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Volume 975: debated on Monday 3 December 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has received from the Alyn-Deeside district council concerning measures to aid employment subsequent to the closure of the steelmaking plant at Shotton.

I have received written representations on four occasions from the council. I met representatives on 1 August 1979 and will be meeting them again when I visit Deeside later this week.

Is it not a fact that it has been estimated that £1½ million in rate income will be lost next year when steelmaking closes at Shotton? Is it not also a fact that the Alyn-Deeside council will lose £250,000and this is generating widespread resentment because there is no guarantee of a compensatory grant? Can the Secretary of State tell us whether he will, as requested, set up a task force led by a Government Minister to supervise the steel rescue measures? Will he agree that a £15 million river road in the area of the Deeside constituency would help to bring new jobs to the area and stave off further unemployment?

I told the hon. Member when he last raised this point that I felt that the first priority of Government expenditure was to provide infrastructure and new factories. I am aware of the representations that have been made about the rate loss, which is recovered after a year or so. I shall listen most carefully to the points put to me by the local authorities on Wednesday about whatever form of monitoring and supervision seems most suitable for the area. I do not believe that a formal task force is the best answer but I have an open mind to those representations and I shall listen carefully. I note what the hon. Member says about the road. I hope that he will accept that the road schemes already announced for the area, including the scheme announced by the Ministry of Transport only last week, represent a substantial improvement in communications to Deeside.