HC Deb 04 April 2001 vol 366 cc323-4
3. Mr. Ben Chapman (Wirral, South)

When he last met the First Secretary to discuss the economy in Deeside. [155493]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. David Hanson)


Mr. Speaker

Order. Mr. Donohoe, you shout so much it gives me a sore head.

Mr. Hanson

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I meet the First Minister regularly to discuss a range of issues, including a variety of economic issues affecting Wales.

Mr. Chapman

Does my hon. Friend agree that the economic prospects for the people of Deeside—on both our sides of the river—are better than they have been for many years, not least because of low interest rates, low inflation and low unemployment, but also because of major investment coming on stream at, for example, BAE Systems in Broughton and at Toyota? Does he also agree that that would all be put at risk if we were to return to the days of paranoia about Europe; public spending cuts; tax promises made only to be broken; and boom and bust? Those are the policies that characterised the Conservative party's time in government.

Mr. Hanson

My hon. Friend makes some valid points. He will be aware that Toyota at Deeside has invested £100 million and created nearly 500 new jobs, and that BAE Systems at Deeside has created hundreds of new jobs—wings are made in Wales and other aircraft parts are made in Europe. That would certainly be affected by Conservative European policies. On both sides of the Dee, unemployment is down, and in my hon. Friend's constituency it has fallen by more than 700 since the general election. The Labour Government are working for Deeside on both sides of the river, and I support his efforts.

Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion)

What assessment has the Minister made of the impact on Deeside's economy of the unilateral decision by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions to plant GM crops in Flintshire, which is one of three sites in Wales being used for that purpose? What impact will that decision have on Deeside's agriculture and economy? As the local Member and as a Minister, was he informed of the decision? If so, what was his response? What did he tell Assembly Members about the decision? Did he inform hon. Members of the decision?

Mr. Hanson

The hon. Gentleman will know that the sites were chosen on the basis of scientific advice from the scientific committee, SCIMAC—supply chain initiative on modified agricultural crops. There have been continuing discussions on those matters with the National Assembly and with Government colleagues. For the hon. Gentleman's information, Sealand is not in my constituency.

Mr. Barry Jones (Alyn and Deeside)

Does my hon. Friend agree that, on Deeside, we need a very substantial steel spine to our manufacturing capability? With the loss of 319 steel jobs, what can the Wales Office do to ensure that redundant steel workers are given jobs at the nearby Airbus factory, where 1,700 new jobs are available? Does he think that the trainers are up to the job of training redundant steel workers to work in aerospace?

Mr. Hanson

In my right hon. Friend's 31 years in the House, he has been a strong supporter and has battled hard for steel and for aerospace. He will know that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has indicated his willingness to approach the European Commission for help and support to re-train steel workers who may face redundancy. He will also know that, following the Labour Government's investment of more than £530 million, there are great and advancing job opportunities in British Aerospace, which I hope many of the steel workers facing potential redundancy will be able to take up in the near future. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Before I call the next question, I call the House to come to order.