In complimenting my right hon. Friend on the record number of applications for project grants in 1993–94, a total of 314, and the fact that a high proportion of them have been processed as far as the offer stage so that 8,000 new jobs have been promised and nearly 5,000 safeguarded, may I nevertheless urge my right hon. Friend to preserve the top priority that I know he gives to the development of the Welsh economy and to disregard the carping criticisms which masquerade as Opposition policy?
Does the Secretary of State accept that his policies have failed dismally in south Wales, especially when we consider the report sponsored by the Government's research council which shows that male unemployment levels in former coalfield areas are now running at 33 per cent. rather than the 16 per cent. that is published—and fiddled—by the Department of Employment?
I agree that there are still pockets of unemployment which we intend to tackle very vigorously. However, the overall totals are coming down and the overall percentage is much more reasonable, although of course we want to get it much lower. I hope that the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues will co-operate in the big task that I have now set for the whole of Wales—to raise the private finance to add to the public money that we are spending so as to finish the job and ensure that the towns and valleys are regenerated.
My right hon. Friend will be aware that the constituency of Ludlow adjoins Wales. He will also be aware of the many representations that I have made to him and to his predecessors about the unfairness of the grants available to companies operating in Wales which are not available to companies operating in Shropshire. What has been the effect of the Welsh Office moratorium on grants in aid through the Development Board for Rural Wales? I am sure that the House will be interested to know what my right hon. Friend's experiences have been in that direction.
I am delighted to report to my hon. Friend that unemployment continued to fall rapidly in mid-Wales even though we were not paying grants, although the grant system has now been restored through local authorities.