HC Deb 05 April 1965 vol 710 cc24-5
29. Mr. McBride

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what percentage of the Defence budget will be spent in Wales in the year 1965–66; what is the number of people employed on defence contracts placed in Wales; what relationship this has to the numbers employed on similar contracts awarded outside Wales; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Healey

It is estimated that about 2 per cent. of the Defence budget will be spent in Wales in 1965–66. Details of the numbers of people employed on defence contracts are not available but it is estimated that employment on defence work represents approximately 3½ per cent. of the total employed in manufacturing industries in Wales compared with 4 per cent. in the rest of Great Britain.

Mr. McBride

Will my right hon. Friend consider increasing the percentage of the defence budget to be spent in Wales? Will he bear in mind that in view of the number unemployed in Wales, as in other parts of the country, there is a disparity which cannot be justified and will he invite more Welsh firms to tender for defence contracts?

Mr. Healey

All other things being equal, we always give preference to areas of high unemployment, like Wales, but, as I said earlier in reply to the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) about Northern Ireland, we cannot guarantee in all cases that we will allow operational considerations to be overridden by considerations of employment. However, certainly we will bear in mind what my hon. Friend has said.

Captain Orr

How does the right hon. Gentleman account for the fact that the defence expenditure should be so much higher for Wales than for Northern Ireland?

Mr. Healey

Precisely because operational considerations justify the placing of a larger proportion of the contracts there, or, to put it another way, they enable us to raise the figure in Wales to a higher percentage than we can in Northern Ireland.

Sir Knox Cunningham

In reconsidering the figures which he gave earlier to my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark), will the right hon. Gentleman consider increasing the percentage for Northern Ireland? This is a very serious matter and if there were an increased percentage it would be a tremendous help.

Mr. Healey


Mr. Speaker

There are difficulties about going back to some Question whose number I have forgotten.