HC Deb 08 December 1986 vol 107 cc6-7
4. Mr. Rowlands

asked the Secretary of State for Wales when he next hopes to meet the chairman of the Welsh Development Agency to discuss the agency's budget for 1987–88.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

I am in regular contact with the chairman of the agency and I have already informed him that the level of resources likely to be available in 1987–88 is about £85 million, which is nearly 13 per cent. higher than the agency's estimated gross expenditure in the present financial year.

Mr. Rowlands

Does the Secretary of State realise that the budget for the WDA next year requires a much bigger input than the one he is suggesting, especially for land reclamation and factory building? Will he tell us whether the budget makes an assumption about the sale of properties by the WDA?

Mr. Edwards

Every year we include an assumption about the sale of properties. In the current year that has been a realistic assumption. I have no reason to think that the estimates are unreal. I announced last Friday that we were making provision to increase the WDA's land reclamation budget by £4 million, which is some 30 per cent. up on the present year. When we are considering the expenditure by the WDA, we should also be considering the sums being made available for other parallel public bodies. I have just announced that substantial provision will be made available for the new Cardiff Bay Development Corporation.

Sir Anthony Meyer

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the feeling that the WDA could, and should, do more in the rest of Wales, such as is being done by Mid Wales Development in mid-Wales, to help the launching of small rural enterprises? That does not necessarily involve large sums of money, but it does require the sort of leadership that the WDA could give.

Mr. Edwards

I have approved an additional £2.8 million expenditure by the agency in the present financial year. Of that sum, £1 million is tied to new activity, £500,000 for additional resources for the highly successful subsidised rural loan scheme, and £500,000 for factory building. There is no doubt that the new initiatives that the WDA is taking in that sector are being successful, and we are supporting the agency and seeing that it gets adequate provision for that.

Mr. Livsey

Will the Secretary of State say what proportion of the WDA's budget he expects will be spent on agriculture-related projects? I am thinking particularly of food processing and the updating of abattoirs.

Mr. Edwards

The agency has only just received the provisional indications and now, clearly, has to prepare its budget for the next year. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the agency has been giving increased priority to the sector to which he refers. It has launched a number of initiatives in that area, such as the agri-food initiative. I have no doubt that it will make provision for that important sector.

Mr. Best

Will my right hon. Friend report on the successful conference last Friday of the WDA's urban renewal unit in Cardiff?

Mr. Edwards

We dealt with urban renewal throughout Wales, especially with some of the major projects being undertaken in the valleys. The conference covered the valleys initiative, the announcement of the garden festival and the work being done in north Wales. I also took the opportunity to announce the extremely exciting and important initiative for the redevelopment of south Cardiff around Cardiff bay.

Mr. Barry Jones

The right hon. Gentleman has announced no bonanza. We know that the agency could easily spend an extra £20 million on derelict land clearance and advance factory building. Does he agree that there is a chasm between the City of London and the industrial areas of Wales, and that there is prejudice in the City against investment in the coalfields and steel areas? What is he doing to ensure that British venture capital companies provide finance for Wales? It is a fact that those venture capital companies provide only 2 per cent. in terms of the British total for Wales, yet we know that fraudsters are making a fast buck in the City. We believe that the right hon. Gentleman has failed to get venture capital for Wales.

Mr. Edwards

As usual, the hon. Gentleman asked a series of questions. The 30 per cent. increase in land reclamation is, as it happens, exactly the figure that the hon. Gentleman requested for land reclamation in comments in the newspapers last week. There has been a substantial interest in Wales by the venture capital market in the past year or two and some very encouraging support, especially for initiatives led by the Welsh Development Agency. The venture capital market is showing that it is aware of the improved financial prospects in Wales. I believe that the initiative that I announced last Friday is by far the most substantial ever announced to encourage private investment in Wales. It opens up massive prospects for private investment in the Principality. I am astonished that the hon. Gentleman did not take the opportunity to wish that very important venture well.