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P Leiner And Son

Volume 981: debated on Monday 17 March 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a further statement concerning his investigations into the investment by the Welsh Development Agency in P. Leiner and Son.

The Welsh Development Agency has made a detailed statement, a copy of which my hon. Friend has received. I have nothing to add to it.

Will my right hon. Friend say whether his predecessor and his predecessor's Department were aware that at the time the WDA made its £2 million so-called investment in P. Leiner and Son more than a year ago that company owed the WDA substantially more than one-third of this sum? If not, why not?

My hon. Friend will know that I am not advised exactly of the information available to my predecessor. But this investment was submitted to my predecessor for approval because of the option clause contained in it, and not for the overall investment as such. I do not believe that at the time it was known that the scale of the loss was as great as later transpired.

Whatever the outcome of that investment, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, as the WDA is trying to prevent a number of private enterprise failures, there are bound to be some failures but there have been many successes, and the role of the WDA is to help firms in difficulty to try to preserve jobs as well as to play a part in the economy?

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman referred to the many successes in Wales. I have emphasised them in recent speeches. There is a lot that is going well for Wales, and it is right to emphasise it. Nevertheless, the questions being asked about this investment by the WDA are fully justified in view of the substantial loss that has been made.

In considering the future in the broadest sense, is it not possible that £2 million is too large a proportion of the resources available to the WDA to be devoted to one enterprise? Would it not be more desirable for the available resources to be spread more widely and among more concerns?

That is a view that I expressed to the WDA at my first meeting with it. That was a worrying feature of this investment. Under the policies now being pursued by the WDA and the guidelines and my requests for it to concentrate on small firms when considering investment, I do not think that such a position could arise again.