HC Deb 01 May 1972 vol 836 cc12-5
15. Mr. Michael Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will consider seeking to initiate a study by representatives of the local authorities and the Welsh Council to make proposals for a new regional strategy for Wales.

Mr. Peter Thomas

I see no need at present for some new strategy. I believe that the policies we are following are comprehensive, sound and appropriate to meet the needs of Wales but I shall not hesitate to commission a further study if I think it is necessary.

Mr. Roberts

Would my right hon. and learned Friend agree that regional development in England is likely to be encouraged and helped by the regional studies now being undertaken by his right hon. Friend in the Midlands and in the North-West? Would he also agree that at least "Wales: The Way Ahead "could be brought up to date? Would he reconsider his answer on this matter?

Mr. Peter Thomas

Our strategy, which adopts many parts of "Wales: The Way Ahead ", is continually being up-dated and adjusted to suit changing circumstances. As I said, I shall not hesitate to commission a further study if I think it necessary, but I am not persuaded that this is needed at present.

Mr. Gwynoro Jones

Will the Secretary of State indicate when unemployment in Wales will next come to the level of June, 1970?

Mr. Peter Thomas

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman must know by now that one never forecasts levels of employment or unemployment.

Mr. George Thomas

I thank the Secretary of State for his personal remarks, which I much appreciate. Is he aware that the complacent note on which he addressed the House in reply to his hon. Friend will not be shared by either his hon. Friends or my hon. Friends? Is he aware that Wales has never been in a bigger economic mess than she is today and that there is need for urgent action?

Mr. Peter Thomas

The right hon. Gentleman knows that I am pursuing with added vigour, and certainly greater expenditure, many of the plans which were deferred, which were set out in "Wales: The Way Ahead ". If he considers that any of these are not worth it, perhaps he would let me know. We are proceeding on matters of transport, the dereliction of land and house improvement at a level which has never previously been known.

21. Sir A. Meyer

asked the Secretary of State for Wales whether he has studied the report of the conference held in Venice, details of which have been supplied to him, at which representatives of the Common Market countries and the applicant States discussed regional development policies; and what conclusions he has drawn for the future of development policies in Wales.

Mr. Peter Thomas

The official report is not yet available. A wide range of topics was, I understand, covered and I will certainly give careful attention to any implications for Wales.

Sir A. Meyer

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the reported proceedings of this conference bear out what has been said by a great many of us all along, namely, that entry into the Common Market will result in the faster expansion of regional development throughout Europe? Does he further agree that Flintshire should be glad that a Conservative Government are in power in Britain, first because when the Labour Party were in office Flintshire had no assisted area status and would not have been eligible for the increased aid and, second, because under Labour the regions would not have had the expanded regional benefits that will come from membership of the EEC?

Mr. Thomas

I was in Flintshire about a fortnight ago, as my hon. Friend knows. It was clear that the change of status is very much welcomed there. I understand that at the Venice conference there was a useful and heartening discussion on the subject of regional policy.

Mr. McBride

Who were the Welsh representatives at this conference? Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that something would have been lacking without Welsh representations? What, in the right hon. and learned Gentleman's view, would be our development policies in the unlikely event of our joining the Common Market? Would such policies produce jobs for the 54,000 unemployed in Wales, for whom there are only 6,000 or so vacancies notified? In other words, what, in his view, is in it for Wales in terms of regional development if we join the EEC?

Mr. Thomas

The conference was broadly of an industrial nature, as the hon. Gentleman knows, and for that reason representatives of the Department of Trade and Industry were present, but no Welsh Office officials were present. It was clear from the discussion that the situation in Britain was well understood. Those who attended the conference came away feeling that it would be of great benefit to Britain, from an industrial point of view, if we were to become full members of the EEC.