I thank my hon. Friend for his welcome for the new targets that have been set for the Welsh Development Agency. The rural White Paper published last year demonstrated the importance that we attach to the future of rural areas of Wales. I shall today publish the 1997 review of the White Paper, which is an important step in the process of building a prosperous countryside and a healthy environment for rural Wales. That will include such matters as a further round of the schools technology initiative, broadening the coverage of the rural transport innovation grant, a new native woodland challenge scheme and new advice on encouraging village shops and other services in rural areas.
Mr. Alan Williams:
Does the Secretary of State recall the constructive meeting that he had with a deputation of south-west Wales Members two months ago? Does he remember that we made it clear that we in no way regret that so much industrial development is going to south-east Wales but that we are living in the shadow of Cardiff and Newport and fear for the fact that little or no development is occurring beyond Bridgend? Does he remember giving us certain assurances in relation to his use of discretionary power? What action has he taken in the intervening two months to implement that agreement?
Yes, I well remember the meeting with the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues. As he said—I hope that other hon. Members were listening—a great deal of industrial development has taken place in south-east Wales. It is time to ensure that that success is spread right across Wales, including to the areas that the right hon. Gentleman has represented. That is why I have set the Welsh Development Agency a new target of 50 per cent. of the new investment and jobs that it attracts to Wales in the coming financial year being outside the eastern M4 and A55 corridors. That is a major increase in the targets for those areas. I have also asked the agency to pay more for projects going to the areas that have not yet been the principal beneficiaries of inward investment than for equivalent projects elsewhere.
I have heard the Secretary of State congratulating himself so many times this afternoon that it is rather disturbing—one wonders whether he is serious about all this. I welcome his difference of emphasis on investment and job creation outside the M4 corridor and north-east Wales. May I ask him a serious question? What is he doing about youth unemployment? Does he know, for example, that north Wales has pockets of youth unemployment as high as 33 per cent? What on earth is being done to tackle that extreme problem?
What I am doing about youth unemployment in Wales is to bring more jobs to Wales than we have seen in modern times. That has an impact on youth unemployment as well as on unemployment generally. Of course, it is important to ensure that the benefits of that are shared throughout Wales. To tackle youth unemployment, in the coming year I am also increasing by £12 million—nearly doubling it—the budget for modern apprenticeships in Wales, so that young people will have the skills to take up those jobs.