HC Deb 28 June 1971 vol 820 cc11-2
5. Mr. William Edwards

asked the Secretary of State for Wales whether he has met representatives of the Confederation of British Industry in Wales; and whether he will make a statement.

15. Mr. Denzil Davies

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what plans he has in the near future to meet the Welsh Section of the Confederation of British Industry.

Mr. Peter Thomas

I met representatives of the C.B.I. in Wales on 7th August and on 6th November last year; and will be ready to hold further meetings whenever necessary.

Mr. Edwards

Does not the right hon. Gentleman accept that it would be a useful meeting, first, because it is quite clear that he is receiving advice from some Government source which is decidedly out of accord with the reality of the industrial position in Wales? Further, when he meets the C.B.I., will he take very seriously the advice, which I am certain he will get, that doing away with investment grants is a piece of party political dogma which, quite clearly, is not the most effective or the cheapest way of giving the kind of encouragement to Welsh industry that it needs? If he accepts that investment grants do not cost any more money than tax allowances, why does he consider that that is the most effective method of helping Northern Ireland?

Mr. Peter Thomas

The changeover has saved a considerable amount of public expenditure which was wasteful and discriminatory. The changeover was one which had been advocated by the C.B.I. for many years.

Mr. Denzil Davies

When the right hon. Gentleman meets the C.B.I. again, will he tell it that the Government are prepared at least to redeem some of the damage by giving industrialists the option of choosing between investment allowances and investment grants, especially bearing in mind that foreign firms—such as American firms—do not get very much benefit out of investment allowances when they invest in Wales because they do not have the profit to set against those allowances?

Mr. Peter Thomas

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the investment allowances are only part of the incentive given in Wales, and one has to look at the whole package. The whole package is a considerable improvement on what happened in the past, and is a great incentive to industry to go to Wales.

Mr. Ellis

Did the Minister, in his talks with the C.B.I. discuss the question of firms coming to Wales which had entered into heavy financial contracts under the old dispensation of grants, now finding themselves in serious financial difficulty following the announcement last October? If the right hon. Gentleman did have such discussions, what proposals has the C.B.I. or the right hon. Gentleman for relieving the serious position facing some of these firms?

Mr. Peter Thomas

The discussions that I had with the C.B.I. in Wales were in August and November last. At that time considerable complaints were made by representatives of industry in Wales about measures that had been taken by the previous Administration, measures such as penal taxation, and measures they felt discriminated against small businesses.