HC Deb 19 July 1971 vol 821 cc1029-31
27. Mr. John

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is his estimate of the number of jobs likely to be created by the increased sums of money made available for infrastructure work in Wales.

29. Mr. Gwynoro Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what effect his Department estimates the £14 million infrastructure expenditure announced by the Government will have on the Welsh economy.

42. Mr. Elystan Morgan

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is his estimate of the number of new jobs which will be created in Wales in consequence of the Government's plan to combat unemployment.

Mr. Peter Thomas

The purpose of the increased expenditure on infrastructure projects in Wales announced last week is to strengthen the economy and improve employment opportunities. The detailed work involving discussions with local authorities and other interested organisations is now proceeding and it would be premature to attempt any more specific estimates in terms of employment or other factors.

Mr. John

Is it not remarkable that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is proud of a measure when he now confesses that he has no idea of the number of jobs involved? Is his statement not just strictly pious verbiage, and is it not the fact that he has no idea what he is doing in spending this £14 million?

Mr. Peter Thomas

What I have said is that I cannot go into detail. All I know is that £14 million extra capital allocation is to be made in Wales in order to improve the infrastructure, to create employment opportunities and to make development areas more attractive to incoming industry. I should have thought that hon. Members opposite would have welcomed it.

Mr. Jones

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman not aware that last November, in answering a Question on this subject, he declined to carry out such a programme? Therefore, is there not an admission of failure in the announcement last week?

Secondly, with the taking away of investment grants amounting to £40 million and with unemployment up by 30 per cent. and 11,000 more people out of work, in which way will this £14 million balance that up?

Mr. Peter Thomas

All I can say is that the investment grants certainly do not show great results in Wales. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that in the place of investment grants has been given a unique incentive in development areas of free depreciation, and many other measures have been introduced by this Government. The package as a whole is considered to be a very attractive inducement to industry.

Mr. Morgan

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman recollect the syrupy promise that he made to the Welsh people on taking office that he would improve the quality of life in Wales? Has he calculated the number of jobs which would be necessary to reduce unemployment in Wales to the United Kingdom average, and did he have that figure in mind when he pleaded the case within the Cabinet for a bigger share of this money—if he pleaded at all?

Mr. Peter Thomas

The hon. Gentleman will remember that I have made announcements about roads and about schools in Wales, and this is an added announcement which shows that more money is being spent in Wales which will bring benefit to Wales and improve the quality of life there.