Welsh Development Agency

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27 April 1987.

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Photo of Mr David Knox Mr David Knox , Staffordshire Moorlands 12:00, 27 April 1987

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what has been the total square footage of factories built by the Welsh Development Agency since May 1979.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Edwards Mr Nicholas Edwards , Pembroke

The WDA has completed more than 9·7 million sq ft of factory floor space since May 1979.

Photo of Mr David Knox Mr David Knox , Staffordshire Moorlands

Can my right hon. Friend say what the average square footage of factory space produced by the agency has been since the present Government came into power, and how that compares with the figure under the previous Labour Government?

Photo of Mr Nicholas Edwards Mr Nicholas Edwards , Pembroke

Between January 1976 and March 1979 the agency completed 1·5 million sq ft—an average of 0·5 million sq ft per year. Under this Government there has been an average of 1·2 million sq ft per year, which is more than double the rate under the previous Labour Government. However, perhaps even more important has been the record level at which those factories have been occupied. The allocation rate is currently running at an all-time high.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Blaenau Gwent

We greatly welcome the Secretary of State's conversion to support for the Welsh Development Agency. We only wish that he had given that enthusiastic support from the beginning. What will be the real expansion in the money that is to be allocated to the Welsh Development Agency? The right hon. Gentleman must know that there are areas, such as mine, where we still have about 20 per cent. unemployment and are fighting as hard as we can against it. We need a considerable increase in the factory programme to enable us to attract more new industries into our areas, and I hope that we will get it from the right hon. Gentleman's successor.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Edwards Mr Nicholas Edwards , Pembroke

We have a far bigger factory programme than that of the previous Administration, so I do not need lectures on that from the right hon. Gentleman. The agency's total budget for 1987–88 is £86·5 million, and it is planning on the basis of £93 million gross being available for factory development over the next three financial years. It is remarkable that the agency allocated 2 million sq ft of factory space in the past financial year and 566,000 sq ft in the first three months of this year. Therefore, the pace of allocation is accelerating.

Photo of Mr Dafydd Wigley Mr Dafydd Wigley , Caernarfon

Will the Secretary of State look at the situation in Gwynedd in detail and observe that the WDA's three-year programme has virtually no investment programmes in factories, other than at Llandudno junction, although in places such as Holyhead and the Pwllheli area unemployment is between 20 and 25 per cent.? When will the WDA deliver the goods to those areas?

Photo of Mr Nicholas Edwards Mr Nicholas Edwards , Pembroke

I shall certainly look at those factors with the WDA, but by far the biggest contribution that has been or could be made to the economy of that area is the present road construction programme—the dualling of the A55 across north Wales and the work on the Conway crossing. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the improvement of those road links to the rest of Britain will make the biggest possible contribution to creating jobs in his area.

Photo of Mr Barry Jones Mr Barry Jones Shadow Secretary of State

The WDA has done well for Wales, and I remind the House that a Labour Government created it. The Secretary of State puts a complacent gloss on the record, bearing in mind that under his stewardship unemployment has doubled since 1979. Has he forgotten his 6,473 jobless constituents? Not for them the rich pickings of the City. The right hon. Gentleman should present his WDA plans to restore his constituents to work. Does he know that more than 4,000 of my constituents are jobless and that recent job losses announced at the Modo factory are a serious blow? Has the WDA any plans to intervene to help my shocked constituents? The work of the agency in Clwyd would be much easier if the Government would give the £750 million loan for the airbus. Why has there been no statement on that?

Photo of Mr Nicholas Edwards Mr Nicholas Edwards , Pembroke

The hon. Gentleman draws attention to the loss of 50 or 60 jobs at Modo, but not to the 100 jobs created, for example, by Graphoprint on Deeside, which was the subject of my recent announcement, or the 100 jobs created at DRG Plastics, which were announced in March. Within one mile of DRG's new factory there are now nine foreign-owned companies employing about 1,400 people. In my constituency I have created an enterprise zone which already, in the short period of its history, has created more than 500 jobs. I greatly welcome the announcement made only this weekend of a major new ferry service operating from Pembroke dock to Ireland.