HC Deb 28 July 1980 vol 989 cc1027-9
6 Mr. Geraint Howells

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he has any plans to give extra financial aid to the Development Board for Rural Wales; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

I have no present plans to do so.

Mr. Howells

I am very disappointed with that reply. Will the Secretary of State now consider helping the self-employed, the small businesses and agriculture in mid-Wales by persuading the Chancellor of the Exchequer to lower the minimum lending rate forthwith in order to ensure that those industries survive?

Mr. Edwards

The prime objective of the reductions that are taking place in public expenditure and public borrowing is to bring interest rates down. They have started to come down and I have no doubt that that process will continue in the coming months.

Mr. Delwyn Williams

Does my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating the Development Board for Rural Wales on the magnificent job that it is doing? Does he join me in congratulating the DBRW on making sure that Newtown and Welshpool have one of the lowest unemployment figures in Wales? It is well below the national average. Does my right hon. Friend further acknowledge that Powys has increased its population by 70 per cent. and that the movement has been from England into Wales in the last few years? Does he share my hope that that course will continue?

Mr. Edwards

I congratulate the DBRW, as I have done on previous occasions, on the work that it is doing. At present, it is constructing more than 100,000 sq ft of advance factory space throughout its area, and it is continuing to encourage the arrival of new employment in the area.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

When does the Secretary of State intend to restore the £3 million cut in the board's budget which he made in the current financial year?

Mr. Edwards

I made no cut in the budget. I continued the expenditure broadly in line with what had been provided for in the previous Government's PESC plans. Characteristically, the previous Government did not provide the funds in their PESC plans which they had announced for the future. In fact, in the previous year, they made some supplementary provision when they had underspent in other programmes.

Dr. Roger Thomas

What proposals does the right hon. Gentleman have in respect of those areas of rural Wales which are not fortunate enough to be included in the DBRW's location?

Mr. Edwards

The Welsh Development Agency carries on its operations throughout Wales, and it covers those parts that are not covered by the DBRW. One of the consequences of the announcement that I made earlier about the additional private sector finance which is to be injected into the WDA—I hope that this will merely be a first step in this direction—will be to enable additional resources to be allocated to parts of Wales outside the steel closure areas.