HC Deb 15 June 1981 vol 6 cc720-1
9. Mr. Wigley

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will introduce new measures to improve the effectiveness of the Welsh Development Agency.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

The agency is providing a wide range of services within the guidelines laid down by the Welsh Office, and is doing so very effectively.

Mr. Wigley

Is the Secretary of State aware that many small companies are being frustrated in their dealings with the agency, particularly as it appears to scrutinise investment applications of a few thousand pounds for small companies in the same way as it considers £2 million applications? Will the right hon. Gentleman guide the Welsh Development Agency about whether it is reasonable to have different criteria for investment in small companies—particularly new companies without track records—and to take a slightly greater risk with them than with the £2 million investments of the P. Leiner type?

Mr. Edwards

I know of two cases about which the hon. Gentleman has complained. I have looked into both of them, and I believe that there are no grounds for complaint. In one case financial assistance was offered, and in the other an allocation was made to a factory within seven weeks of the first meeting with the company. About 32 Gwynedd-based companies have received assistance from the agency. Many cases are being dealt with. In addition, eight factory allocations have just been announced in Gwynned.

Mr. Abse

Does the Secretary of State not feel any need for penitence or a sense of guilt? Is it not a fact that the millions of pounds that were placed at the disposal of the Welsh Development Agency to develop factories have been spent and that unemployment is mounting at a catastrophic rate? Does that not demonstrate that the moneys at its disposal and the investments that have been made are inadequate, and that the Select Committee's view that too little was being spent too late is correct? Does that not show that, as ever, the Secretary of State has been proved wrong in his rejection of the Select Committee's recommendations?

Mr. Edwards

I note that the hon. Gentleman is in his usual role of the Rebecca of Welsh politics, and is even more inaccurate than that journal. The Welsh Development Agency has undertaken a substantial programme extremely successfully.

Mr. Barry Jones

Given the horrendous number of redundancies raining down on Wales, should not the Government consider giving stronger powers to the agency in order to create jobs? Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the fact that at Flint and Holywell, in my constituency, male unemployment stands at approximatly 38 and 24 per cent? The agency does excellent work, but will the Secretary of State consider giving it more powers?

Mr. Edwards

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his acknowledgement of the good work that the agency has undertaken, particularly in its factory building programme. I have not restricted the agency, and its policy has not restricted a willingness to go ahead with investment projects where potentially viable projects are on hand. However, successful and potentially successful companies must come forward.

Mr. Alec Jones

Despite the figures that the Secretary of State has given today, has he seen the 12 June edition of Estate Times, which contains an advertisement from the Welsh Development Agency saying that more than 100 fully serviced units are available, and that by the end of the year it expects to have an extra 350? Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that the agency has sufficient powers to fill those factories and, at the same time, to provide the necessary assistance to existing industry?

Mr. Edwards

We have always made it clear that the major problem for the following year would be how to fill the massive number of factories that have been built. The right hon. Gentleman has effectively made nonsense of the question asked by the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse), who moments ago argued that the programme was inadequate. The right hon. Gentleman is now complaining that there are too many empty factories.

Mr. Wigley

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply—in fact it was no reply at all—I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.