HC Deb 21 April 1980 vol 983 cc5-7
4. Mr. Best

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many firms and of what nationality, known to his Department, have been set up in Wales since May 1979.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

Ninety-two firms are known to my Department to have set up in Wales since May 1979, of which 15 are known to have started production. Of the total, 79 are of British origin, five American, three Swedish, two German, one Canadian, one Swiss and one Danish.

Mr. Best

Does my right hon. Friend agree that that demonstrates a new interest in Wales, not only from those within the United Kingdom but from abroad, and shows an awakening of greater confidence in Wales and in what the Government are doing in the Principality to stimulate industrial development.

Mr. Edwards

I think that it gives the lie to the "industrial desert" assertion. I am glad to report that interest continues, because we have made 30 formal allocations in the first quarter of this year.

Mr. Alan Williams

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this position is inadequate when Wales, under this Administration, is facing a redundancy level of 1,000 jobs for every week that the Government are in office? Far from there being an indication of new interest, is it not a fact that most of the factories that have already set up were under negotiation—some virtually at the end of negotiation—when there was a change of Administration? As so many of the new firms that come to Wales go to Government factories, will the right hon. Gentleman assure us that, if press reports that the WDA is to sell off £66 million worth of factories prove to be true, the occupants rather than property investors will be given the first opportunity to buy those factories?

Mr. Edwards

I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman left us a few good things, not a total picture of devastation, when he left office. Some of the jobs were in the pipeline. As I pointed out, there were 30 formal allocations in the first quarter of this year, and that shows a continuing interest in Wales.

As to the proposal by the agency to sell factories, those who are occupying them will be given an opportunity to buy. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that private sector contributions to the finances of the Welsh Development Agency would not be welcome. They would clearly substantially enlarge the scope for its activities and should be encouraged.

Sir Anthony Meyer

Do not these figures suggest how lunatic would be the policy of import controls, as advocated by some sections of the Labour Party, as they would tend to discourage inward investment?

Mr. Edwards

I entirely agree with the view expressed by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Will the Secretary of State tell the House to what extent the Welsh Development Agency was involved in attracting the companies to which he referred in answer to his hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Best)? Will he also refer this matter to the Secretary of State for Industry, with particular reference to the Northern region, which has been pressing for a Northern development agency?

Mr. Edwards

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman a breakdown, but the Welsh Development Agency clearly played an active role in attracting many of these companies, and many of them are occupying WDA factories. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry is well aware of the WDA's record and of what has been happening in Wales.