Wales

Merthyr bus comment 'denigrates' town says local MP

Merthyr Tydfil is being unfairly "denigrated", says the town's Labour MP.

Dai Havard, MP for Merthyr and Rhymney, attacked the comments by the work and pensions secretary who suggested unemployed people should get on a bus to find work.

Iain Duncan Smith said Merthyr was an example of a town where people had become "static".

But Mr Havard said people from Merthyr worked in "all sorts" of places.

Mr Duncan Smith, in an interview for BBC Newsnight, said people did not know that if they took a one-hour bus ride to Cardiff, they would be able to find work.

His comments echoed those of the former Conservative minister, Norman Tebbitt, whose "on his bike" remark to a party conference has entered political folklore.

In 1981, reacting to a suggestion rioting was caused by unemployment, the then employment secretary said his unemployed father in the 1930s hadn't rioted but "got on his bike and looked for work, and he kept looking until he found it."

Mr Havard said: "The mask has slipped - Iain Duncan Smith represents Chingford as Norman Tebbitt did. They have a view of the world that doesn't match reality".

He said the unemployment was much more complex than suggested: "The issues don't just include access to that work, it's also about the quality of that work and its distribution".

'Difficult economic situation'

The MP added: "It's not a case that the majority of the people of Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney and the rest of the valleys are in some way feckless and not working".

"The people of Merthyr work in all sorts of different places. They commute to Bristol and all over the place. The whole of the population is denigrated and traduced by these sorts of statements. The difficultly of providing work is much more difficult than a slogan".

But Nick Ramsay, Conservative MP for Monmouth and Conservative finance spokesman in the assembly, said the basis of Mr Duncan Smith's comments were right.

"What he was trying to say was that in a difficult economic situation, sometimes you might have to travel a bit further to find work than otherwise, I think that was right".

Mr Ramsay added: "Sadly, for many people the (travel) infrastructure isn't there at the moment. That's not a problem caused by the people of Merthyr, that's a problem caused by previous administrations that have not allowed people the means to do what Iain Duncan Smith has suggested".

Denzil Davies, the former Labour Treasury Minister, said Mr Duncan Smith had brought forward some good ideas and had done some good research while in opposition but he disagreed with him on this issue.

Image caption Iain Duncan Smith's remarks have been defended by colleagues

"I thought Iain Duncan Smith had once described himself as the quiet man of politics. I think he should stay quiet on this one.

"You can get on a bus and go from Llanelli to Swansea but the unemployment rate in Swansea is certainly as high - if not higher - than that in Llanelli. This is no way of trying to create jobs in Wales or across Britain."

Meanwhile, speaking on the Sunday Supplement on BBC Radio Wales, Glyn Davies, the Conservative MP for Montgomeryshire, said the challenge for the coalition government was assisting the creation of private sector jobs.

"We have to make a concentrated effort if the government wants to replace public sector jobs with those in the private sector," he said.

"We've got to make a concentrated effort to help those areas which are most affected (across the UK)".