HC Deb 10 July 1995 vol 263 cc608-10
9. Mr. Simon Coombs

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what is his estimate of the total value of infrastructure investment in Wales since 1979. [31447]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. William Hague)

Of the £13 billion capital spending by the Welsh Office and local authorities in Wales since 1979, more than £2 billion was spent on trunk roads and motorways, and £1.7 billion was spent on capital investment in the national health service.

Mr. Coombs

May I take this opportunity to congratulate my right hon. Friend on his appointment, not only to the Cabinet, but to the Privy Council earlier today? I congratulate him on joining a long and distinguished list of Secretaries of State for Wales who have represented constituencies east of Offa's dyke and wish him every success in his time in the Principality.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that inward investment has been an outstanding success in Wales and has had much to do with the fact that prosperity in the Principality has risen and unemployment fallen by a significant amount in recent years? Is it now time for him to consider the grant aid available to encourage firms to relocate in Wales? I should like to cite the example of Bluebird Toys, which had to make 300 of my constituents unemployed when it moved to the valleys of Wales. As my right hon. Friend is new to the Department, I hope that he will feel able to study that policy and that he will try to concentrate on inward investment from other parts of Europe and the rest of the world rather than from other parts of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Hague

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for his welcome. Really, he is echoing the hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Smith) who said in the Western Mail this morning: I want to totally disassociate myself from all the Welsh politicians who opposed the appointment of Mr. Hague on the basis that he is English". Unfortunately, the hon. Gentleman is not here to repeat that statement in the Chamber.

I understand my hon. Friend's concern, but I hope that he will also recognise that Wales has had particular problems. Inward investment has greatly assisted the recovery of the Welsh economy. Although it has 5 per cent. of the United Kingdom population, Wales has enjoyed a share of inward investment into the UK of between 10 per cent. and 20 per cent. for some years. That is one of the factors that has led to unemployment in Wales falling to the United Kingdom average for the first time since the 1920s, which is a considerable achievement on the part of the Government and of my predecessors, and it illustrates that the policies that we have been pursuing in Wales, as in the rest of the United Kingdom, have been working. It is a great shame that Opposition Members have not joined us today to discuss these matters and to ask questions on behalf of their constituents.

Sir Teddy Taylor

I wish my right hon. Friend every success in his important new job. Will he bear in mind the effect on the future prosperity of Wales of the European Union which, as he will know, is called Undeb Ewropiaidd in the national language? In particular, will he bear in mind the threat of the part-time workers' directive, which has been imposed on this country against our wishes? More important, will he bear in mind the 40-hour-week directive, which is likely to apply to Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom following a European Court decision? When safeguarding the interests of Wales, will he bear very much in mind the serious impact on investment in Wales of those Euro-measures which are being forced on industry and commerce there against the Government's wishes?

Mr. Hague

I shall certainly bear in mind the European dimension, as my hon. Friend encourages me to do. It is important for the growth of the economy in Wales that we continue with policies that encourage enterprise and facilitate the growth of businesses. We do not want them to be over-regulated and the Government's policies, for instance in not following the rest of the European Community into the social chapter, are important to the future of business in Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom. My hon. Friend has raised a number of matters and I shall discuss them with my right hon. Friends in the Government.

Mr. Sweeney

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs), I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his appointment. I moved from Yorkshire to contest a seat in Wales; I have grown to know Wales well and appreciate a considerable welcome there, so I hope that my right hon. Friend will not be put off by the failure to attend today of all the Opposition Members who represent Wales. There is certainly no racism on these Benches, least of all against people from Yorkshire.

May I ask my right hon. Friend to visit the Vale of Glamorgan, as did his predecessors, at an early opportunity so that he can see for himself the benefits of Conservative policies in attracting infrastructure investment, particularly to my constituency?

Mr. Hague

Yes. I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for his additional words of welcome. I shall certainly visit Vale of Glamorgan at the earliest opportunity to see what is happening there. I hope that I shall be able to take an early opportunity, there and elsewhere in Wales, to emphasise the Government's success in ensuring that infrastructure spending on Wales is kept at an appropriate level. Since 1979, more than £2 billion has been spent on the construction and improvement of the M4 motorway and trunk roads in Wales.

The hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) has not joined us today, but she contacted my office this morning to say which question she wanted to ask before she was ordered to withdraw it. She wanted to ask about road infrastructure and when we would announce the preferred route for the A465. Although she has not come here today to represent her constituents, I want to make it clear that comments and responses from a wide range of public organisations and the general public have been considered, and I shall announce the preferred route on Wednesday.