§ 1. Mr. Hooson
asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will take immediate steps to grant the whole Mid-Wales area the same facilities and benefits as are granted to development districts.
§ The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. James Griffiths)
Blaenau Ffestiniog is already a development district and my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade announced on 18th November that an advance factory will be provided there under the powers of the Local Employment Act. Extension of these benefits to other parts of Mid-Wales cannot be effected under existing legislation, but 10 factories have been built or approved in the area with Exchequer help through the Development Commission.
I have recently had discussions on the future development of the area with the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association, and I am urgently examining the possibilities of giving further assistance to Mid-Wales.
§ Mr. Hooson
Is it the intention of the Government to extend to Mid-Wales the same benefits as are extended to the development districts? Would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind what was described as a clear statement of Labour Party policy for Wales, made in the 376 Welsh Grand Committee on 15th July last year by the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins), who said that Mid-Wales should be scheduled as a development district?
§ Mr. Griffiths
I am aware of the serious situation in Mid-Wales and I am conscious that its population is declining at the rate of 700 every year. It has been declining for years at the rate of a village a year. The hon. Member will realise that the problem here is different from that envisaged by the Local Employment Act. We have to bring back not only industry but people, and it is that problem that I am examining.
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the provision of additional industries to which he has referred, and which have already come to towns in Mid-Wales, is the right way to deal with this vexing problem? Secondly, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that probably the best way of providing employment is not by creating new towns in Wales but by strengthening the industrial fabric of the existing towns?
§ Mr. Griffiths
The factories which have been established have made a contribution but, having regard to the scale and the gravity of the problem to which I have referred, something much more radical is required. That is why I put forward my proposals.