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Mr. Ted Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney): I am closely following the hon. Gentleman's argument.

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Is it not a fact that most of these large investments are basically assembly plants? Does not the future lie in creating supplier networks out to the communities that he and I are interested in? Those are the role, function and targets that the WDA and Welsh Office are now aiming for. Supplier networks for those large assembly plants that lie along the M4 could be our job future.

Mr. Wigley: Yes, I saw the report in the Western Mail yesterday. It is hoped that about half the supplier companies to LG might be in Wales. That is good news and needs emphasising.

I suggest to the House, however, that the Welsh Office and the WDA have accepted far too easily the received wisdom that Newport and Wrecsam are ideally located to sell to Dusseldorf or Milan, whereas Holyhead, Caernarfon, Pwllheli, Ffestiniog, Ammanford or Aberdare are impossibly remote for such a purpose. That is nonsense and reflects much more on the mentality of those who drew up the strategy than it does on manufacturing industry. A small company located in Llanberis in my constituency manufactures medical diagnostic kits, 96 per cent. of which are exported. Llanberis is, in fact, closer in time to Manchester airport than Oxford is to Heathrow.

I would suggest that, with unemployment rates of 14 per cent. in Holyhead and south Pembroke, 12 per cent. in Aberdare and 10 per cent. in Caernarfon and Llanelli, the time has come for a fundamental change in the strategy laid down on the Welsh Development Agency.

It is time for 80 per cent. of the new jobs towards which the WDA or the Welsh Office provide public funding to be located outside the two target areas that have done so well in the past. There should be specific targets for securing new jobs in the western part of Wales, the old counties of Gwynedd and Dyfed, and in the western parts of the coalfield area.

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones (Ynys Mon): My hon. Friend makes a very persuasive case about the need to attract jobs into west Wales. I am sure that he would agree that we should also underpin the indigenous industries in those parts of Wales. One of the great dangers that those industries face is that the strategy adopted by the previous Government was to force the Welsh Development Agency to sell its units, many of which are rented by local businesses. They may well be sold over their heads, and they may be charged rentals that they cannot afford if major companies move in. Does my hon. Friend agree that the Welsh Office should address that issue?

Mr. Wigley: Yes. I was just coming to that.

One aspect of the WDA's policy that I should like to highlight concerns the availability of industrial land and buildings. Virtually no strategic sites are available in Gwynedd for inward investment, although I understand that the WDA may be in discussion with the county council on one possibility near Bangor, in the constituency of the hon. Member for Conwy (Mrs. Williams). Why should those sites not already be earmarked? Furthermore, there are no WDA-owned industrial estates in Pwllheli and the Llyn peninsula. In view of that failing, I must ask how the WDA is meeting its obligation to unemployed people and the young jobseekers of Pwllheli and western Dwyfor.

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The rents that have been charged in the Cibyn industrial estate in Caernarfon for units ranging between 1,000 sq ft and 3,000 sq ft range between £3.15 and £3.50 per sq ft. The rent being charged for similarly sized units in Amlwch, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Mon (Mr. Jones), is £2.50 per sq ft. Amlwch has the advantage of full development area status, which we in Caernarfon do not have. That underlines the need to review these rent levels.

If, in the past, Wales has been regarded as remote from the centres of population, trade and commerce, the advent of modern technology and telecommunications makes such a concept much less relevant. There is no reason why telemarketing call centres and computer-based work cannot take place in the most remote Welsh communities, with the essential product--information transmitted by land line--being sent at next to no cost to any urban centre in Europe or the world. Given the natural verbal skills of the Welsh people, this is perhaps a natural industry to grow in Wales.

I am conscious that the Welsh Development Agency has recognised the need to create a state of the art fibre-optic cabling of Wales as the basis for developing information industries throughout our country. A bid was made for millennium projects support for such an investment a short while ago. Given that the WDA saw that as a priority, and recognised that such an investment would be immensely expensive but also beneficial to the Welsh economy, the question for the Welsh Office now is: how does it intend to take that agenda forward? I doubt whether the Welsh Office budget is likely to have that much money--we are talking about hundreds of millions of pounds. In that case, the investment must be secured from elsewhere.

If we look around for the industrial concerns that may have that sort of money at their disposal, and an active interest in cabling up Wales, we find that there are relatively few contenders. Cable television companies might be interested, but the danger is that they will want only the rich pickings of the populous areas, leaving mid-Wales, north-west Wales and south-west Wales out in the cold. It would be outrageous if the WDA were party to an agreement that discriminated against those areas.

If no cable company were willing to take on such a broad responsibility, might it be possible to persuade British Telecom to undertake it, recognising, of course, that it would need something in return? Might that return emanate from a liberalising of the restrictions on what British Telecom can convey on a upgraded network of telephone lines, which, after all, go into every household? Optic cable links can carry myriad communication elements into every house, including multi-channel television links, interactive commercial links, the information highway and an embryonic element of a diffused and decentralised data processing structure. That, of itself, would enhance the potential of people to work from their own homes; and in an age when we must all be more environmentally conscious, it would minimise the unnecessary transportation of people and products.

The WDA has identified the development of this infrastructure; the challenge now is to take it forward because of its importance to the Welsh economy. Today, we want to know the attitude of the new Government to such developments. What guidelines are they giving the WDA? This is an urgent issue because key decisions are about to be taken and there are specific steps that the

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Welsh Office and other Government Departments must take to help the countless thousands who are unemployed in Wales.

Mrs. Betty Williams (Conwy): Does the hon. Gentleman share my welcome for the Secretary of State's announcement two weeks ago of investment proposals for west and north Wales? Would he further agree that one reason why these areas have fallen into neglect has been the decline in employment in the slate quarries? I think in particular of Bethesda in the Dyffryn Ogwen area, where the trend has been one of gradual decline. Successive Governments have not given those problem areas the attention that they deserve, so the unemployment figures have steadily worsened.

Mr. Wigley: Yes, indeed. The hon. Lady represents an area similar to mine, so she is well aware of the problems. I accept her points.

We need to be clear about the size of the unemployment problem. The official figure for Wales is about 80,000, but I suspect that the true number is between two and three times as high--the labour force survey certainly suggests that.

We need a review of the workings of the Industry Act 1982, because many of the areas formerly designated for industrial development have now done very well indeed. We should not use crude unemployment figures for the purpose; we should factor in activity rate figures, the age structure of the work force, youth unemployment, outward migration to seek work and incomes per head. Consideration should also be given to how the UK industrial development map would best accord with the prospects of maximising help from the European Union. I stake a claim today that the Government should seek objective 1 status for the old counties of Gwynedd and Dyfed within the European Union; a review is currently under way.

There also needs to be a change in emphasis in the WDA between the support given to large companies to come and locate in Wales and the lack of support for small indigenous companies when they want to expand--the very point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Mon (Mr. Jones). Time after time, I have heard of small businesses in Wales asking the WDA for assistance but being given no practical help. There is often an initial indication of interest, but then it fizzles out and no cash materialises. It is immensely frustrating for small companies in Wales to hear of millions of pounds being provided through the Welsh Office or the WDA for inward investment projects--sometimes at a cost of £30,000 or £40,000 a job--when they cannot get a brass farthing towards creating a handful of much-needed jobs in some of our scattered communities.

Mr. Cynog Dafis (Ceredigion): It is clear that a key element in any strategy for revitalising rural Wales is value addition to our food products. There is a food centre at Horeb in my constituency, established by the local county council, which has applied to the DTI for a grant to set up as a teaching business company. The sum requested is quite small--about £250,000--but the money has not been forthcoming.

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Furthermore, the regulations governing the establishment of teaching business companies usually apply to large industrial systems only. Is not that a good example of how we need both the right policies in place and relatively small sums of money to set up enterprises that would be of key importance not just to Ceredigion but to the whole of Wales, as part of a Welsh food strategy?

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