Delegation of Functions to the Board

Orders of the Day — Development of Rural Wales Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st November 1976.

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'Functions exercised by the Welsh Development Agency within the area in Wales for which the Board is responsible shall whenever possible and appropriate be delegated to the Board'.—[Sir R. Gower.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Sir Raymond Gower Sir Raymond Gower , Barry

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Wherever possible, the functions of the Welsh Development Agency should be delegated to the new authority for rural Wales. The two bodies are rather different. I apprehend that the anxieties, concerns and hopes of the Board will he by their nature more concentrated. Its remit is limited to the rural counties of Mid-Wales. It will not be diverted by consideration of the important matters which must occupy the WDA in all parts of the Principality. It will consider the problems of the industrial South, of North-East Wales and of the extreme North-West.

On the other hand, the DBRW will be concerned solely with the problems of the rural counties. It will probably, therefore, be more sensitive to local opinion and anxieties, and as time goes on it will be a more responsive instrument to deal with those problems.

The Minister may tell me that, under Clause 4 (1)(e) and (f), the Board has the function of providing finance and services other than finance as agent for the Agency, but there is nothing to suggest that in most cases the Agency should seek to have its functions carried through by the new Board, especially in Mid-Wales.

I should like to see something more definite in this respect. The new clause would ensure that, wherever possible and appropriate, these powers should be delegated by the Agency to the Board in the comparatively narrow areas for which the Board will be responsible. I commend the new clause as a definite improvement.

Photo of Mr Caerwyn Roderick Mr Caerwyn Roderick , Brecon and Radnor

As the hon. Member of Parliament for an area which the Board will serve, I want to dissociate myself entirely from the clause, because people in the area do not want to be deprived of the work of the WDA. They do not want delegated powers from the Agency to go to the rural development Board. We feel that the work of the WDA in building advance factories, and so on, should continue. The Board is a special one to deal primarily with rural functions. It is not to deal with the overall economic development of Wales. We want to continue our association with that overall economic development by having the WDA operating in our area. One of the fears expressed in the area is that we shall suffer in having a rural development Board——

Photo of Sir Raymond Gower Sir Raymond Gower , Barry

Does not the hon. Gentleman recall that the Minister has said on a number of occasions that the work of the Agency will be largely concentrated outside Mid-Wales and be in other parts, predominantly in the industrial areas? If there is some work which it is doing in rural Wales, is it not reasonable to suggest that the comparatively small amount of time that it will be able to devote to it should be done through the agency of the rural Board?

Photo of Mr Caerwyn Roderick Mr Caerwyn Roderick , Brecon and Radnor

The hon. Gentleman has not listened to my remarks in the past. This was one of the reasons why I was anxious to see the setting up of the Board. We felt that, naturally, the WDA would have to concentrate in the more urban areas most of its time. That is why we want to complement its work in the rural areas. We want the WDA in our areas. We know that it must look after the more serious problems of the urban areas and, therefore, we want this board to complement that work.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Edwards Mr Nicholas Edwards , Pembroke

One remark of the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Roderick) brought out the confusion which has arisen in this matter. He said that the Welsh Development Agency was the body that he would like to see dealing with advance factory building in his constituency. As I understand the Bill and the remarks of the Under-Secretary in Committee, it is the Board which will be dealing with advance factories. This is one of the powers reserved to the Board. If at this stage the hon. Gentleman is still confused about this matter—and justifiably, in my view—it is very likely that industrialists and others outside the House are equally confused. This is one of our fundamental complaints about the structure of the Bill.

Photo of Mr Caerwyn Roderick Mr Caerwyn Roderick , Brecon and Radnor

It may be that the Board will deal with advance factories. But the WDA has functions which the Board will not have. It will not have the opportunity to make grants for certain developments, and we do not want to lose out on that kind of development. I do not know of anyone in my area who wants these powers transferred. That is why I felt compelled to speak against the clause.

Photo of Mr Barry Jones Mr Barry Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Welsh Office)

My hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Roderick) is right. His constituency and others will not lose out in the area of the Board.

I advise the House to resist the clause. In the first place, it lacks precision. Who is to decide when it shall be appropriate for the WDA to delegate? Then again, other changes might have to be made to the Bill now before Parliament to secure that the Agency could delegate all its functions to the Board; for example, the clearance of derelict land function of the Agency. So, to that extent, the clause is not effective.

We believe in horses for courses. We believe that the Welsh Development Agency throughout Wales should have responsibility for derelict land clearance and should have investment in industry powers. It has its experts and professional people. We do not believe that we should stretch this expertise around and give the Board too many powers.

Basically, therefore, for these three reasons I advise the House to reject the clause.

Question put and negatived