HC Deb 19 June 2002 vol 387 cc263-4
3. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

What recent discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues about measures to assist manufacturing industry in Wales. [59908]

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

I have regular discussions with my ministerial colleagues on a range of issues, including manufacturing, which has of course experienced difficulties this year. However, I am pleased to note that the fall in unemployment in Wales is one of the fastest of any region or country in the United Kingdom, and Wales now has lower unemployment than Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Canada and the United States.

Paul Flynn

My right hon. Friend will agree that part of that success story has been the brilliant record of local entrepreneurs, particularly in the high-tech sector and especially in the city of Newport. Does he realise that one very successful high-tech company—although still in its embryo stage, it will certainly sell its unique product throughout the world—is in some difficulty because it is outside the objective 1 areas? Alcan had a similar problem in Newport, and is it not true that the present objective 1 map distorts priorities, to the detriment of places such as Newport?

Mr. Murphy

I understand what my hon. Friend says, but he knows that Newport now has an urban regeneration corporation, which is the work of the Welsh Development Agency and the local authority. There will be opportunities to help firms such as Alcan because of the money—some £20 million—that the corporation will be able to generate. I also think that the new city of Newport is a great place for companies to invest in, and I wish it well.

Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)

After the right hon. Gentleman's Freudian slip in which he said that he had abolished Plaid Cymru, although we are unabolished at the present time, will he ensure that the £170 million public expenditure cover is allowed for in this year's comprehensive spending review, and that the £100 million that should come to Wales does come there, so that we can draw down as much as possible under objective 1—or will he be complacent, as he was last year?

Mr. Murphy

I did not make any Freudian slip about Plaid Cymru—but the hon. Gentleman should be careful over the next 11 months, because we might well see, if not the abolition, the demise of his party.

As for the hon. Gentleman's question, I have said that I am in discussion with my right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Chief Secretary regarding the spending review, and he cannot expect me to comment on the detail of those discussions at the moment. The Government and the Assembly are not complacent about objective 1. We regard it as vital in regenerating two thirds of the land mass of Wales. We believe that it is working well, and that after seven years Wales will be a much better place because of it.

Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North)

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the proposed closure of Federal Mogul in my constituency, which would lead to the loss of 75 jobs, mainly in manufacturing? Although the economy in Cardiff is buoyant, as my right hon. Friend said, it will be difficult to replace those jobs because of the loss of employment in manufacturing. Will he do all that he can to assist manufacturing in the area?

Mr. Murphy

Of course I will. I am well aware of the matter to which my hon. Friend refers. She knows that we have to manage a changing economy in Wales and that there are unfortunate cases of firms having to close down and move away. She will also be aware that there are now 3,000 more people in work in Wales than there were this time last year, so the overall picture is good. Of course that does not help her constituents, and she can rest assured that I will raise the matter with the Economic Development Minister in the Assembly and the First Minister—although she might get there first.

Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore)

Does my right hon. Friend welcome the independent report in the Financial Times yesterday that shows increased productivity in manufacturing? Is not that recognition that the sector is moving forward?

Mr. Murphy

Of course I welcome that. We are now seeing an increase in manufacturing activity in Wales, including in my hon. Friend's constituency, where unemployment has come down by nearly 44 per cent. since 1997.

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