HC Deb 26 October 1987 vol 121 cc11-2
13. Sir Raymond Gower

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what assessment he has made of the progress to date of inward investment in Wales; and what are the latest figures of inquiries by overseas companies.

Mr. Peter Walker

Since WINvest was established in April 1983 to attract inward investment to Wales, a total of 207 projects have been secured from overseas involving over 24,000 jobs and over £760 million of capital investment. WlNvest is dealing with many inquiries at the present time.

Sir Raymond Gower

Is it not a fact that under successive Governments and particularly under Conservative Governments since 1979, this has been the greatest success story in the whole of the Welsh economy? Does my right hon. Friend expect that success to continue?

Mr. Walker

I am pleased to say that in recent months we have had visitors from overseas companies averaging three every four working days. My hon. Friend is probably aware that in a few weeks' time I will be going to Japan where I will meet representatives of many companies interested in investing in Wales.

Mr. Alan Williams

The Minister said earlier with regard to inward investment that he had considerable flexibility. Does not that claimed flexibility make the recent loss of 300 jobs in the Cotton Mill project look hamfisted, maladroit or positively incompetent on the Welsh Office's part? Will he bear in mind that from the outset the Secretary of State for Wales and the Welsh Office knew very well that that project was interested in a site either in Swansea or one in Dundee, but in no other site? The project lost the site to Scotland. Will he bear in mind that there is considerable bitterness in Swansea and Wales that those jobs were lost to Dundee in response to the very development area grants that the Government took from Swansea when they carried out the last review of regional policy?

Mr. Walker

I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman spoke as he did. I agree that he spoke in the same tone as that of the leader of the Swansea council. This morning I met representatives of Tootal, who confirmed to me that they have made no decision whatsoever about the siting of the plant. Therefore, I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman check his facts for once. I hope that he will also carefully consider the fact that the so-called incompetent Welsh Office, to which he constantly refers, has made an offer in the Swansea area amounting to between £7.5 million and £9 million. The Chinese firm and its British partners are willing to put in only £4.6 million. I think that the right hon. Gentleman should more carefully consider how wise it is to spend Government money to the benefit of Swansea.