HC Deb 03 April 1978 vol 947 cc13-4
9. Mr. Roderick

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will increase the financial provisions made to the Development Board for Rural Wales.

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

I am satisfied that we have made sufficient current provision for the Development Board for Rural Wales to carry out its tasks effectively. The figure for 1977–78 was about £5 million, and I expect that the sum available to the Board in 1978–79 will be of the order of £6 million.

Mr. Roderick

Is my hon. Friend aware that the board may be too successful within its limits, in that way it may not have factories available to let before the year is out? Could he not allow it some extra funds in order to create some larger units and some custom-built units, which is what it seems to need? Will he also ask the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Edwards) to refute the comments he made in the Welsh Grand Committee when he put the future of the board in some doubt, thus jeopardising the activities of people in the area?

Mr. Alec Jones

Having been in existence only a year, the board has made a most promising start, whether one is talking in terms of its factory programme—the numbers let or under construction—or in terms of grants or loans or of the policy consultative document. Indeed, I was rather disturbed that the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Edwards) raised at least some doubt—which was commented on by Members of all parties on the Welsh Grand Committee—whether the Development Board for Rural Wales, an important board, would be assured of its separate existence should the tragedy of a Conservative Government being returned to office occur.

Mr. Hooson

Does the Minister agree that, whereas the Development Board for Rural Wales is the most promising agency for the development and resuscitation of rural Wales, one of its tasks should be to expand certain of the villages as well as the towns on which it is concentrating at present? To do this, does it not need extra funds from the Government?

Mr. Alec Jones

I do not dissent essentially from what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said. That is why I am particularly pleased that the board has now published for the first year its policy consultative document, on which the views of all local authorities and other organisations can be taken into account. When we have those views, my right hon. and learned Friend can make decisions.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

With regard to finance, how is it that the board is able to give loans and is not able to give grants, unlike the Highlands and Islands Development Board in Scotland, which is able to give small loans and grants? Will the Minister look at this again?

Mr. Alec Jones

It is true that the powers of the Development Board for Rural Wales are not identical with those of the Highlands and Islands Development Board, but we have found, certainly from its first year of existence, that the board has adequate powers to meet the task which it is trying to overcome.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

If it is correct that there are more industries wishing to go to Mid-Wales than there are factories to accommodate them, will my hon. Friend direct those industries to Anglesey, where there are factories to accommodate them?

Mr. Alec Jones

I think that we could direct such industries to a number of parts of the Principality. I make it quite clear, in regard to the number of factories, that at this moment there are seven factories which are unlet, 13 are still under discussion, and 13 more have been announced.

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