HC Deb 12 June 1995 vol 261 cc479-80
1. Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has received about the impact on the local economy of the market-testing exercise at RAF Valley. [26031]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Gwilym Jones)

Several, and of course my right hon. Friend met the hon. Gentleman and a delegation from the area last week.

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones

I thank the Minister for that reply. I also thank the Secretary of State for meeting the delegation from my constituency last week. I am sure that the Secretary of State will agree that we put forward an extremely strong case for the retention of jobs at RAF Valley and for requesting the Ministry of Defence to phase in its proposals for market testing, otherwise it will be very difficult for us to compete effectively in an area of high unemployment.

Does the Minister accept that what the Secretary of State told us on Tuesday should be confirmed? The Secretary of State said that he is prepared to use his political influence, both with his colleague the Secretary of State for Defence and, if necessary, with his colleagues in the Cabinet, to ensure that that very strong case is accepted and that he accepts that maximising the number of local jobs at RAF Valley is a top priority.

Mr. Gwilym Jones

My right hon. Friend is certainly more than willing to ensure that our colleagues at the Ministry of Defence are fully aware of the case being put forward. I think that the hon. Gentleman will agree that the training and enterprise council is undertaking a useful skills audit. That audit and any other points that are raised must be considered carefully so that the RAF's operational needs can be best met while, at the same time, seeking to ensure as much local employment as possible.

Mr. Ron Davies

I endorse the views of the hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Jones) and I assure the Minister that the campaign on behalf of RAF Valley has the full support of Opposition Front Benchers.

As the Ministry of Defence proposals would have cost some 600 to 700 jobs in Anglesey, why was the Welsh Office not consulted in advance of the announcement? Can the Minister confirm that there is a major problem with the market-testing programme, in that there is a shortage of local skills? Now that the localtraining and enterprise council has completed its skills audit and, I understand, has told the Welsh Office that there is a need for deferment, will the Minister accept that the proposals for a four to five-year deferment are reasonable and would allow the local community to prepare itself by developing the necessary skills? Does the Minister realise that anything less than that will be an absolute betrayal of a community who have served the country loyally and well?

Mr. Jones

The Ministry of Defence's announcement comes under the consultation arrangements and I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Welsh Office is fully involved in that consultation process. We have already agreed a deferment with the Ministry of Defence, in that the consultation period will now be extended until the end of June. I am sure that that time will be used very effectively to ensure that all the points are considered properly.

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