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Welsh Development Agency

Volume 22: debated on Monday 19 April 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many new factory units have been built by the Welsh Development Agency since its inception.

Between January 1976 and March 1982 the Welsh Development Agency completed 836 advance factory units, 11 bespoke factory units and 63 factory extensions.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the great majority of those factory units have been allocated or occupied? Does he agree that they are making a genuine contribution to the provision of jobs in Wales?

I can confirm that allocations have been high. The Department estimates that 1·15 million sq ft of WDA factory space was allocated—that is 186 units—in 1981–82. The vacancy rate has risen, but that is hardly surprising in view of the record level of factory building that has taken place.

Will the Secretary of State confirm that the number employed in all the advance factories in Wales has been reduced by more than 10,000 between 1977–80?

If the hon. Gentleman tables a specific question, I shall answer it. It is true that some of the existing occupants have laid people off during that period. However, a record number of new jobs were created last year by new projects going into WDA factories.

Do the figures include the Hoover factory in Merthyr Tydfil? What prospect does the Secretary of State hold out of large numbers being employed in that factory?

The figures that I have given are for newly completed factories. The hon. Gentleman knows that the Hoover factory was completed some considerable time ago. It is obviously a high priority to find a new user for that factory.

As the effectiveness of the two development bodies in Wales depends not only on advanced factories but on the availability of investment grants, will my right hon. Friend bear that in mind when the review of the status of Mid-Wales takes place in the next couple of months?

I have already confirmed to my hon. Friend that we are carefully considering those issues in the review to which he refers.

I welcome and applaud the efforts of the Welsh Development Agency, but will the Secretary of State confirm that in the first days of this month 1,100 manufacturing jobs were lost in South Wales alone? If he finds it difficult to confirm that figure, I refer him to the daily reports in the Western Mail. How many advance factories does he believe are needed to make good that loss, apart from the existing level of unemployment in South Wales?

I shall put the matter into perspective. The 186 WDA factories to which I referred as being allocated for the year to March 1982 should promise about 4,700 jobs. That is obviously an important contribution.

Order. I shall call the hon. Members who are rising, but we shall have to move more quickly on the other questions.

Is the Secretary of State aware that as Dunlop has pulled out of North Gwent with the loss of almost 1,400 jobs in the last two years, the people of North Gwent, while not protesting at Dunlop's action only a few months ago, are horrified that the Department is now encouraging Dunlop to set up a new factory, not in North Gwent, but elsewhere in South Wales?

The hon. and learned Gentleman is well aware that we have made clear to Dunlop, as to other companies, the range of financial assistance that is offered in existing factories and in new factories. If at some future date the company wishes to set up a new factory, I am sure that that would be welcomed by hon. Members in all parts of the House.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that much of the good work of the Welsh Development Agency may be undone if the public utilities, particularly the electricity and water authorities, make exorbitant charges for connection? Is he aware that they often charge ridiculous sums for providing electricity and water to these factories?

I shall certainly bring that point to the attention of those bodies, although it has been my experience in dealing with the statutory authorities that they make considerable efforts to meet the special requirements of incoming industry.