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Welsh Development Agency

Volume 887: debated on Monday 3 March 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Wales whether the proposed Welsh Development Agency will be responsible to him or to the projected Welsh Assembly.

When established the agency will be responsible to me. The precise nature of the relationship in the future between agency and Assembly remains for consideration.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the Welsh Development Agency is a most welcome innovation if it means new jobs and the safeguarding of existing jobs? Is he also aware that it will be most unwelcome if it is to be used to enable a State grab of perfectly successful firms, and that it will be totally ineffective if it is to be at the mercy of political pressures and sectional local interests, which will happen if it is made responsible to an elected Welsh Assembly?

I was glad to hear the hon. Gentleman's welcome for the Welsh Development Agency. This body will be a highly effective one, with a whole range of powers, and it will be able to act in such a way that the interests of the whole Principality are fully safeguarded.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that there is a welcome in Wales for the establishment of the Welsh Development Agency? Now that the Industry Bill is upstairs in Committee and we shall have the National Enterprise Board put into operation very soon, will he press ahead with the legislation for the Welsh Development Agency so that it can have the powers of the NEB and do the enormous amount of work which is needed to develop industry in Wales?

I am encouraged by those remarks. We shall push ahead speedily with our legislative plans, which will be the chief point of what I am seeking to do in order to ensure that jobs are protected and provided in Wales. I regard it as an essential part of the powers of the Welsh Development Agency that it should be able to act in such a way in parallel with the National Enterprise Board.

Does the Secretary of State agree that if this agency grows to be a really effective force in the Welsh economy, as we hope it will, it will need the same powers of democratic control as are possessed by those bodies already existing in Wales which are answerable to the Secretary of State but not to the Assembly?

I cannot anticipate the publication of the Government's proposals for the powers of the Assembly, but I am responsible democratically to the people of Wales, and I shall ensure that the body operates, in the first instance, as an agency of mine.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that there will be widespread support for a properly constituted development agency, but that its success will depend upon the confidence and co-operation of industry, and that will be lacking if the agency is given the job of implementing NEB proposals and "Bennery" in Wales? Has the Secretary of State received representations from Welsh industry urging him not to prejudice the success of the agency, by freeing it from these operations, which would be anathema to many Welsh industries?

I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman. There has been a substantial welcome for the setting up of the development agency. I concede that there are views about the powers of the NEB being exercised by the agency, and I have taken note of them. I regard this as of fundamental importance. We are about to set up the most important body that Wales has seen for a long time—if not ever—and it is vitally important that it should be able to exercise a whole range of powers comprehensively in order to tackle the real problems of Wales.


asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on the progress of consideration of the establishment of a Welsh Development Agency.

Discussions on the consultation paper are almost complete. I plan to bring a Bill before the House as early as possible.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give an assurance that in considering this Bill he will give specific consideration to the abilities of the Welsh Development Agency to set up industry in its own right, without having to work through the National Enterprise Board?

I think that the hon. Gentleman has misconceived the consultation paper which I issued about the powers of the Welsh Development Agency. Perhaps he will now await our legislative proposals, which will be published in due course.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend assure us that the Welsh Development Agency, when established, will have a suitable office and appropriate senior officials in North Wales, as we regard it as extremely important that there should be a reasonable spread of industry throughout the whole of Wales?

For all the operations of the agency, for the powers that it will operate in parallel with similar powers of the National Enterprise Board, and for all the powers that I regard as fundamentally important, it is of the utmost importance that the agency should have a presence in both mid-Wales and North Wales to ensure that it can operate effectively to meet the needs of the whole of Wales. That is what I plan and that is why I propose to set up a comprehensive body to deal with all our problems in this respect.