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Derelict Land Clearance

Volume 929: debated on Monday 4 April 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has received from local authorities in North Wales regarding the latest allocation of funds for derelict land clearance.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that there is at least one protest on his Department's decision, according to the Flintshire Leader, which records the hon. Member for Flint, East (Mr. Jones) as having protested against this decision on the part of the Welsh Office? Is the Secretary of State further aware that his allocation of funds is widely regarded in North Wales as being greatly discriminatory against the interests of North Wales? Is he not aware that if the unwanted, directly-elected Assembly which he and his frightened Liberal mercenaries are proposing to impose upon the protesting people of Wales comes into being, this kind of thing will get worse?

The hon. Gentleman is completely mistaken in his utterances. My hon. Friend constantly makes representations to me on behalf of Clwyd on a whole range of issues, and, if I may say so, with a broad measure of success.

I am aware that there has been concern in a certain part of Clwyd in respect of some schemes which so far have not found favour. But I have told the Welsh Development Agency that I agree to the overwhelming bulk of the proposals—a little under 90 per cent. Because the other proposals had a lower priority and were substantially environmental, they had to be looked at again together with any other schemes which might have a higher priority. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman, who is so concerned about limiting public expenditure, would wish to ensure that public money is spent on proposals with the highest priority. I assure him that there is no bias against any part of Wales.

Would my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the greatest amount of derelict land is in the mining valleys of South Wales and that the Mid-Glamorgan county area has a larger proportion of derelict land than any other county in Wales? As well as ensuring that the momentum is maintained in clearing the dereliction, will my right hon. and learned Friend ensure that he will take measures to attract industry into the cleared derelict areas instead of placing it on agricultural land?

I am sure that my hon. Friend is broadly right in that there are large areas in need of assistance to wipe out the ravages of the past, for which this generation has to pay the price. A large proportion of such land is in South Wales, but some can be found in North Wales. I assure the House that there is not a regional or geographical bias in the determination of this matter, either by the Agency or by myself. What we seek to do is to ensure that the money goes to the areas with the highest priority, and that priority still is for industry and for housing. I am sure that my hon. Friend would agree with me on that score.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that people in Wales as a whole, from North and South, appreciate the remarkable work carried out by the Derelict Land Unit over the past 10 years? The people of North Wales do not believe that there is any discrimination in favour of one region against another. Will my right hon. and learned Friend be good enough, however, to look in particular at certain areas in Gwynedd—Clwyd has already been mentioned—which are affected by state waste and, for example, Paris Mountain in Anglesey, which is still in a state of serious dereliction as a result of the old copper workings?

It was, of course, my right hon. Friend who started all of this. He has created an enormous appetite in Wales. I do not complain. I boast about his achievements. The result has been £45 million worth of bids for the next programme in Wales. The resources which we could allocate were of the order of £15 million, the totality of which I have agreed, although there has been a discrepancy—10 per cent. or there- abouts—as regards some of the schemes. I will look at any area to ensure that we make the fastest possible progress in removing dereliction throughout Wales.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment.