HC Deb 08 July 1991 vol 194 cc634-5
7. Mr. Martyn Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a further statement on rural aid in Wales.

Mr. David Hunt

I announced the allocation of £5 million to 36 special rural projects on 19 June. I shall now be considering how best to proceed with rural strategy by publishing my objectives.

Mr. Jones

When the right hon. Gentleman publishes his objectives, I hope that he will explain why £400,000 of the £5 million, about which he bragged to the Welsh Grand Committee on 19 June, is being spent in inner-city Bangor on a floodlit plain? Will he explain whether and, I hope, deny that that has anything to do with the fact that the area is in the constituency of the right hon. Member for Conwy (Sir W. Roberts)?

Mr. Hunt

I am appalled at that comment. It is a libel on the people of Bangor. The project was put forward not by Ministers but by the local authority on behalf of local communities. All the projects that came before me were important and of direct benefit to rural areas. On that basis, therefore, I confess that I found selection difficult. I congratulate everyone concerned on drawing up those imaginative and innovative projects.

Mr. Livsey

Given that only about 36 out of nearly 250 applications in central Wales have been approved, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, such is the crisis in agriculture—with farm incomes at their lowest since the war—he should consider introducing legislation to ensure that the Development Board for Rural Wales brings agriculture within its remit?

Mr. Hunt

Last month I prefaced my announcement with the promise that I would find £5 million, and I fulfilled my undertaking. I agree that there were many exciting projects. In considering the objectives of the rural strategy, I shall wish to think about how best to take the matter forward in the light of some exciting schemes which are still to be put into effect. As the hon. Gentleman knows, agriculture is a matter for the Welsh Agriculture Department. Welsh Office Ministers answer on agriculture matters.

Mr. Rogers

Does the Secretary of State accept—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I have called the hon. Member to put his question. Get on with it, please.

Mr. Rogers

I shall do so, if my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) will stop spluttering.

Does the Secretary of State accept that the sums that will be available to help the rural economy of Wales will be greatly affected by the hundreds of millions of pounds that will be poured into the development of a barrage in the Cardiff bay system? [Interruption.] Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that those who live in rural areas and those of us who live in the valley communities completely support the principle of the Cardiff bay development? Our only objection is to wasteful expenditure on a barrage that will not create one extra foot of land or one extra job in Cardiff.

Mr. Speaker

With great respect to the hon. Gentleman, his comments are a bit wide of the question, but we had better hear an answer from the Secretary of State.

Mr. Hunt

I have been waiting with great anticipation. I strongly support rural Rhondda's claim to put forward views on rural policy. However, I very much hope that the hon. Gentleman accepts that the project proposed for Cardiff will not only do much to sustain Cardiff into the next century, but will be a tremendous fillip for the whole of Wales.

Mr. Barry Jones

All of us want to build a sound economy for rural Wales. I remind the Secretary of State that recruitment to Her Majesty's forces is one way in which the people of rural Wales can get employment and training. I want a commitment from him that he will fight hard for the Royal Welch Fusiliers even though he represents a Cheshire constituency. I want an unambiguous commitment that he will fight for the Royal Welch Fusiliers to remain a free-standing regiment.

Mr. Hunt

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall try to respond to that question. First, I represent not a Cheshire constituency, but a Merseyside constituency which has nothing to do with this subject. Secondly, as soon as I returned from north America, I contacted my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence about the future regimental structure of the Army. The Minister of State kept in close touch with all Ministers at the Ministry of Defence in my absence. I was assured by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence that he had not yet received any specific proposals from the Army about reductions in the number of regiments. He assured me that no final decisions had been taken. He is aware that many people have extremely strong feelings about the future of the Royal Welch Fusiliers. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to influence his party's Front-Bench defence spokesman who recently said that there was no future for the regimental structure in the Army.

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