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Welsh Economy

Volume 981: debated on Monday 17 March 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Wales what measures he proposes to stimulate the Welsh economy.


asked the Secretary of State for Wales what measures he proposes to take to stimulate the economy of Wales.

In addition to the general economic policies of the Government which are aimed at reducing public sector borrowing and containing inflation, I shall press ahead with the major road programme and shall support the work of the development and promotional agencies to which I have made available substantial additional resources for use in steel closure areas.

With the Wales TUC forecasting an alarming 140,000 or more jobless for next year, however, does not the right hon. Gentleman have any new major job projects in mind for Wales? With regard to the North-East Wales economy, what credence should we give to the recent reports about 2,000 new jobs possibly being set up by British Aerospace, making wings for the European Airbus? Does he see the titanium smelter plant on Deeside coming on stream on time? Does he see the steel workers and textile workers coming out of a job getting employment prospects in those spheres?

The WDA is undertaking a major programme of site preparation and advance factory building. I think that it is agreed on all sides that this is one of the most effective inducements to new job creation in the Principality.

I understand that planning permission has now been given for the titanium plant and that it is proceeding.

On the aerospace question, I have seen the reports. I understand that the company is considering a number of possible options and that it has not taken any decisions yet. But, in view of the importance of the matter, I have written to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry expressing my interest in the matter and I have asked to be kept fully informed of all developments.

In order to stimulate the Welsh economy, will not the right hon. Gentleman persuade the Secretary of State for Industry to restore the £36 million worth of regional development grants and selective assistance which he will be withdrawing from the Welsh economy as a result of rolling back the so-called map of regional development, thereby reducing the incentives to industrialists to come to Merthyr, Pontypridd, Swansea and other areas? This makes a nonsense of the right hon. Gentleman's claim that he has given us money—£48 million in South Wales or £15 million to Shotton and other places.

The right hon. Gentleman is not comparing like with like, and he is talking about a figure which would become effective only after the current downgradings are completed. We have already indicated that we are reviewing the areas affected by current closure proposals. If upgradings take place as a result of those reviews, clearly additional sums of money will be injected into the Welsh economy on top of the announcements that I have already made.

In his weekly lecture to the Saundersfoot Conservatives, the Secretary of State accuses the Opposition of painting a far too gloomy picture in Wales. Does he not realise that the gloom is of his own making? With 92,000 people already unemployed, with daily redundancies being announced in the private sector, with a threat hanging over our steel and coal industries, and with no sense of urgency on the part of the Secretary of State for dealing with the problems of North Wales, such as those in Dinorwic, I make an offer to the right hon. Gentleman. We shall gladly alter the tone of our speeches if he shows greater concern and takes positive action to prevent the gloom from becoming reality.

I have announced some very substantial measures. The talk about an industrial desert, which has been used by a number of the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues and by the Wales TUC, is seriously damaging to the Welsh economy.

I know of specific companies which have indicated that their investment decisions have been affected by this talk, and I hope that those who use such language, including the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams), will remember the damage that they are doing to the Welsh people.