Does the Secretary of State appreciate than many thousands have been out of work for two years or more—approximately 1,400 in Newport, East? Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that people are being bullied off the register, that schemes are introduced which mean no real jobs, and that there have been 19 changes in the method of compiling the statistics? Is it not time that a stop was put to that fiddling and that the Government introduced suitable economic policies that will produce real jobs for our people?
The rate of long-term unemployment has been falling more rapidly in Wales than in the rest of the United Kingdom. The hon. Gentleman talks about real jobs. I am sure that he will have welcomed the announcement by Plessey on 15 April that it will expand its operations in Newport to create 137 jobs, the announcement by LRC Products today that it will create 110 jobs in Llanelli, and other announcements this April. Diversified Products announced 125 jobs in Gorseinon, Pulse Computers 30 jobs in Newport, Sebastian International 127 jobs at Bridgend, Graphaprint 100 jobs in Deeside, Action Express Packaging 30 jobs in Kenfig Hill, Brother Industries 191 jobs in Wrexham, Microloom 111 jobs in Swansea, and Anglo Swedish Homes 59 jobs in Port Talbot. If that is fiddling the figures, I am delighted to announce them to the House as real jobs.
One feels a certain sympathy for the Labour party in its plight, but is there not something embarrassing about its attempt to extract bad capital from the crop of consistently good news that now comes every day from Wales?
I entirely agree. We have seen the headline total down by 18,200 over the year and we have seen seasonally adjusted unemployment in Wales fall for 10 consecutive months and for 11 out of the past 12 months. That is good news. I am surprised that it causes misery on the Opposition Benches.
In the Teifi valley, as in every other travel-to-work area in Wales, unemployment has fallen over the past 12 months. I am confident that the unemployment figures will continue to improve. I say that because of the confidence being expressed by business and industry generally in Wales.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the provision of 200 jobs by Brother Industries in Wrexham represents just the latest in a staggering record of achievements in reducing unemployment over the past six months? Will my right hon. Friend encourage further industries to move to that corner of north-east Wales?
The truth is that that corner of north-east Wales is proving to be one of the most attractive industrial locations in the whole of Britain. It has attracted a considerable amount of overseas investment. The number of jobs there has grown substantially during our term in office. I am particularly struck by the number of projects that are being negotiated currently there and elsewhere in Wales.
Does the Secretary of State accept that, of course, we welcome all new job announcements in Wales, whether from multinational companies, from within Wales or from the public sector? Our concern is the context in which those announcements are made. Does the right hon. Gentleman not understand that he has to set the job gains against the 150,000 jobs that have been destroyed since he took office as Secretary of State for Wales? That is what his successor as the candidate in the county of Pembrokeshire will be answerable for to the electorate now that the right hon. Gentleman is to retire.
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman, unlike the spokesman for the Labour party, has welcomed the good news. Of course we have suffered from high levels of unemployment in Wales. Indeed, Wales has suffered from the decline of the old basic industries for generations. However, I believe that we have now come to the end of that process and have a strengthening and broadening Welsh economy. I should have thought that both sides of the House would welcome the series of consistently good figures that have been emerging for at least a year in Wales.
Is it not a fact that, historically, there has always been high unemployment in the valleys of Wales? Is it not also a fact that no Government have done more to produce jobs and small businesses in Wales than have this Conservative Government?
All I can say—it is an absolute fact—is that unemployment has fallen more rapidly and for a longer period in Wales than in any other region of the United Kingdom and that the relative position of Wales in the unemployment tables has improved markedly during the past 12 months. I am confident that that process will continue.