8. Mr. Ellis
asked the Secretary of State for Wales what proportion of the Welsh Development Agency's total expenditure in each of the past three years has gone towards (i) providing business premises to let and (ii) purchasing holdings in assisted companies in (a) manufacturing and (b) service industries.
§ Mr. Nicholas Edwards
In 1979–80, 63.3 per cent., 5.5 per cent. and 0.5 per cent. respectively; in 1980–81, 71.8 per cent., 0.7 per cent. and 0.1 per cent. respectively; and in 1981–82, 69.6 per cent., 2.3 per cent. and 0.2 per cent. respectively.
Does the Secretary of State agree that there is an urgent need for the agency to undertake a much more direct entrepreneurial role in Welsh industry? Does he further agree that the figures that he has given show that virtually no progress has been made in that direction? Will he undertake to have a word with the chairman of the board with a view to moving in that direction?
§ Mr. Edwards
I partly answered the hon. Gentleman's question in earlier answers. He should recognise that the figures do not represent the take-up of the net approved portfolio investments made during the past year, during which there has been a sharp upturn. As a result, the agency expects to make 100 new investments, including Hafren Investments, in the current financial year. That represents a significant change of direction by the agency. It is precisely those points that I shall discuss when I meet the board.
§ Mr. Anderson
Does the Secretary of State recall that when, in 1980, we had the shocking news about the steel redundancies throughout Wales, he came to the House and made a bold prediction of the job effects of the increased allocation by the WDA and the Cwmbran development corporation? How has reality measured up to his prediction in 1980?
§ Mr. Edwards
We built more factory space than we had planned. We have certainly allocated more factory space during the past few years that I would have forecast then, and I am confident that when all those jobs materialise, which will happen over two or three years, our forecast will be amply justified.
§ Mr. D. E. Thomas
Can the Secretary of State confirm that the number of empty factory premises belonging to the agency is nearer 40 per cent., and not 15 per cent. as he quoted in answer to an earlier question?
§ Mr. Edwards
No, I cannot confirm the information given by the hon. Gentleman. I have given him the vacancy rate. It is also fair to say that, apart from the WDA agencies, many private factories are available in Wales. We should look not only at Government factories but increasingly at Government and private factories together to get a true picture of the availability of factory space and our success in getting that factory space occupied.