Employment in Wales is at historically high levels, with 138,000 more people in employment in Wales since 1997. The increase in private sector employment in Wales has been three and a half times the increase in public sector employment.
The Secretary of State will know that Wales has a much higher proportion of public sector workers than the rest of the United Kingdom, and that unemployment there is rising. How does he account for that, and what will he tell voters in Wales tomorrow? Is it not the case that Labour is not working for those who are unemployed in Wales?
Unemployment is pretty stable, and employment continues to rise. Significantly, economic inactivity levels—which have been a curse of the Welsh economy—have been falling, especially in valley areas that have received the objective 1 funding delivered not by the last Tory Government, but by a Labour Government.
The hon. Gentleman should look at the latest CBI report, which shows that manufacturers in Wales have received the highest surge in order levels for more than a decade. Entrepreneurship in Wales is at an all-time high, states a report in The Sunday Times. Many businesses are doing well, and many people are starting up businesses in all areas of the economy in Wales. It is a great place to do business. All of that would be put at risk if there were an unholy alliance between the nationalists and the Tories in a Welsh Assembly coalition Government.
The fastest growing part of the UK economy is in the Deeside hub—the axis between north-east Wales, Chester and Ellesmere Port. As my right hon. Friend knows, that has occurred only because of the partnerships that have been created across the border. The recent fantastic announcement about Vauxhall Motors has protected the jobs of hundreds of people living in north-east Wales.
My hon. Friend is right: the integration of the north-east Wales economy with nearby areas again underlines how absurd is the nationalist policy of separatism in Scotland or Wales or any part of the United Kingdom. It is a crazy policy for jobs and it would put at risk all the success—
The official figures show that 48,000 manufacturing jobs in Wales have been lost in 10 years. Will the Secretary of State confirm that he will work with the Government in Cardiff, of whatever political complexion, to reverse this disastrous decline?
Obviously, as Secretary of State it is my duty to work with any Government in Wales of whatever political complexion, but it is important that I and my Labour predecessors have been able to work with a Labour Welsh Assembly Government that has provided unparalleled success in the economy, including in manufacturing—new manufacturers continue to be attracted to come to Wales and, as I have said, the CBI reports the best prospects for manufacturing for a long time. All of that would be put at risk if we were to have an unstable rag-bag coalition of the alternative parties, especially the nationalists joining with the Tories in an unholy alliance, which would put Wales’ success at risk.
If the Secretary of State has been so successful in working with the Labour Welsh Assembly Government, will he explain what Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs workers in Pembrokeshire will do when their jobs are axed, in a cynically timed decision, after these elections? Will he also explain why half the population in Wales cannot find an NHS dentist, and what NHS nurses and doctors will do when Labour closes hospitals, such as Withybush, Llandudno and Bronglais?
No hospital closures are planned of that kind. This is yet again Tory scaremongering—the Tories are joining with their friends the nationalists in doing that. What about the 8,000 more nurses that there are in Wales since the last election? What about the 500 more consultants in hospitals? What about the 1,700 extra teachers and the 5,700 extra school support staff and the 1,000 extra police officers? [Interruption.] The hon. Lady says, “What about waiting times?” Waiting times have plummeted since 1997, when we came to power and found the terrible Tory inheritance. The public sector in Wales is doing well and it will continue to improve. The Tory alternative is massive public spending cuts: £21 billion in total, £1 billion of which will fall on the Welsh budget.