including Mid-Glamorgan. I am sure also that the hon. Gentleman is pleased that again Wales has had the highest success rate in Great Britain in finding youth training scheme places. We have met the Christmas undertaking. Only 77 minimum-age school leavers had not received an offer of a place at the time that undertaking concluded.
§ Mrs. Clwyd
However much the Secretary of State tries to sugar the pill, the fact is that Wales has suffered a massive cut in regional aid. My constituency is again at the top of the league table with 27.7 per cent. male unemployment—the highest unemployment rate in the whole of Wales. The only things that the Secretary of State can offer are factories such as Hitachi which encourages people at the age of 35 to become redundant. The National Coal Board plans to shut at least one pit in my constituency. What hope can the Secretary of State offer to those men in my constituency who, under this Government, have only long-term unemployment to which to look forward?
§ Mr. Edwards
I am sure that the hon. Lady welcomes the fact that her constituency receives the maximum assistance under the new regional policy scheme. I am sure that she also welcomes the fact that there is no blockage of an area with an even higher level of assistance further to the east. I am surprised at the suggestion implicit in the hon. Lady's question, that she was somehow running down the jobs provided by firms such as Hitachi, which provide not only jobs but a degree of technical innovation and standard of management which are likely to improve job prospects generally.
§ Mr. Barry Jones
The right hon. Gentleman has cited statistics which depict the daunting problems of our valley communities. Why, therefore, do the Government propose to close skillcentres in South Wales? Since the Scottish local authority member of the MSC has resiled from his support for closure, the Secretary of State now has the excuse to go to the Cabinet and say that the skillcentre at, for example, Pontllanfraith should not close. Will the right hon. Gentleman do that?
§ Mr. Edwards
Part of the MSC's programme is to extend and enlarge the training programme, and to provide in a more flexible way, more, not fewer, training places in Wales. The MSC has recently put specific proposals to Ministers, which are being considered.