HC Deb 11 July 1977 vol 935 cc14-5
11. Mr. Gwynfor Evans

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many persons are employed in Dyfed by oil refineries.

Mr. John Morris

The latest figure available is for the last quarter of 1976, when 1,195 people were employed in the four refineries and their associated petrochemical plants in Dyfed.

Mr. Evans

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman confirm that the firms to which he referred, which employ most of the people in the oil industry, have received tens of millions of pounds in regional grants, although there are other firms which have come to the magnificent deep harbour at Milford Haven and have not received a penny? Is he aware that companies such as Gulf Oil, an American concern, have assets amounting to £18,000 million and that others are in the same league? Is this the best way to use our regional grants? Cannot we use them in a better way to create more employment to Wales?

Mr. Morris

I am concerned to follow up any new method of deploying public funds. The hon. Gentleman may know that the greater part of the money invested in Milford was paid under the old system of investment grants. He must not look down his nose at what has been achieved, because the refineries represent 50 per cent. of all manufacturing jobs in Pembroke Dock and Milford Haven. That is a significant contribution. It may be that in future there will be downstream developments dependent on the existence of those refineries.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

I have some sympathy with what the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans) said, but does the Secretary of State agree that probably between 3,000 and 4,000 people are receiving employment directly or indirectly as a result of the operations of oil companies in the area? Will he say specifically whether public funds on this scale will be available for the new cracker project which is currenty being discussed by two of the oil refineries?

Mr. Morris

I am aware informally of the existence of this project. The types of grant available for such projects will be for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry and myself, and we shall have to consider the matter when it arises. At present the matter is hypothetical, and I may have the planning responsibilities in this case. I would not wish to comment further.