HC Deb 10 November 1980 vol 992 cc10-2
7. Mr. Ioan Evans

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what action is proposed to implement the proposals of the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs report entitled "The Role of the Welsh Office and Associated Bodies in Developing Employment Opportunities in Wales", and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

The Government hope to lay their response to the report before the House later this month.

Mr. Evans

In view of the urgency of some of the report's recommendations may we have an early debate? Is the Secretary of State aware that since the report two former Conservative Prime Ministers have said that the policies being pursued by the Government are calamitous? Is he aware that that is confirmed in evidence by the TUC and CBI in Wales? Will he implement the recommendations for the Cynon Valley and give it special development area status since three major firms have been closed there as a direct result of Government policies?

Mr. Edwards

It is important to have a debate on the report and on the conclusions, which we hope to put to the House soon. As to views about the industrial and economic situation, I am aware that many people over the years have thought that the way out of our difficulties was to take the soft option. I fear that that is why we face some of the severe difficulties that we face today.

Sir Anthony Meyer

Is my right hon. Friend aware that although the report contains many interesting and valuable suggestions it is conceivable that this or any other Government should be able in present circumstances to accept them in full? None the less, will he pay special attention to the recommendations for earlier payments of investment grant and, particularly, the elimination of bureaucratic delays in the payment of the grants?

Mr. Edwards

We shall seek to eliminate bureaucratic delays. Clearly, I cannot give any specific response to the Select Committee's recommendations from the Dispatch Box today. As my hon. Friend observed, to carry out its proposals in full would involve substantial public expenditure. We shall have to take that into account when reaching our conclusions. We hope to lay our response later this month.

Mr. Abse

Will the Secretary of State note that, far from the proposals in the Select Committee report being those which should not be fully implemented, as a result of the appalling deterioration in the position their implementation is now inevitable? Will he ensure that in his reply he draws attention to table 3 of the report which sets out the areas which are black spots above 10 per cent.? Does he notice that most of Wales is now in that position and that the highly selective position no longer exists? Is he aware that my constituency, with the blows that it has had repeatedly in the last three or four weeks over ICI Nylons, GKN and Saunders Valves, and which 12 months ago was a comparatively prosperous community, is now coming down to penury? Does he recognise that that is a paradigm of the total situation? Will he have the guts to stand up to the Cabinet and insist upon a change in policy?

Mr. Edwards

I intend to respond to the Select Committee in the normal way, by laying a report before the House.

Mr. Alec Jones

Will the right hon. Gentleman resist the temptation to follow the advice of the hon. Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer)? Is he aware that, since the report was published, unemployment has risen by about 13,000, compared with a fall of 5,000 in a comparable period last year and 7,000 the year before? Does he agree that the chasm to which the report refers is now identified by all people in Wales, despite some Conservative Members who were party to the report wishing to run away from it? Will the Secretary of State make every effort to ensure that a day on the Floor of the House is devoted to a debate on that report? Does he accept that a debate in the Welsh Grand Committee would be nothing but second best?

Mr. Edwards

I should welcome the opportunity to debate the report and its consequences on the Floor of the House. I shall discuss that possibility with the Leader of the House.