Welsh Development Agency

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th April 1995.

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Photo of Mr Llew Smith Mr Llew Smith , Blaenau Gwent 12:00 am, 24th April 1995

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what developments there have been in respect of the sale of Welsh Development Agency land. [18724]

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Secretary of State for Wales

The WDA will be selling land and property currently valued at £180 million over two years. That will include 1,000 acres of land, much of it with development potential.

Photo of Mr Llew Smith Mr Llew Smith , Blaenau Gwent

Will the Secretary of State comment on some correspondence that I have received from a local employer in Blaenau Gwent? He states: Estates which were to form the bedrock of the modernisation of industrial Wales, are to be handed over to a single landlord, who will by that fact, be empowered to determine the economic development of the area … Had such been the case when we were seeking to relocate we would not have come to Wales. Does the Secretary of State believe that Wales should be run by landlords—

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. I must correct the hon. Gentleman. I think that he is not aware that we do not use quotations during Question Time. However, I think that he has asked his question. Perhaps the Secretary of State will attempt an answer.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Secretary of State for Wales

How wise you are, Madam Speaker. I did understand the question.

Of course I wish a multitude of landlords and of people to develop property in Wales for industrial and commercial purposes in places where councils wish that to happen. The plan of selling some of those industrial parks does create more choice because at the moment there is only one landlord in many cases—the WDA.

I believe that the issue of whether a tenant can or cannot buy his own property underlies the hon. Gentleman's question. I am urging the WDA to offer the property to the tenant first whenever possible. In the case of the company in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, I believe that negotiations are under way to ascertain whether that tenant company can purchase, which may well be the best answer.

Photo of Mr Rhodri Morgan Mr Rhodri Morgan , Cardiff West

Does the Secretary of State agree that the WDA's budgeted expenditure has never until this year been made conditional on land sales and European regional development fund receipts? Does he agree that he has perpetrated an outrageous act of book cooking on the people of Wales, which would shock his previous superiors at N.M. Rothschild and Sons, the merchant bank where he used to work—I am not sure whether it would have promoted him or sacked him—and that ERDF receipts can be harvested into the Welsh Development Agency's coffers only if they are stolen from the local authorities, at a cost of tens of millions of pounds every year to council tax payers in Wales?

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Secretary of State for Wales

That is another muddled effort from the hon. Gentleman. As he should know, the ERDF moneys are additional; they have nothing to do with the main argument between us. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that I expect the sales proceeds from those property sales to be used to finance part of the WDA's programme. He is also right to say that I want to step up the sales. It seems common sense to want to recycle the money—a green policy—and to ensure that the money is reused to good effect. There is no need to warehouse all the successful tenanted properties in the public sector when the money can be freed for something else. There is no book cooking—the matter is transparent and I have announced that policy many times to the House.