Does the Minister agree that manufacturing industry is the only source of non-inflationary, sustainable economic growth? Bearing in mind that the Secretary of State for Wales said that manufacturing
“will play an important role in bringing us out of recession”—[Official Report, 26 November 2008; Vol. 483, c. 710.]
what are the current Government and the First Minister in Wales doing to help manufacturing industry at this time?
The short answer is a heck of a lot. The hon. Gentleman is correct in saying that manufacturing is still important in Wales—it is—and the last available figures show that some 13 per cent. of the work force were employed in that sector. That is why we have seen central Government and the Welsh Assembly Government being so proactive to ensure that policies are in place not only to help manufacturing but, importantly, to plan for the future. It is absolutely vital to give the greatest possible assistance and investment regarding skills and training, so that when the upturn comes, we are well placed to ensure that we take the maximum benefit of it.
My hon. Friend will be well aware of the £1 billion investment being made and, I hope, announced very shortly in my constituency to build a gas-fired power station. During its construction phase, it will employ 2,000 people. Will he agree to meet me and Alstom—the main contractor—to ensure that we maximise the number of local Welsh people who are employed during the construction phase?
My hon. Friend is correct in stressing the importance of that utility initiative in his constituency, and I give a commitment that we in central Government will do everything possible, in partnership with the Welsh Assembly Government, to ensure that the processes to bring that about are fulfilled as quickly as possible. Specifically, I very much hope that I will be able to come down to his constituency in the very near future, and that is one of the facilities that we can visit and discuss.