Welsh Development Agency

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7 February 1983.

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Photo of Mr David Knox Mr David Knox , Leek 12:00, 7 February 1983

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

Photo of Mr Nicholas Edwards Mr Nicholas Edwards , Pembroke

Between January 1976 and December 1982 the Welsh Development Agency completed 1,022 advance factory units, 11 bespoke factory units and 66 factory extensions, totalling in all just over 8 million sq ft.

Photo of Mr David Knox Mr David Knox , Leek

How many of those factory units are occupied? Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the supply is sufficient to meet the demand, particularly if there is an upturn in the economy?

Photo of Mr Nicholas Edwards Mr Nicholas Edwards , Pembroke

The vacancy rate has risen to about 15 per cent. but in view of the scale of the factory building programme that has been carried out, that is not surprising. We expect those figures to fall if allocations continue at anything like the rate of the past couple of years.

Photo of Mr Ednyfed Davies Mr Ednyfed Davies , Caerphilly

Although one wishes to recognise the work of the Welsh Development Agency, does the Secretary of State concede that it is in the end occupancy rather than buildings that matters? How much of the 8 million sq ft already built is at present unoccupied, either through having been vacated or through failure to obtain tenants?

Photo of Mr Nicholas Edwards Mr Nicholas Edwards , Pembroke

I cannot give an immediate answer, but I shall write to the hon. Gentleman and give him the present exact unoccupied square footage. The vacancy rate at present is approximately 15 per cent., which is by no means unreasonable in present circumstances. I remind the hon. Gentleman again that in 1981 in Wales in Government factories generally, including those of the WDA, we allocated about 1·6 million sq ft of factory space. In 1982 the figure was nearly 2 million sq ft. Individual agencies are also doing well. One of our problems in Cwmbran is that it has done so well that there is a shortage of factory space.

Photo of Mr Alec Jones Mr Alec Jones , Rhondda

May I remind the Secretary of State that the vast majority of Opposition Members wish to see the WDA move from one success to another? Many of us, therefore, were somewhat disturbed to see a recent HTV programme which contained wide discrepancies between the figures for job creation given by the WDA and those given as a result of the HTV research. We were somewhat dismayed to hear that the WDA had refused to take part in the programme. Will the Secretary of State assure us that no pressure was put on the WDA not to take part in the programme? Will the Secretary of State invite, if not direct, the WDA to publish a leaflet giving the facts so that we can all see and judge the true position?

Photo of Mr Nicholas Edwards Mr Nicholas Edwards , Pembroke

I was about to tell the right hon. Gentleman that the matter was entirely one for the WDA, when he asked whether any pressure had been put on it. I confess that I never heard about that broadcast, and I am certain that no pressure was applied to the WDA. It is entirely up to the WDA whether it chooses to be represented in a particular broadcast. I shall certainly draw the board's attention to the right hon. Gentleman's points. I am sure that it will consider responding.