HC Deb 19 July 1971 vol 821 cc1016-7
11. Mr. Kinnock

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what proposals he has to increase expenditure on public works in Wales up to March 1973.

Mr. Peter Thomas

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply of 15th July to my hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower).—[Vol. 821, c. 160.]

Mr. Kinnock

Does the Secretary of State not realise that hon. Members on this side of the House find it inexcusable that the right hon. and learned Gentleman, unlike his right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Secretary of State for Scotland, was not prepared to come to the House to make a statement on this matter and make himself available for questions to be put to him from hon. Members on both sides of the House with Welsh interests? Will he give an undertaking not to make such an important statement in the form of a Written Answer in future? What effect will the new expenditure have on the chronic unemployment situation in Wales?

Mr. Peter Thomas

The projects proposed for Wales will account for about 14 per cent. of the total sum which was announced by my right hon. Friend, which is a very fair percentage. My officials will now see officials of local authorities and the hospitals and schools to ascertain what projects can be accelerated and put into action quickly. We shall then be in a better position to be able to say what effect it will have on the unemployment situation in Wales?

Mr. Gower

Is not the percentage my right hon. and learned Friend has mentioned somewhat higher than would be required to accord with the proportion of people in the United Kingdom and in Wales?

Mr. Peter Thomas

The 14 per cent. has to be compared with the 13.7 per cent. in Wales of all assisted areas employment, and, perhaps more significant, the Welsh share of assisted areas unemployment is just over 12 per cent.

Mr. George Thomas

Is the Secretary of State aware that we note that on a number of occasions he does not make a statement as do his right hon. Friends when these matters affect his Department? Would it not be better if he submitted himself to questioning, as other Ministers do when statements are made to the House, so that Welsh affairs could also be discussed in proper conditions? Further, is he aware that this effort to make up for the errors of the past, welcome as it is, does not go far enough?

Mr. Peter Thomas

It is a matter of the convenience of the House whether or not separate statements are to be made for Wales when a joint statement is made on England and Wales. The right hon. Gentleman will agree that I certainly submit myself to plenty of questioning from right hon. and hon. Members not only in the Chamber but also in the Welsh Grand Committee.

As for other measures, the right hon. Gentleman has overlooked the major step which was taken to increase still further the attraction of development areas by amending the free depreciation arrangements through an Amendment of the Finance Bill on 7th July, giving a higher carry-back period and involving refunds of corporation tax which have already been paid. I am sure that he will pay tribute to that change, and welcome it.