§ Mr. Wigley
To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what progress has been made with the rural initiative launched by the Welsh Office; if he will detail specific changes of policy and specific additional resources associated with this initiative; and what is his future plan of action for taking this initiative forward.
§ Sir Wyn Roberts
The Secretary of State announced the launch of the rural initiative in February 1991, when he confirmed a £20 million increase in resources to tackle the problems of rural Wales. Around 75 per cent. of that sum was targeted on additional housing provision, assistance for local authority projects, and higher spending by the Welsh Development Agency. The balance of £5 million was made available for capital projects put forward by authorities which were likely to be of most benefit to the development of rural communities.
Subsequently, my right hon. Friend and I undertook extensive consultations with local authorities, the various agencies and other representative bodies, to seek their views on a way forward for rural Wales in the 1990s. We were very much encouraged by the unanimity of support for the initiative, and published in December 1991 "The Rural Initiative—putting the heart into rural Wales", the document which set out our objectives and policies for rural Wales.
My right hon. Friend also announced at the same time a fresh series of measures to consolidate and take forward rural programmes across the economic, social and environmental fields. In addition to already announced extra funds for the Development Board for Rural Wales and the national parks, totalling over £3 million, a further £29 million has thus been made available for capital 432W projects, rural housing provision, and extra resources for the WDA, the Countryside Council for Wales arid the Wales tourist board.
Turning specifically to the capital grants scheme, the total allocation for 1992–93 is £6 million, a 20 per cent. increase on the first year, when 265 applications were submitted by authorities and 36 approved for funding. For the current year, 308 applications were received and successful projects put forward by west Wales authorities have been announced. We hope shortly to be in a position to confirm successful applications for the rest of Wales for the current year.
I am writing to the hon. Gentleman to provide fuller details of the policies and additional resources associated with this initiative.
With the introduction of these measures, I believe we now have a very powerful range of organisations and resources to press ahead vigorously with development of the economic, social and environmental fabric of rural Wales, and to secure for it the long-term prosperity which is our common objective. Our policies for rural areas will continue to be reviewed in response to identified demands, as of course they are for the whole of Wales.