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Defence Training Academy

Volume 462: debated on Wednesday 4 July 2007

3. What recent discussions he has had with the First Minister on the impact of the defence training academy on the south Wales economy; and if he will make a statement. (146374)

I have regular discussions with the First Minister on a range of issues, including the defence training academy, which is the single biggest investment in the history of Wales. It is the result of a strong partnership between our Government in Westminster and our Assembly Government in Cardiff, and the result of the work of colleagues such as my hon. Friend, who has worked tirelessly in promoting the merits of St. Athan.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Is he satisfied that everything is being done to ensure that the south Wales economy gets the maximum benefit from that record-breaking investment? In particular, does he remain confident that the road transport infrastructure for the academy will be in place by the time of its opening in 2012 or 2013?

It is important that the road access is in place, and I hope that it will be. I know that the Welsh Assembly Government and Transport Ministers are working hard on that, along with others. There will, of course, be a full transport impact assessment as part of the planning procedure relating to that important investment. My hon. Friend is absolutely right that the project will be a huge boost to the local economy. It is estimated that it will bring 5,500 jobs, and 1,500 jobs during the construction period. The spending input will mean about £58 million extra for the local economy over the life of the project, which is a long period.

Given that the right hon. Gentleman stood at the Dispatch Box at the beginning of March and criticised Plaid Cymru in the strongest terms for its hostility to defence-related investment in Wales, will he explain why his party in Cardiff bay is negotiating a grubby deal with Plaid Cymru, and will he tell the House what steps—

Does the Secretary of State agree that all-party support for the project was vital to securing it for Wales, and will he agree to work with the Department for the Economy and Transport Ministers in the Assembly, whether they belong to my party or his, so that we can get the maximum benefit to which the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan (John Smith) referred?

Of course we must all pull together to make sure that the project is a spectacular success for the south Wales economy, and not just for the constituency that my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan (John Smith) so ably represents. Of course all parties must work together. Speaking of who might be the Minister with responsibility for the economy, at least we were not negotiating a grubby deal with the Tories.

I have the hon. Lady’s name down to ask a question now. Perhaps the Whips will keep me informed of what question the Front-Benchers want dealt with. I call Mark Pritchard.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker; I welcome this opportunity. In addition to the problems that the road infrastructure projects are causing for the future of the defence training academy, the Secretary of State will know that many of the defence training personnel from RAF Cosford, whom he hopes will relocate to RAF St. Athan, are unable to do so because of the differential in house prices. How does he think that that will affect the future of the project?

Clearly, it is important that those who are transferring to St. Athan bring their skills and their opportunities. It is a great place to live and to work. The whole area is a wonderful place to live. The regeneration of south Wales following the decline of coal mining and heavy industry provides a marvellous location for people to work and to enjoy a quality of life that is among the highest anywhere in Britain.

Whatever one’s private thoughts about Welsh nationalism may be, it is surely right that there has been universal support for the deal in St. Athan from all the political parties, including the independent Member of Parliament—

Order. What has that got to do with the matter before us? Nothing. It has nothing to do with it.