Wales celebrates arrival of pounds 1.7bn and 20,000 jobs to Wales

English regions complain they are at a disadvantage in competition, write Barrie Clement and Anthony Bevins
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The Independent Online
Wales yesterday celebrated securing the biggest inward investment in Europe, which could create up to 20,000 new jobs, as the rest of Britain looked on with envy. But while welcoming the decision by the South Korean conglomerate LG to site a pounds 1.7bn electronics complex at Newport, Plaid Cymru President Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon) warned in the Commons that unemployment was still a "cancer" affecting all parts of Wales and creating an "underclass" among the young and long term jobless.

The South Koreans will build two factories on a 250-acre site at Imperial Park, Newport - a semiconductor production facil-ity and a consumer electronics plant producing television parts. The project will confirm Britain's status as the most attractive country in Europe for inward investment and may help to prevent a meltdown of the Conservative vote in Wales.

The investment, however, irritated English development agencies who attacked the system for frequently giving the Celtic countries an unfair advantage. John Bridge, chief executive of the Newcastle-based Northern Development Company, said that such massive projects should be handled by the Department of Trade.

Josephine Chexal, the north-eastern agency's international marketing director, pointed out that where grants of more than pounds 1m were involved, any potential inward investment into England was administered by the trade department. The Welsh and Scottish Offices could command much larger sums.

English regions yesterday complained that the Invest in Britain Bureau, an arm of the DTI, was not in sufficient control of the transactions that were being conducted in Wales and in Scotland.

Robert Haymon-Collins, director of marketing at the West Midlands Development Agency, said the secretaries of state for Wales and Scotland provided the Celtic fringe with an edge in terms of influence. Via offshoots such as the Welsh Development Agency, the Welsh and Scottish offices also owned land and property and were given a much freer hand.

But Tim Eggar, the Industry Minister, told BBC radio's World at One: "Scotland and Wales go through the same procedures as England and Wales." Westminster sources, however, said that securing the investment at Newport was a feather in the cap of William Hague, the Welsh Secretary - cocking a competitive snook at his Scottish counterpart, Michael Forsyth, who last visited Korea in May.

Perhaps the most telling statistic is that while the two Celtic nations won 52.2 per cent of all grants to assisted areas in the year to March, they only account for 14 per cent of the UK population.

While the English were somewhat equivocal in their welcome of the news, the Principality registered its delight at a decision which will create 6,100 jobs in what is now an unemployment black spot and a further 15,000 through support industries.

Newport West Labour MP Paul Flynn said local residents would be "ecstatic" that the town had been put at the cutting edge of super-technology. "This is the most significant boost for us this century. It will provide well- paid, secure jobs well into the next century."

Barry Hartop, chief executive of the WDA, brushed aside suggestions that grants and other aid had tipped the balance.He refused to confirm an estimate that the package to lure LG Semiconductor had amounted to some pounds 200m - the equivalent of pounds 30,000 a job - compared with about pounds 20,000 for other companies.

But to the Koreans one of the foremost considerations might have been pay rates in the Principality. According to the New Earnings Survey, average gross weekly earnings in April 1995 in Wales were the second lowest in mainland Britain.

Welsh joy: Section Two

The Korean invasion

Company Established Product Jobs Value of

investment

Samsung Electronics UK 1986-94 Electrical goods 3570 pounds 476m

Billingham, Cleveland

Samsung Heavy Inds 1995 Excavators 100 not known

Harrogate, N. Yorks

Goldstar Electric UK 1988-94 Electrical goods 535 pounds 34m

Jarrow, Tyne & Wear

Daewoo Electronics UK 1988-94 Videos 700 pounds 35m

Antrim, N. Ireland

Inkel Corporation 1990 Audio eqpt. 100 pounds 3.2m

Cramlington, Nthumblnd

Sunkyong Magnetic Ltd 1991 Audio tape 60 n/k

Hayes, Middlesex

Imperial Graphic Prods. 1991 Acetate 98 n/k

Salford, Lancs and paper

Daesung Circuits 1992 Circuit boards 120 n/k

Ballymena, N. Ireland

Int'l Meteorology 1993 Meteorology 12 n/k

Dalkeith, Mid-Lothian systems

CCA Electronics 1993 Car audio 25 pounds 9.5m

Dungannon, N. Ireland

Sammi Sound Techn'y 1993 Audio speakers 67 pounds 1.6m

Workington, Cumbria

TOTAL 5837 pounds 559.3m

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