asked the Minister of Labour what percentage of ship-repair workers in Cardiff was unemployed on 1st April; and what prospects exist for fresh work being found.
Separate figures for ship-repair workers are not available. On 9th March, the latest date for which figures are available, 18·8 per cent. of shipbuilding and ship-repair workers were unemployed. With regard to the second part of the Question. I would refer the hon. Member to the Answer given by the Prime Minister to the hon. Member for Newcastle-on-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short) on 27th January.
Is the Minister aware that when I was in Cardiff at Easter-time the ship-repair workers asked me to convey to him that in their recollection, going back over the past 20 years, there has not been such a sustained period of heavy unemployment? Will the right hon. Gentleman inquire whether there is any prospect of getting some Admiralty ships or work there, because the situation in the ship-repair docks of Cardiff is becoming quite tragic?
It is true that in Cardiff, contrary to the experience of almost everywhere else, the unemployment figure in March went up from 3·6 per cent. to 3·8 per cent., partly because of this factor. There are, of course, a number of reasons. I shall be very glad to discuss with the First Lord of the Admiralty the particular point which the hon. Gentleman has put to me.
May I press the Minister to inquire into the long-term aspects of the matter? Is it not the case that this unemployment is not of short-term duration but has been going on for months and that the docks are becoming more and more empty of ships for repair?
One of the major reasons is the falling off of the export trade from the Welsh ports. The House will remember that n the short review which I gave with the March figures when we last debated this matter it was stated that this is about the most difficult problem in the whole country. The answer lies only in a recovery in international trade, which is what we try to promote.
This matter affects the port of Barry as well as Cardiff. Therefore, may I ask my right hon. Friend to what extent it is due to ships being repaired on the Continent when they might be repaired in this country? Has he made any investigation into that matter?