HC Deb 23 November 1970 vol 807 cc6-8
7. Mr. Gwynoro Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is his estimate of the effect of the Government's measures regarding industrial assistance in the development areas on small firms in Wales.

9. Mr. Kinnock

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will estimate the effects on Wales of Government changes in regional development policy; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peter Thomas

All the measures which were announced on 27th October by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer are designed to create conditions for economic growth both in the United Kingdom as a whole and in Wales. I have no doubt that the Welsh economy, including the small firms in it, will benefit considerably from the measures we have taken.

Mr. Jones

Is the Secretary of State aware that similar measures were in existence from 1960 to 1964, when some 63 firms came to Wales? Under the previous Government, from 1965 to 1969, the figure was 196 firms. Furthermore, there is a definite pattern of decline in industrialists seeking information about Wales. The total for the third quarter of 1970 was the lowest for three years, so it is quite incorrect of the right hon. Gentleman to hope for any growth. Furthermore, how will small firms which are not making a profit benefit from industrial allowances and free depreciation?

Mr. Speaker

Order. Long questions cut out someone else.

Mr. Peter Thomas

I am aware that, despite the very large sums disbursed under the previous arrangements, in the last six years the number of employees in employment in Wales declined very sharply, unemployment increased, and so did net outward migration.

Mr. Kinnock

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the proposals that he drew to our attention which were made by his right hon. Friend on 27th October are at best irrelevant to the needs of small firms in Wales? Is he aware that those firms occupy the technological frontier, and that the Welsh economy is partly dependent on this kind of firm? Will he give an undertaking that he will review his Government's policy, in view of the fact that it is direct injections of financial capital that these firms require?

Mr. Peter Thomas

Yes, small firms are valued very much in Wales, and I have no doubt that most of them in Wales will benefit considerably from these new measures.

Mr. Gower

Is it not a fact that during the last six years the ups and downs of the British economy as a whole have been deeply injurious to the Welsh economy?

Mr. Peter Thomas

This is perfectly correct.

Mr. George Thomas

Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell me what has been the attitude of the C.B.I. in Wales to his proposals, particularly its attitude to the new flexible policy with regard to the granting of industrial development certificates? Have small industries in Wales written to express their satisfaction with his proposals?

Mr. Peter Thomas

The question of industrial development certificates does not arise on this question. As for the C.B.I. in Wales, I met it not long ago, when it expressed general support for the proposals put forward.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

Will my right hon. and learned Friend ensure that money expended in the Welsh development areas has some relation to the number of jobs provided, and not follow his predecessor's example of doling out huge sums to companies, often from overseas, paying little United Kingdom tax?

Mr. Peter Thomas

Yes, by placing greater emphasis on assistance under the Local Employment Acts we shall be gearing the assistance to meet the most important requirement of Wales, which is more jobs.

Mr. Elystan Morgan

Is the Secretary of State aware that his replies are evasive and nonsensical? Is he aware that every Welsh Member knows in his heart that the changes announced by the Chancellor last month have completely destroyed the allurement which the Welsh development area had? Is he willing to give an undertaking that if he cannot move his colleagues in Cabinet to give Wales the special assistance it needs he will resign?

Mr. Peter Thomas

If the hon. Gentleman persists in exaggerating to the extent that he did in that question, he will not get very far in politics.

An Hon. Member

He could become Chairman of the Conservative Party.