§ 1. Mr. Wigley
To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will publish the average unemployment rates for each of the travel-to-work areas in Gwynedd during each of the last three years.
§ The Minister of State, Welsh Office (Sir Wyn Roberts)
With permission, Madam Speaker, I will arrange for the figures to be published in the Official Report.
Average unemployment rates for TTWAs in Gwynedd for the last three years are as follows:
Travel-to-work areas in Gwynedd—unemployment TTWA 1990 1991 1992 Bangor and Caernarfon 8.4 9.9 11.4 Conwy and Colwyn1 5.9 7.4 9.1 Dolgellau and Barmouth 5.5 7.7 8.8 Holyhead 10.1 12.5 14.5 Machynlleth1 4.1 6.4 7.6 Porthmadog and Ffestiniog 5.7 8.1 9.4 Pwllheli 7.2 8.9 9.8
§ Source: Department of Employment.
§ 1 These TTWAs are only partly within the county.2
§ Mr. Wigley
Is the Minister of State aware that one of the supranational companies that have been seeking a location in Ynys Môn or Arfon has delayed its investment decision because of uncertainty? Is he also aware that many supranational companies that aim to sell their products to the European Community are uneasy because of the delay in getting the Maastricht Bill on to the statute book? Will he impress on Back Benchers of all parties who supported the Bill at the general election a year ago the need to get it on to the statute book so that we do not lose vital jobs?
§ Sir Wyn Roberts
I wholly agree with the hon. Gentleman. It is vital that we get the European Communities (Amendment) Bill on the statute book, and especially vital for Wales. There is no doubt in our minds that most of the inward investment that we have secured for Wales—and we have done pretty well—has been because inward investors have one eye on the European market.
§ Mr. Ron Davies
If the figures are anything like the Welsh average, they will be completely unacceptable. In any event, do not they prove, among other things, that there is not much benefit to the people of Wales in doing deals to keep the Tory Government in office?
§ Sir Wyn Roberts
The hon. Gentleman seems to have forgotten the fact that unemployment came down in Wales last month by no fewer than 1,400, and in the constituency of the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) the decline was 228, one of the largest constituency declines in Wales. We have had a good Budget for sustainable growth. There is confidence in Wales, and we are looking forward to growth and to Wales leading in that growth.
§ Mr. Sweeney
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that Bosch is closing its alternator plant in Stuttgart and doubling production at the plant in Llantrisant? Is not that good news for the Welsh economy, which will——
§ Madam Speaker
Order. This is a very limited question dealing with a particular travel-to-work area.
2. Mr. Alan W. Williams
To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what percentage of the male population aged 16 to 64 years is classified as economically inactive (a) in the south Wales valleys (b) in Wales as a whole and (c) in Britain.
§ The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. David Hunt)
According to the latest census, the figures are 22.8 per cent., 18.8 per cent. and 13.4 per cent., respectively.
Does the Secretary of State realise that in a recent league table based on the 1991 census, of the 55 counties of England and Wales the four with the highest levels of economic inactivity are all Welsh: Mid Glamorgan, West Glamorgan, Gwent and Dyfed? Does the Secretary of State agree that levels of economic inactivity are a very good index of deprivation, more so than unemployment or even the rise in unemployment? In redrawing the assisted area map, would not it be perverse if funds were redirected to the south-east of England, with its underlying prosperity? Will he fight to ensure that, at the very least, Wales maintains its existing assisted area status?
§ Mr. Hunt
Of course we must ensure that Wales is treated properly in the assisted area review, which is taking place at present. The consultation period is over, and Ministers are now considering such issues.
The hon. Gentleman is right. Activity rates are an important indicator, in particular in pointing to the transformation that has taken place in Wales, with the decline of its dependence on industries such as coal and steel. As for the future, it must be a good sign that unemployment rates in Wales have been below the United Kingdom average for six consecutive months.
§ Mr. Jonathan Evans
Will my right hon. Friend also confirm that economic inactivity rates are no guide to the level of unemployment because they include those in further and higher education? Under this Government, there are more people in further and higher education. Will my right hon. Friend always make the point that economic activity includes that aspect as well?
§ Mr. Ron Davies
Given the undoubted high levels of economic inactivity in Wales, can the Secretary of State explain why he is so deliberately undermining the finances of the Welsh Development Agency? Does not he understand that the cut of £30 million in the Welsh Office grant from the last financial year to the next financial year, coupled with the enforced selling of property assets, is creating a black hole in the WDA budget? Is not the Secretary of State attempting privatisation by stealth and forcing the Welsh Development Agency to make decisions that are wholly inconsistent with its job as a development agency? Does not he realise that the proper role of the WDA is not to make profits by charging high rents and by selling assets, but to encourage development by strategic investment and by good estate management?
§ Mr. Hunt
The hon. Gentleman has failed to recognise that in the coming financial year, the gross budget of the Welsh Development Agency will be at its highest level ever in cash and in real terms. I make three further points. First, 4 the hon. Gentleman could do the Welsh Development Agency a great deal of good by having a word with his hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) who never ceases to take an opportunity to run down the achievements of the WDA. Secondly, the hon. Gentleman should have well in mind the words of the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) about the importance of Europe and of Maastricht. The hon. Gentleman has failed to address that point and he does so at his peril. Thirdly, I am happy to confirm today—I am sad that the hon. Gentleman has not mentioned this—that there is a package of 51 projects by small and medium-sized companies involving a total investment of almost £9.5 million and 690 safeguarded and new jobs. It is time that the hon. Gentleman started talking up Wales instead of giving a constant message of misery.
§ Mr. Richards
Will my right Hon. Friend join me in welcoming the decision by the President of the Board of Trade to give the Connah's Quay power station the go-ahead, thereby reducing the level of economic inactivity in north Wales by several thousand? Does he further agree that if the Opposition are truly interested in bringing down the level of unemployment in Wales, they will vote with the Government for the White Paper tonight?
§ Mr. Hunt
If the Opposition were really interested in economic growth in Wales, they would support the Maastricht treaty and the whole issue of Europe. If they were really interested in economic growth in north Wales, they would not table an amendment, as they have for today's debate, which would spell the death knell of the Connah's Quay power station development. It will be interesting to see how many Opposition Members go through the Lobby tonight in support of the amendment which would destroy the jobs at Connah's Quay.