HC Deb 30 June 1980 vol 987 cc1066-8
6. Mr. Best

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is the current position on advance factory letting in Wales.

16. Sir Raymond Gower

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is the current position with regard to the letting of advance factories in Wales.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

This year 54 factory units totalling 453,700 sq. ft. had been formally allocated up to 20 June.

Mr. Best

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is important to make sure that there is adequate provision of small units and a great deal of education and help, particularly for those who are made redundant as a result of closures, so that they can find employment and make use of some of the small units?

Mr. Edwards

The Welsh Development Agency has included a considerable number of small units in its programme. There are nine small units available in Anglesey. As my hon. Friend is aware, the WDA has also had discussions with the National Coal Board pension fund about a major new initiative for the provision of small units.

Sir Raymond Gower

In view of the increasing size of the advance factory programme in Wales, will my right hon. Friend consider whether there might be a need to reassess the efficacy of the letting policy, the publicity and the agencies that bring the advantage of such factories to the attention of industrialists in this country and overseas?

Mr. Edwards

As my hon. Friend is well aware, that matter is being examined by the Select Committee. It would probably be right to await the comments of my hon. Friend and his colleagues on the agencies before taking further decisions. I can tell the House that there is still a great deal of interest in the factories. This year's performance is well up, and is on a par with 1978, when 100 factories were allocated and that was considered a good result at the time. It is a little down on last year, which was a record year, but, considering the present state of the economy, interest continues at a remarkably high level.

Mr. Rowlands

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that no advance factory building programme can cope with another steel plant closure? Will he and the Government therefore assure the House and the people of Wales that they will not endorse any further plant closures in Wales, because Wales has been expected to suffer more than enough of the steel rationalisation programme? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the industrial and political patience of the Welsh people will run out rapidly if the Government continue on their present course?

Mr. Edwards

The hon. Gentleman is aware that the new chairman of the BSC does not take over until tomorrow. He has not yet given the Government his assessment of the situation, and I am unable to comment on plans that have not yet been presented.

Mr. Alec Jones

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we are all bemused sometimes by the figures on factory building and the size of the units? Is he also aware that we are concerned to try to relate the 54 factories and the 450,000 sq. ft. of space to which he referred to the size of the problem facing us in Wales? Can the Secretary of State confirm, or deny, that the number of jobs likely to be created by the 54 factories is fewer than 2,000? Can he say whether those 2,000 are included in the 19,000 jobs in the pipeline about which we have heard much recently, or whether they are in addition to that figure?

Mr. Edwards

With the square footage that I am talking about, the number of jobs will be nearer 2,500 than under 2,000.

Mr. Alec Jones

The right hon. Gentleman has got it wrong.

Mr. Edwards

If the right hon. Gentleman wants precision on the matter, I can tell him that the number of jobs to be created is expected to be 2,390 from the 453,700 sq. ft. to which I referred. I stand by those figures.

We updated the figure for jobs in the pipeline from month to month. The figures that we are giving for jobs in the pipeline are the current ones.