HC Deb 17 October 2001 vol 372 cc1158-9
6. Alan Howarth (Newport, East)

What his latest assessment is of levels of employment in south-east Wales. [4196]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Paul Murphy)

Employment in south-east Wales increased slightly to 69 per cent. in 2000. Some 3,800 new jobs have been announced in south-east Wales in the past 12 months through developments in retailing, electronics and communications sectors. However, that does not compensate for the heavy loss of jobs in the area due to the Corns closures. The Government are providing support to those affected in the form of a modernised ISERBS package. This is complemented by a range of Government employment initiatives and by the Assembly's training and regeneration packages.

Alan Howarth

I thank my right hon. Friend for the energy that he has put into brokering the well co-ordinated response in south-east Wales to the crisis in the steel industry and the job losses following from it. Does he agree that the fortunes of Newport are crucial to the fortunes of south-east Wales and to employment prospects in particular? Will he do what he can to ensure that at the very earliest opportunity an urban regeneration company is established in Newport with broad scope and depth of resources?

Mr. Murphy

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for those comments. I entirely agree that an urban regeneration company for the Newport and south Gwent area would be an excellent idea. I understand that Newport county borough council is making proposals regarding the urban regeneration company, which the Assembly is considering in detail. I welcome the proposals, which will serve my constituents as well as those of my right hon. Friend.

Adam Price (East Carmarthen and Dinefwr)

Do not the recent 800 job losses announced by United States-owned firms in Wales—Corning on Deeside, GEAES in Nant Garw and Dow Corning in Barry—confirm that the Government's core economic policies are destroying the Welsh manufacturing sector? As Secretary of State, what is the right hon. Gentleman doing? What proposals is he putting to his colleagues in Government to prevent further job losses in the Welsh manufacturing sector?

Mr. Murphy

As I said in my previous answer and as the hon. Gentleman will be aware, we are deeply concerned about losses in the manufacturing sector in Wales, but I reject the claim that the Government are destroying manufacturing in Wales. He will know that only last week about 250 new jobs for Blaenau Gwent were announced by the First Minister. There have been 350 new jobs at Morrisons in Rogerston, 400 at Oakdale, 188 at SkyTronics in Cardiff and 264 in my constituency. On average, about 300 jobs a month are coming to Wales.

Of course, that does not make up for all the jobs that we have lost, but it is not in any way true to say that we are destroying manufacturing in Wales.

Mr. John Smith (Vale of Glamorgan)

Given the increasing number of jobs in Wales that are dependent on the aviation industry, will my right hon. Friend assure me that when he next meets the Chancellor of the Exchequer he will press on him that any aid package for that industry includes the capacity to protect aviation jobs in Wales, especially in my constituency?

Mr. Murphy

My hon. Friend will know that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is sitting next to me and listening. At the end of the day, it is the stability and strength of our economy in Wales that will protect our jobs. That will be the best sort of protection in terms of what has happened on the international scene in the past few weeks.