HC Deb 10 December 2003 vol 415 cc1044-6
4. Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North) (Lab)

What plans he has to prevent jobs in Wales moving overseas. [142072]

The Secretary of State for Wales(Mr. Peter Hain)

I will continue to fight to ensure that jobs stay in Wales, and not move overseas. Foreign firms are still choosing Wales as an attractive place to do business. Last year, employment in Wales rose by 61,000.

Julie Morgan

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. What would he say to the staff at Tesco house in Maes-y-Coed road in the Cardiff, North constituency, who in July were taken to the city hall and praised by Tesco for their loyalty, and a few weeks later were told that 230 of their jobs were to go to Bangalore?

Mr. Hain

I would join my hon. Friend in saying that that treatment is unacceptable, and that we continue to fight, as she does, for more call centre and finance centre jobs in Cardiff and right across Wales. The record shows that more and more jobs in this sector are being created. For example, The Number, which is part of the new directory inquiries network, recently opened a call centre in Cardiff creating 467 full-time and 105 part-time jobs in Cardiff. Whatever the plight of her constituents, under this Government, more and more job opportunities are being created, and her constituents will be helped to find other jobs. I agree with her, however, on her criticism of Tesco.

Mr. Bill Wiggin (Leominster) (Con)

Can the Secretary of State confirm whether Hansard was correct when it reported that he thought that the transfer of call centre jobs to India could actually create a big return for the Welsh economy? Alternatively, was the The Western Mail wrong when it said that he would fight for every call centre job in Wales? Surely he did not make both statements.

Mr. Hain

First, I welcome the hon. Gentleman to the Front Bench. We look forward to his pronouncements. May I mourn the passing of the hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans), who brought a certain chippy style to the Front Bench, which we very much enjoyed? I am sure that his replacement, with his old Etonian gravitas, will provide us with a different dimension, although with his boss, the right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry) sitting next to him, I am not sure who actually speaks for Wales. We might learn that later from the Conservative party. In respect of his question, were he to read further in Hansard, he would find that both the The Western Mail and Hansard were correct, because I said that I wanted to see all jobs preserved"—[Official Report, 4 December 2003; Vol. 415, c. 655.] in Wales and that I will fight to continue to do that.

Mr. Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab)

My right hon. Friend will have heard the announcement last week of 170 job losses at a garment factory in Aberbargoed in my constituency. I thank him for the support that he has given to those workers in that difficult situation, but will the Government reaffirm their commitment to long-term investment in quality jobs and quality training? That is the only way forward.

Mr. Hain

I very much agree with my hon. Friend that that is the only way forward. It is the way forward being driven by our Government in Westminster and by the Labour Welsh Assembly Government in Cardiff. I am sure that he will recall many details of coal communities in his and surrounding constituencies that were absolutely devastated under the Conservatives. I find it astonishing that, given our record of investment, to which he referred, the Leader of the Opposition on a visit to Wales last Saturday said that coal communities had revived very considerably under Margaret Thatcher". What an extraordinary statement. Coal communities, including in my hon. Friend's constituency, were decimated under Margaret Thatcher. Under Labour, they are being rebuilt, with more jobs, more investment and higher standards of public services.

Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion) (PC)

The question asked the Secretary of State what plans he had. So far, the only plan that he has brought forward to stop jobs going out of Wales is to put tolls on the M4. Will he now look at one aspect of the Welsh economy—the 700 jobs lost in Welsh agriculture in the past year? To help prevent those jobs from being lost, I suggest a plan to help local authorities to buy local food to keep Welsh farmers in jobs. Will he do that?

Mr. Hain

I share the hon. Gentleman's desire and interest in seeing that local produce is used by the local public sector, schools and others. Since he raised the issue of the effect on jobs of the situation on the M4, may I explain to him the reality? The truth is that the M4 at the Brynglas tunnel is increasingly choked with traffic, which affects jobs and the economy of south-east Wales. That is why the Assembly would have the option, as I discussed when I was Minister with responsibilities for transport in Wales a few years ago, of building the M4 relief road around Newport to provide an alternative, which could be tolled and built by the private sector as has been achieved around Birmingham. In that way, drivers in Wales, whether lorries or cars, would have a choice: to travel at perhaps 40 mph through the Brynglas tunnel, or to go around the new relief road and pay a toll. In the end, however, that is a matter for the Assembly.