asked the Secretary of State for Wales what proposals he has for setting up a rural development board to cater for the needs of Mid-Wales.
The Government's policy is to create effective arrangements to develop rural Wales.
Does my right hon. and learned Friend realise that many people in Mid-Wales believe that the area has suffered considerably because of the problems raised by the proposal of the previous administration? We are anxious that such a proposal should not be brought forward again. We do not want Mid-Wales and rural Mid-Wales suffering under the umbrella of an all-Wales agency, so that its special needs are not catered for properly. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that many facets of life in Mid-Wales—not only industrial development—would be assisted by such a policy?
As a Mid-Walian I have felt deeply the rejection of Mid-Wales by the previous Government's proposal. A great deal of time has been lost and a great deal of responsibility lies with those in Mid-Wales who objected to our proposals. That is why I am now proposing to publish speedily my consultative papers dealing with arrangements for the whole of Wales. That is the priority for this Session. That in no way precludes the possibility of creating some further organisation dealing exclusively with Mid-Wales. Let us first set up the development agency and then determine where we should go from there. No one is more mindful than myself of the needs of Mid-Wales.
In view of the increasing cost of going to work, brought about by the petrol increases, what representations is the right hon. and learned Gentleman making to his right hon. Friend?
We are all deeply aware of the high cost of petrol. Every member of the public and every member of the Government is fully aware of that. It is not for me to catalogue the representations, if there are any, which go on between Departments.
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that it would be folly on his part and on the part of the Government to impose a similar rural development board, with compulsory powers, on the people of Mid-Wales? He is a Mid-Walian, and I know that he is aware that I am a Mid-Walian. It would be much better if the Government were to prepare a comprehensive policy to safeguard the future of rural areas.
That is what we are doing. We are announcing shortly our proposals for the whole of Wales. I have said before that the proposals for Wales and for Mid-Wales must be both effective and acceptable, and try to get over some of the difficulties of the objectives. But the hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that many people in Mid-Wales bear grave responsibility for the time which has been lost there.
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that what is needed is an extension of the activities of the Mid-Wales Development Corporation—for which I was responsible and which has done a remarkable job—to the other Mid-Wales towns?
My right hon. Friend's suggestion will certainly be taken into account in considering legislation, but there may well be differing views on the question whether that would be the right way to proceed. It will be looked at, but I cannot give any indication in advance of the publication of our proposals for the whole of Wales. They come first, and I have indicated what might be further possibilities.