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Industrial Production

Volume 890: debated on Monday 14 April 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Wales by how much industrial production fell in Wales in 1974; and how this fall compared with the fall in the United Kingdom as a whole.

It is provisionally estimated that for 1974 as a whole industrial output in Wales was 5·3 per cent. less than 1973. For the United Kingdom the corresponding figure was 3 per cent.

Do not the Government figures show that the fall in industrial production is evidently greater in Wales than elsewhere in the United Kingdom? Does not that factor, together with the rise in unemployment and short-time working, and also the information about new job inquiries and job creation reveal a pretty grim situation as a result of the Labour Government's economic policies?

Surely the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Edwards), who sits on the Opposition Front Bench, should be the last person to put that kind of question. He knows where the responsibilities lie—or at least he should know. The proportion depends substantially on the mix of the economy. Coal and steel—the hon. Gentleman may not know this—play a large part in the Welsh economy. The massive drop in coal production in Wales is a direct result of the confrontation policies which were pursued by the Conservative Government. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman has the face to put such a question.

In view of the variation in the situation between Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom, has the Secretary of State tried to assess by contacts with both sides of industry how much more traumatic for Wales, in respect of production, investment and jobs, would be a withdrawal from the EEC?

In view of what the Secretary of State said, will he give the House the figures for manufacturing in Wales?

The figures for manufacturing I cannot put my hands on now. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] If Conservative Members table a Question on that matter, I shall be happy to give the House details but for the coal industry the figure is 23 per cent. and for steel it is 21 per cent., and increases are recorded in some sectors, such as food, drink and tobacco, coal and petroleum products, mechanical and instrument engineering, gas, electricity and water. These were not sufficient to counterbalance the sharp falls in the sectors of greater weighting in the index or to counter the influence of coal and steel, which play such a large part in the Welsh economy. Those figures for 1974 are a direct result of the confrontation policies so unsuccessfully pursued by the Conservative Government.

Does the Secretary of State agree that one of the most important plans of the Government to alleviate the situation lies in a Welsh development agency? What is holding up publication of the Bill to set up that agency—a body which will be welcomed in Wales and which is necessary for the work of the Standing Committee considering the Industry Bill?

I am not aware of anything that is holding up my proposals. Contrary to statements made by the hon. Gentleman earlier in the year, I hope that my proposals, which I shall be publishing very shortly, will be welcomed. That body will play a major part in the regeneration necessary in the Welsh economy. In the interim, we have taken major steps to increase advance factory building and to pump the necessary money into the economy to increase manufacturing potential.