HC Deb 02 March 1987 vol 111 c574
3. Mr. Livsey

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what additional financial assistance he is giving to Mid-Wales Development as a result of the changes in Government policy towards rural areas.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

Gross expenditure by the Development Board for Rural Wales in 1987–88 is expected to be £13.5 million compared with £12.8 million this year. The board's budget for the year allows for a 25 per cent. increase in the Mid-Wales Development grant, a 50 per cent. increase in expenditure on the DRIVE scheme, and the building of almost 120,000 sq ft of new factory space in Mid-Wales.

Mr. Livsey

Will the Secretary of State ensure that if the Development Commission in England receives more money for the coming financial year, Mid-Wales Development will also benefit by increased funding in that period?

Mr. Edwards

I have announced our proposed funding. I remind the hon. Gentleman that expenditure per head by the DBRW is some three times greater than in the Development Commission's rural development areas and some 13 times greater if the whole population of rural England is brought into the equation, so the hon. Gentleman need not fear that Mid-Wales is being neglected, on that basis of comparison.

Mr. Forth

Does my right hon. Friend not agree that the various agencies that hand out taxpayers' money rarely create new jobs, but move employment around from one part of the country to another? Can my right hon. Friend give any examples of the number of companies set up with taxpayers' money that have subsequently gone bust?

Mr. Edwards

I have to tell my hon. Friend that I do not agree. The development agencies in Wales have done much to transform the Principality's economic prospects and have helped us through a very difficult time during the decline of the old industries. Mid-Wales Development has made a major contribution towards the strengthening of the rural economy in Wales.

Mr. Barry Jones

That said, it helps to explain why the Conservative party lost Brecon and Radnor in the by-election. The right hon. Gentleman delivered a near fatal blow when he denuded Mid-Wales of assisted area status. Does he know that it costs £47,000 per day to pay the Brecon and Radnor unemployed? What is he doing to get unemployment down in that constituency?

Mr. Edwards

The hon. Gentleman, of course, is wrong. There is a great variety of ways in which we can help in Mid-Wales. For example, our success in obtaining the major investment by Laura Ashley, an internationally successful company, shows just how effective those measures are. Indeed, a vivid account was given to us by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) on 16 February during a debate on hospital provision, of the way in which Mid-Wales is thriving and doing better at present. I thank the hon. and learned Gentleman for that positive account.