HC Deb 02 December 1974 vol 882 cc1091-3
4. Mr. Wigley

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will pay an official visit to the area covered by the Caernarvon constituency in the near future.

Mr. John Morris

I visit all parts of Wales as opportunities arise. I have already visited the Caernarvon constituency on two occasions this year in my official capacity.

Mr. Wigley

I am sorry that the Secretary of State is not intending to come to Caernarvon again very soon. If he were to come, I hope that he would take the opportunity of visiting the county offices there, where he would learn of the dismay of the officers of Gwynedd County Council at the rate support grant for next year. Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that Gwynedd will suffer considerably on the sparsity element of the rate support grant. The sparsity element will drop from £2.9 million to about £928,000. The total increase in grants, taking all grants together, will be about 43 per cent. for Gwynedd, compared with 50 per cent. for England and Wales. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman bring pressure to bear on his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment between now and next week to try to get some modification introduced?

Mr. Morris

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that there has been some misrepresentation about what has happened. We must start with our magnificent victory in March, which ensured a substan- tial domestic relief element, which was much better than anything our predecessors did. That was reflected by the complete absence of Welsh Tory Members and National Members in the Division Lobby in the House of Commons in March, because no one voted against the Government. The totality of the rate support grant for Wales will be very substantial. Gwynedd will benefit, looking at the total figure, by an increase of about 40 per cent. It is no use the hon. Gentleman's taking a tiny fraction. We must look at the whole picture, including the needs resources and the domestic element.

Mr. Roderick

Will my right hon. and learned Friend speed up the publication of the figures on the rate support grant to dispel the distortions which are appearing in the various organs of the Press in Wales? We understand that we are to see an improvement in the rate support grant. To listen to Opposition Members one would think that the situation was becoming worse.

Mr. Morris

The figures will be published as soon as possible—I hope in the course of the next few weeks. My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the fact that Wales as a whole benefits substantially. It will get about £90 million extra.

Mr. Wigley indicated dissent—

Mr. Morris

It is no use the hon. Gentleman shaking his head. There will be an increase in the domestic relief element, which is double that of England.

Mr. Wyn Roberts

Is it not a fact that Gwynedd, Dyfed and Powys have the lowest percentage increase on last year's grant of all the English and Welsh authorities? Does that not mean that their interests have been neglected?

Mr. Morris

It means nothing of the kind. We had a substantial increase throughout Wales of between 40 per cent. and 50 per cent. I think Gwynedd had an increase of about 40 per cent., and Dyfed had 40 per cent. or more. This is the pattern throughout Wales. In all, Wales will get about £90 million extra. I hope that the figures will emerge soon. That is in addition to the domestic relief support element which is double that of England. Does the hon. Gentle- man want the same kind of domestic relief support as previously?

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. There is another Question on this matter.

Mr. Wigley

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that answer, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

Forward to