HC Deb 15 March 1982 vol 20 cc5-7
5. Sir Anthony Meyer

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many non-British electronics firms have established manufacturing facilities in Wales; and how many have indicated to him their intention to do so.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

I know of 12 such firms now operating in Wales. One is in the process of setting up. My Department is currently in discussion with other firms about the possibility of doing so.

Sir Anthony Meyer

Does my right hon. Friend agree that we need to attract such firms to Wales if we are to avoid the errors of the past of being excessively reliant on out-of-date technologies? The importance of every factor which might attract such industries is vital, including an absolute assurance that this country will remain a member of the European Economic Community.

Mr. Edwards

I note the results of a recent American survey, which showed that some 60 per cent. of the electronics firms interviewed would find the United Kingdom either no longer suitable or less suitable than now as a base for European operations should we withdraw from the EEC.

Mr. Roy Hughes

Has the right hon. Gentleman yet been able to establish that Inmos, for example, expects to sell only 10 per cent. of its products in Europe, with a further 10 per cent. in Japan and 80 per cent. in the United States of America? Does he appreciate that the latter two countries already have tariff barriers? Does he not appreciate that Britain's real need at present is to have a free market in agricultural products if it is to remain competitive, because butter, for example, would then be 40p a pound cheaper in the shops?

Mr. Edwards

I am not sure how the price of butter arises from a question about electronics firms. However, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that Mitel, which provides an enormous number of new job opportunities for his constituents, would not have established itself in Gwent if it had not been for our membership of the European Community.

Mr. Roy Hughes

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for the Secretary of State to refer to Mitel as being in my constituency when it is in Monmouth?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I remember that I made similar mistakes in the days when I sat on the Government Benches.

Mr. Wigley

How many of those 12 companies are indigenous Welsh companies? Does the Secretary of State agree that there is a need for more home-grown microelectronic concerns? Will he confirm that last year, of the 160 companies or concerns in Britain that received grants under the microelectronics schemes, only three were located in Wales?

Mr. Edwards

Mr. Speaker, perhaps I may comment on the point of order. I did not suggest that Mitel was in the constituency of the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Hughes). I suggested that it would provide many job opportunities for his constituents. That is quite clear.

I confirm that the companies I listed were overseas companies. I can also tell the hon. Gentleman that in a speech that I made to the Development Corporation at a meeting in the House of Commons last week, I made the very point that he made about the importance of encouraging local electronics firms to set up and the essential interdependence of the growth of local firms with the arrival of overseas companies.

Mr. Alec Jones

Has the Secretary of State seen the figures published by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury showing that the net difference between receipts from the EEC and our payments into the EEC have from 1973 to 1981 cost Britain about £1 million a day? How many more manufacturing jobs could that have created in Britain and Wales?

Mr. Edwards

I do not believe that many manufacturing jobs would be created in Britain and Wales if we deprived ourselves of our largest and fastest growing markets.