HC Deb 24 January 1977 vol 924 cc941-4
7. Sir Raymond Gower

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what discussion he has had with the housing authorities in South Glamorgan and Gwent regarding the provision of additional housing accommodation for civil servants in connection with the needs of the Welsh Assembly, and in connection with the transfer of certain Ministry of Defence officers; and what advice he has given.

The Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Alec Jones)

The housing demand likely to arise from dispersal has been taken into account in the structure plans for South Glamorgan and Gwent, which have been extensively discussed with the authorities concerned. Provisional calculations suggest that adequate capacity exists to meet housing needs arising from the setting up of a Welsh Assembly. It is for individual housing authorities to assess the needs in their own areas, and all the information available to the Welsh Office is at their disposal for this purpose.

Sir R. Gower

Could the Minister give us as a rough guidance the approximate number of personnel involved?

Mr. Alec Jones

It is not possible at this stage to make any details available. The basis on which we are calculating the number of jobs dispersed to Wales is that approximately half, will be provided by local recruitment and that will create a housing need. That is why we made sure that these figures were taken into account in the structure plans.

Mr. Gwynfor Evans

Is the Minister aware that the proposal to transfer 4,000 or 5,000 of the 264,000 defence civil servants to the Cardiff area will create great difficulty there in terms of housing and employment as well as wasting about £40 million of public money?

Mr. Alec Jones

I disagree entirely with the hon. Gentleman. The fact that by dispersal policies we are able to create new jobs and new job opportunities for our young people to which they can apply skills for which they have so far been unable to find a place in Wales is not a tragedy but an important feature of Government 'policy. I draw attention to organisations such as the Royal Mint which have been established in Wales and have proved of inestimable value to the people employed in them.

Mr. Ioan Evans

Will my hon. Friend reject completely the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans)? If there were difficulties in Cardiff in housing some of the civil servants moved there from London, there would be many constituencies in the valleys and elsewhere in Wales that would welcome these British jobs to the Principality.

Mr. Alec Jones

I agree that it is necessary to encourage dispersal to Wales. I mentioned the Royal Mint, but there is also, of course, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Centre at Swansea. I am staggered to hear the criticisms of the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans) of dispersal, especially when many people in his constituency are glad and proud to work in the licensing centre at Swansea.

Mr. Michael Roberts

Does the Minister accept that in the case of the Ministry of Defence dispersal of the 3,000 people who have indicated their intention to come to Cardiff 2,700 plan to buy their own homes? Is he aware that this will result in an enormous stimulus to the construction industry throughout South Wales?

Mr. Alec Jones

I accept that many people who will be transferred will seek housing from the private sector. That is why I am pleased to confirm that the National Federation of Building Trades Employers has assured me that the private building industry has the capacity to meet this need.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

Is not the injection of numbers on the scale proposed bound to have an enormous impact on a whole range of service industries? Is it not astonishing in these circumstances, bearing in mind the number of jobs that will be provided for Welsh people, for any Welsh party seriously to oppose such a move?

Mr. Alec Jones

This must be one of the few occasions on which I can wholeheartedly welcome the hon. Gentleman's comments. It is staggering, as I am sure most people in Wales will agree, to hear such a suggestion from the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans).

Mr. Abse

My hon. Friend indicated that about half the people concerned in the dispersal would be coming into Wales. Will that sort of proportion apply to the staffing of the Welsh Assembly? Since I estimate that the Assembly will require about 2,000 people, am I to understand that about 1,000 civil servants are suddenly to pounce upon Cardiff in order to set up the Assembly? Or has my hon. Frend entangled the number of civil servants who, happily, will be coming in relation to the Ministry of Defence dispersal with those who, unhappily, will be coming in relation to the Welsh Assembly?

Mr. Alec Jones

I am glad to correct any misapprehension I might have caused. We estimate that about a half of those filling jobs on pure dispersal will be coming into Wales and that about a half will be recruited locally. As for the Assembly, of the anticipated total of 1,300 staff a substantial number is expected to come from local recruitment.

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