HC Deb 16 January 1978 vol 942 cc4-6
3. Sir A. Meyer

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many completed advance factories in Wales remain unlet; and what is the average number of employees working in advance factories completed since February 1974.

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. John Morris)

Of the 91 advance factories, including nursery units, completed since February 1974, 45 have been let; a further 22 have been provisionally allocated or are subject to current applications; 24 factories remain unlet with tenants being actively sought.

The average number of employees in each of the occupied factories is 37.

Sir A. Meyer

In view of those unsatisfactory figures, and as any major increase in new jobs is likely to come not in manufacturing industry but elsewhere, does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman consider that he has placed too much emphasis on the building of advance factories as a means of reducing unemployment?

Mr. Morris

I accept that if we are to make a substantial indent in unemployment it will come from the general improvement in the economy of this country, and that is what we are beginning to see. If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that I should withdraw the increased programme of advance factories that we have launched upon, I believe that he is in a minority in the House and certainly in a minority in Wales.

Mr. Kinnock

Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that, while we recognise the need for different durations of free rent for factories built in Wales in the special development areas and development areas, there is a certain amount of disquiet about the way this system is operated in some areas? Can he tell us the criteria that he is prepared to use in providing extensive free-rent facilities to factories in areas of high unemployment which may not necessarily be quite within special development areas?

Mr. Morris

My hon. Friend has written to me on this, and I sent him a very detailed reply which I thought went a great deal of the way to satisfying him on the criteria.

There are always problems with boundaries. What we seek to do is to try to ensure maximum flexibility to give that kind of encouragement to industry to bring it to the areas needing it. Generally this has been satisfactory, but if my hon. Friend has any particular case in mind I shall give it my attention.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

Has the Secretary of State had any recent discussions with the Welsh Development Agency and the Development Board for Rural Wales about the setting up of wholly-owned direct subsidiaries of the Welsh Development Agency in areas of advance factory development? Is he aware that a factory at Blaenau Ffestiniog of 50,000 sq. ft. is still lying vacant? Will he seek more imaginative ways of public enterprise to bring industry into that type of situation?

Mr. Morris

I am always happy that more imaginative types of public enterprise should be instituted, either on my suggestion or on that of either of the boards. I realise that the problem of this factory has defied solution for many years. The hon. Gentleman will be encouraged by the recent success of the Development Board for Rural Wales in the Penrhyndeudraeth area. After a great deal of effort, it has succeeded in getting a tenant there. We are seeking to ensure that we try, using every possible means, to bring tenants to advance factories.