HC Deb 02 July 2003 vol 408 cc367-70
3. Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

If he will make a statement on prospects for manufacturing investment in Wales. [122063]

9. Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside)

What discussions he has had with the First Secretary regarding investment in manufacturing in North Wales. [122069]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Peter Hain)

There is evidence of increasing confidence in manufacturing investment in Wales, our high-technology industry and its highly skilled work force, symbolised by the massive Airbus investment at Broughton.

Sir Nicholas Winterton

The Secretary of State paints a rather rosy picture, which contradicts the reality. The number of manufacturing jobs in Wales has been falling consistently since June 2000, and between that date and December 2000 it fell by more than 25,000. Manufacturing output has also declined consistently in recent years. CBI Wales blames Government policies such as the climate change levy, the packaging regulations and—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is supposed to be asking a supplementary question. The Secretary of State will now try to answer it.

Peter Hain

The hon. Gentleman is quite right: there have been manufacturing job losses in Wales. However, 25,000 new manufacturing jobs have been created over a similar period. As an expert on manufacturing, the hon. Gentleman will know that a churning process is going on throughout the modern industrialised world. Higher-value-added manufacturing jobs are coming into Wales, while some at the lower end are leaving. According to Manpower Services

"There is now increasing stability and confidence amongst Welsh employers, which is good news for both employers and job seekers in Wales".

Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside)

My right hon. Friend said that he had recently visited Airbus at Broughton. As I am sure he will agree, it demonstrates that Wales can be a world leader in value-added manufacturing. Does he also agree that we should do more to help supplier companies to site themselves around such facilities?

Peter Hain

Yes, I do agree. Airbus at Broughton, which is indeed a world-class centre, ought to be an increasing magnet for supplier companies. Evidence shows that when such a cluster of excellence is created it is good for the host manufacturer—in this case, Airbus—good for the supplier companies and good for the whole region.

Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)

A few moments ago the Secretary of State said that there was confidence in the high-tech manufacturing sector in Wales. How does that square with the fact that 200 jobs are to go at Hoya Lens in Wrexham this week?

When will the research and development tax credit be fleshed out? Despite the headline-grabbing of a few months ago, nothing has happened so far. Moreover, there is not a word about manufacturing on the Wales Office website. Why?

Peter Hain

Yes, Hoya in Wrexham is to lose 200 jobs, although its sister company—which, I think, employs 220 people—is staying. It is moving jobs to Thailand, but it is keeping its UK base in Wrexham, where there is an excellent base for economic activity.

I think that there should be more recognition from Plaid Cymru that the Welsh economy outperformed the British economy as a whole last year. There was an estimated growth of 2.2 per cent., compared with the 1.8 per cent. forecast by British Strategies a few months ago.

Ian Lucas (Wrexham)

Thanks to its loyal Wrexham work force, Hoya Lens—that is the correct name— made a profit in the United Kingdom of £l¾ million last year. It paid its Wrexham work force back by making 240 of them redundant on Monday this week. Will the Secretary of State meet urgently with me to make representations to that company about the disgraceful way in which it has treated its work force, about the general rights of workers in the United Kingdom, about the road transport infrastructure in north-east Wales and about the future of manufacturing in the proud manufacturing base of Wrexham and the rest of Wales?

Peter Hain

Having gone to Wrexham on a number of occasions, including with my hon. Friend, to visit the manufacturing centre of excellence there, I confirm my own concern and criticism about the decision. I will certainly work with him to see what we can do and make it my business to ensure that the First Minister works with the other agencies concerned to ensure that those workers are provided with a good future.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley)

The part-time Secretary of State for Wales is complacent about the job losses at Hoya in Wrexham. It is not churn—it is burn as far as manufacturing jobs are concerned. The general secretary of the union Amicus has stated that 20 jobs are lost in manufacturing every hour of the day, and at that rate all manufacturing jobs will be gone within the next 25 years, so what action plan do the Government have to stop the rot and to expand the manufacturing base in Wales?

Peter Hain

The hon. Gentleman makes jibes about part-time but it was his party's policy at the last election to merge the Secretary of State for Wales's job with another post. In fact, according to the BBC website, it wanted to merge the position with that of the Leader of the House of Commons. As for part-timers, they are a bunch of moonlighters on the Conservative Benches. He should acknowledge that business confidence in Wales is now greater than anywhere else in the United Kingdom, and that our record on employment is better than that in the rest of Europe and the United States. He should start to support the economic powerhouses generating more jobs in Wales instead of continually attacking them.

Mr. Evans

I think that the part-time Secretary of State protests too much. He knows that manufacturing is a greater percentage of gross domestic product in Wales than it is in the rest of Britain, yet the Government are doing nothing to stop the rot. Instead, the Welsh Assembly is squandering vital objective 1 money, missing its own targets, and it may even have to give some of the money back, yet as manufacturing jobs disappear the number of people who work at the Assembly has gone up from 2,275 in 1999 to 3,451 today. The number of spin doctors is being doubled from three to six and £8,000 has been spent on advertising those useless £150,000 jobs for spin doctors. How many manufacturing jobs need to be exported abroad before the Minister fights as hard for their jobs as he did to get two jobs for himself?

Peter Hain

That comes from a party that saw more manufacturing bombed out than under the Luftwaffe in Wales. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] Yes I shall. I shall answer with facts instead of Tory myths. Unemployment is down 46 per cent. in Wales since April 1997. Wales has seen the biggest fall in unemployment over the past year of any of the UK regions. Employment in Wales has risen by 69,000 over the past year. There have been manufacturing losses but more manufacturing jobs have been created in parallel. The picture is of a buoyant Welsh economy meeting the challenges of the future and doing much better than many economies across Europe.

Mr. Evans

The part-time Secretary of State for Wales knows that there has been a net loss in manufacturing jobs. If it were the manufacturing of greasy poles that was in decline, I am sure that it would get the full attention of the part-time Secretary of State for Wales. He knows that there has been a net overall loss in manufacturing jobs—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. There is far too much noise. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Order.

Mr. Evans

The part-time Secretary of State for Wales knows that there has been a net loss—the unions are saying it and those who have lost their jobs have felt it. Will the part-time Secretary of State now urgently set up a taskforce involving representatives from manufacturing, business and the Welsh Development Agency to look at matters such as red tape, European directives, the climate change levy, national insurance business rates and the landfill tax? Why is business profitability in manufacturing the lowest since 1993, or is he so busy with his other part-time job that he simply does not have the time?

Peter Hain

The facts are that employment in Wales is at record levels, there are more business start-ups in Wales than anywhere else in Britain and business confidence there is rising. What the hon. Gentleman should do is to start supporting the Welsh economy, instead of continually attacking it.

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