Welsh Affairs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:33 pm on 27th February 1992.

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Photo of Mr Raymond Powell Mr Raymond Powell , Ogmore 8:33 pm, 27th February 1992

I was tempted not to participate in this debate, because I know that many of my colleagues wish to speak and because most of my day has been spent launching the proposals for the new building in Parliament street. I should like to put on record the fact that, in the Committee dealing with phase 2 of the accommodation, we have total co-operation from Government Members. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for matters concerning Wales.

When the Secretary of State was a member of the usual channels, I always thought that he had a pleasant disposition and was above all sorts of intrigues. When he was appointed Secretary of State, I congratulated him as I had congratulated his predecessor. I congratulated his predecessor because he represents Worcester, which is where my parents were born.

Many figures for unemployment levels are bandied about. It is worth putting on record the facts since 1979. Part of the area that I represented then is now represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths). The Boundary Commission decided to carve up the constituency in the hope of creating a Tory seat. For the first three or four years, that was successful, but we have changed that now, as on 9 April we intend to change many more Tory seats.

In 1979, my constituency of Ogmore had a working population of 100,000. Without all the distorted record keeping that has been imposed on us by the Tory Government, there was 3·7 per cent. unemployment. A total of 2 per cent. of that 3·7 per cent. were unemployable, as they were ex-miners suffering from silicosis or pneumoconiosis. In 1979, there were seven pits in the Ogmore constituency, employing 7,800 miners. There were many others employed in the industry, in transport and so on and in the many other industries connected with mining.

From 1979 to 1982–83, every pit in that constituency was closed. In addition, the de-manning of the steelworks at Margam, introduced by the Tory Government, led to 12,000 redundant steelworkers, most of whom were constituents of Ogmore. Within three years, 20,000 of my constituents were put out of work. Ministers continue to tell us that unemployment is low in Ogmore. Hon. Members who represent constituencies in Wales and hold surgeries there know the facts. I know that the Secretary of State cannot hold any surgeries in Wales in order to know what the people of Wales are thinking, because he does not represent a Welsh constituency.

People do not seem to recognise that Wales is represented by 26 Labour Members, six Conservative Members, three Plaid Cymru Members and three Liberal Democrats. Whenever there are negotiations on any issue, the majority party—the Labour party—should be consulted first. Instead of that, the tail is wagging the dog and occasionally shaking the dog about. The six Tory Members dominate negotiations because we have a Tory Government.

We have had a disaster in Ogmore since 1979. I have given the facts and figures, but on the broader issues we look to the experts to give us the details. The expert on housing is Shelter. No one can suggest that it is dominated solely by the Labour party or trades union movement. I am sure that the Secretary of State has received a copy of Shelter's document. It refers to the housing crisis that now affects all parts of Wales. It estimates that 65,000 people will have experienced homelessness in one form or another in Wales in 1991"— 65,000 people homeless in Wales, not in London.

Some of us have worked as volunteers on the soup kitchens, going down to Victoria embankment at midnight to give the homeless cups of soup, chocolate or tea. I wonder whether any Minister is compassionate enough to do that. If he is, perhaps he will think about the 65,000 homeless people in Wales and the thousands of unemployed construction workers who are crying out for a job. They could easily be employed if the Government were to be more compassionate in allocating funds to enable local authorities to build council houses and to house those 65,000 homeless people.

Shelter states: almost one hundred thousand homes in Wales were considered unfit or lacking basic facilities in the last government survey of house conditions.Shelter Cymru's case and enquiry statistics are one of the most complete records of housing problems in Wales. The most recent figures show: increasing young homelessness, increasing mortgage arrears and repossessions, increasing illegal evictions, increasing debt and eviction. The housing crisis can affect anyone at anytime, as just some of the enquiries on a typical day at a Shelter Cymru Housing Rights Centre show.