HC Deb 12 February 1979 vol 962 cc773-4
11. Mr. Gwynfor Evans

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what increase has occurred in the capital cost of the buildings and the services for the Welsh Assembly since the original estimate was made.

Mr. Alec Jones

The estimated cost of adapting and equipping the Exchange is £.5 million at 1978 prices. The estimate for additional office accommodation remains the same as given in the explanatory and financial memorandum to the Scotland and Wales Bill.

Mr. Evans

Is the Minister aware that some hon. Members have been unscrupulously misleading the Welsh public by asserting that impoverishment would be caused to them by the imposition of £20 million on them as a result of the Assembly? Will the Minister confirm the parliamentary answer which I received which said that the cost to the people of Wales and other parts of the United Kingdom would be about 1p per head per week—less than the cost of a packet of cigarettes per year and less than the cost of one pint of beer per year?

Mr. Alec Jones

As I mentioned earlier, there have been far too many fantasies and far too few facts given on this subject. But certainly I confirm the parliamentary answer given to the hon. Gentleman on this subject. However, the additional cost is not £20 million, but £13.5 million. That figure is the fact. The other is the fantasy.

Mr. Roderick

Is my hon. Friend able to give the House the costs of providing new accommodation for local authorities in Wales in the last three or four years? Will he explain to the House why there has been less fuss here about those costs than about the costs of the Assembly?

Mr. Alec Jones

I do not have to hand the figures for local authority capital spending on new offices in recent years. What is a certainty is that whenever any local authority proposes such expenditure the Welsh Office is inundated with objections from those who believe that it is a wasteful use of public money.

Mr. Michael Roberts

Will the Minister confirm that if expenditure in Wales is worked out on a United Kingdom basis, based upon all families and people in the United Kingdom, it appears to be very little per head for the people of Wales? Will he also confirm that the £13.5 million running costs will come out of the block grant for Wales?

Mr. Alec Jones

Yes, and the cost of the Exchange and that sort of thing will be taken into account in deciding the block grant. It is natural that one should work out the expenditure on a United Kingdom basis, because, after all, that is how the block grant itself will be decided —according to the need of the United Kingdom. Therefore, it is fair that the costs should likewise be allocated on a United Kingdom basis.