HC Deb 27 November 1972 vol 847 cc25-7
26. Mr. Jeffrey Thomas

asked the Secretary of State for Wales when he proposes to publish a report on the future development of the Heads of the Valleys area.

Mr. Peter Thomas

A study of the Heads of the Valleys area is being undertaken by my Department in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. My officials are at present awaiting the local authorities' comments on a draft of this study.

Mr. Jeffrey Thomas

There is a desperate situation now in the Heads of the Valley area, with redundancies first in ICI Fibres and now in prospect at Ebbw Vale. To adopt his own phrase, will the Secretary of State shake his bones and tell us what new policies the Government have to offer and exactly what action they will take to solve the problem in the Heads of the Valley? Further, will he acknowledge that it is now social and economic madness to go ahead with the £260 million new town at Llantrisant, and will he abandon that folly at once?

Mr. Peter Thomas

The Question relates to the Heads of the Valley study. I am anxious to see the report finalised. At the same time, I understand the need for local authorities to give the matter careful consideration. There is great merit in Government Departments and local authorities getting together to consider the problems of an area such as this and to reach an agreed assessment of its present situation and its prospects. As for the Llantrisant new town proposals, I am at present awaiting the inspector's report and I cannot comment further on that question now.

Mr. Rowlands

Will the Secretary of State take it, despite his cheap accusations earlier today, that it gives no pleasure to anyone in the Heads of the Valley area to refer to the high level of unemployment from which we are suffering, and that we reject utterly the complacent attitude about the state of unemployment which he has exhibited? Does he not realise that, when an announcement is made like that of the British Steel Corporation regarding Ebbw Vale, a cold shiver is sent through the hearts of everyone in the valleys who may be affected? Will the Secretary of State now give urgent consideration to the possibility of establishing a Heads of the Valley development authority to give real co-ordination to the activities of all the authorities concerned?

Mr. Peter Thomas

I think one should wait to see what the report brings forward first. This matter was raised when I saw the local authorities and agreed that we should have the study. I am fully aware of the problems of the valleys and I am extremely anxious that their difficulties should be removed. But what concerns me also is that when there is any news which is of benefit and which gives pleasure to people in the valleys, hon. Members opposite—I should have thought that they would be the first to do it—should welcome it and not try to give a depressing picture all the time.

Mr. George Thomas

We need no lecturing from the Secretary of State about the valley communities. Does he realise that our concern about the high level of unemployment in the Heads of the Valleys and in the valleys in general is the cause of our repeated protestations? Since he has this afternoon four times referred to what his officials are doing, and since we are unable to question them but must question him, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman confine his answers to what he is doing so that we may cross-examine him?

Mr. Peter Thomas

The Question was about a study of the Heads of the Valleys area. It was agreed when I met the local authorities concerned that my officials and officials of the local authorities should get together in order to produce a report, and that is being done.