HC Deb 21 February 1972 vol 831 cc881-3
14. Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what consideration he is now giving to the extension of special development area status to districts with high unemployment in Wales.

Mr. Peter Thomas

This is primarily a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry but I am in close touch with him.

Mr. Hughes

Is the Secretary of State aware that that is a very discouraging reply in view of his oversight responsibilities for this matter in Wales? Would he be good enough to tell the House now what criteria the Government require before they will extend special development area status to these districts of high unemployment? Is he aware that unemployment in my constituency is about 12 per cent. and that some additional incentives are required if there is to be any hope of industrial development in the future?

Mr. Thomas

Yes. The criteria which we apply are the same as those which were applied by our predecessors. Special development area status is being given to those areas with a high number of employed as well as a high percentage of unemployment and where basic industries are declining. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry told the House on 17th January that a study of regional policy is continuing, and these matters are being taken into account.

Mr. Hughes

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman say when the study, of which we have heard a great deal during the past few weeks, is to be published?

Mr. Thomas

No. I could not say. We have to take into account many factors. My right hon. Friend has told the House that this study is being made. Matters such as those which the right hon. Gentleman raised are being considered.

Sir A. Meyer

Will my right hon. and learned Friend intensify the consideration which I know he has already been giving to the problems of areas in Wales which are excluded from all assisted status?

Mr. Thomas

I can certainly say "Yes" to that. I know that my hon. Friend will appreciate that it would be wrong to take decisions on the status of particular areas in isolation.

Mr. Kinnock

Will the Secretary of State acknowledge that the phrase "a high number" is about as scientifically useful as the phrase "a large hole"? Will he tell us what "high number" is used as the criterion in deciding when special development area status should be granted? The answer he has given is of no help to any hon. Member.

Mr. Thomas

I must ask the hon. Gentleman to await the outcome of the decisions which will be taken on the review which is taking place.