HC Deb 05 November 2003 vol 412 cc779-80
1. Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore)

What recent discussions he has had with the management of Sony in respect of jobs in Wales. [135528].

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

I spoke to Sony's senior management in Bridgend last week. They assured me that they are still actively recruiting against a full order book. The plant in Bridgend has been upgraded to support digital operations, which will continue to play a key part in Sony's business worldwide.

Huw Irranca-Davies

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. He will know that the commitment of Sony to my constituency over many years, in terms of both investment in the work force and investment in the wider community, has been substantial and much treasured. We are seeking to give reassurance to my constituents and those employed at the factory, and I believe that things will turn out very well for them. May I also thank my right hon. Friend for the personal interest that he has shown in this matter? That does not reflect the view of those who criticise him as a part-time Secretary of State; he has shown a full-time interest in this issue—by contrast with some Opposition Members who might have part-time contracts.

Mr. Hain

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and I agree that Sony is one of the jewels in the crown of the Welsh economy. It is very encouraging that it is to go from strength to strength. It is particularly encouraging that it is investing heavily in digital technology, in which it is one of the worldwide leaders. My hon. Friend can be proud of that, as Sony is based in the Bridgend area.

Mr. Mark Prisk (Hertford and Stortford)

Despite the news from Sony, may I draw to the attention of the Secretary of State the report from the CBI in Wales, which says that the outlook for manufacturing jobs in Wales "remains bleak"? Does he agree?

Mr. Hain

No, I do not, and I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is quoting the CBI accurately. If he looks at The Western Mail—a paper that I am sure is not on his regular reading list, since it is a Welsh paper—he will see that it reported yesterday that the manufacturing sector is growing at its fastest rate for almost four years. The truth is that employment across Wales has been rising, compared with the miserable Tory years of high unemployment. More jobs are being created in Wales now than for a generation, there are more business start-ups, and there is greater economic stability and optimism across the sector.

Ian Lucas (Wrexham)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Sony is not the only Japanese jewel in the crown in Wales? Within the last week, Sharp Manufacturing—another Japanese company—has decided to site its European production of photovoltaic cells in Wrexham. Is not that the real picture of Wales that we need to project to the outside world? What is my right hon. Friend going to do to promote the use of photovoltaic cells by industry and in the domestic sector?

Mr. Hain

I was delighted to receive a delegation, led by my hon. Friend, of Sharp's senior managers, who are investing in this exciting new plant to create one of the leading manufacturing centres of photovoltaic cells in Europe. That is a sign that more and more companies—Japanese and others—want to invest in Wales, because they know that Wales is really buzzing economically. Its economy is going from strength to strength, and it is one of the fastest-growing regional economies in Britain outside the south-east of England. That is testimony to the excellent leadership being provided by the Welsh Labour Assembly Government and by the Labour Government here at Westminster.

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