§ 12. Mr. Roy Hughes
To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what are the latest unadjusted figures for unemployment in (a) Newport, (b) Gwent and (c) Wales; and if he will give the equivalent figures for 1979 on the most nearly comparable basis.
§ Mr. Peter Walker
On 14 January 1988 the numbers of unemployed claimants in Newport district, Gwent and Wales were 8,071, 23,451 and 148,477 respectively. Unadjusted figures for 1979 are not available on a basis that enables a valid comparison to be made.
§ Mr. Hughes
When will the Secretary of State realise that, despite all the trumpet-blowing and all the massaging of the statistics, these unemployment figures are still appalling? Although we welcome the setting up of the Patent Office in Newport, does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that that will be of little benefit overall if we lose the Passport Office? When will the right hon. Gentleman sort out the issue of premises for that valuable establishment?
§ Mr. Walker
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his usual optimistic and eager response. The unemployment figures for Wales are still exceedingly bad and great progress needs to be made. I know how the hon. Gentleman will rejoice in the knowledge that in the past 12 months there 642 has been the biggest fall in unemployment in Wales since the war, that the number of WDA lettings and number of inward investment firms have broken all-time records, and that not just the Patent Office but the Trustee Savings bank, with 2,000 jobs, have decided to go to Newport. In the interests of Newport, it is time that the hon. Gentleman cheered up.
§ Mr. Ray Powell
Does the Secretary of State appreciate that only when he can report to us and the nation that unemployment in Wales is the same level as in 1979, when the right hon. Gentleman and his Government took office, can we start waving our daffodils on St. David's day, which is tomorrow, and the day when we should have our debate instead of on Wednesday?
§ Mr. Walker
I very much agree with the hon. Gentleman. I shall not even be satisfied when unemployment reaches the 1979 figures. As the hon. Gentleman knows, under the Labour Government, unemployment increased substantially too.
§ Sir Anthony Meyer
Does my right hon. Friend accept that there will be great disappointment if the trend is the same as in 1979—inexorably upwards?
§ Mr. Walker
Yes. There was an upward trend in unemployment. Unemployment in Wales has increased considerably, so I shall not be content with the 1979 figures with which the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) would be satisfied.