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Manufacturing Industry

Volume 496: debated on Wednesday 15 July 2009

1. What recent discussions he has had with Ministers in the Welsh Assembly Government on the performance of manufacturing industry in Wales. (285606)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has regular meetings with the First Minister on the Welsh economy. We are working closely with the Welsh Assembly Government to ensure that the Welsh manufacturing sector receives all the assistance necessary for it to emerge from the global economic downturn well placed to meet the challenges of the future.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the good news for my constituents in Cardiff, North? Quotient Bioresearch is to take over the business of GE Healthcare, thus saving 75 highly skilled jobs, many of them belonging to my constituents in Whitchurch. In addition, the company is to invest up to £15 million in a new facility in Cardiff. Is that not a vote of confidence in manufacturing in Cardiff and the rest of Wales?

Indeed it is. I congratulate my hon. Friend on the hard work that she has done on that and other issues in her constituency. I am aware of the announcement and I welcome the fact that £15 million is to be invested and 75 posts are to be saved. That shows that we are wholeheartedly committed to helping people and businesses in Wales through the economic downturn, and that we always put the Welsh economy on the road to recovery—unlike the last Conservative Government, who let tens of thousands of young people become a generation of lost workers. We are being proactive in helping the economy to get through these difficult times, and that is the truth.

Is the Minister aware of the excellent work conducted by the support unit at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, together with Lord Mandelson’s office? It helped to secure a very substantial loan from the Royal Bank of Scotland so that a new manufacturing operation called Regal Fayre can be set up in the town of Montgomery. Will the Minister pass on my thanks, specifically to John Stewart in that department? Will he also praise the Royal Bank of Scotland for living up to its requirement to support new business? Finally, may I, through the Minister, ask whether the Secretary of State for Wales will consider opening that new plant, which is a real success story and will lift the town of Montgomery out of recession?

The hon. Gentleman has mentioned some very good news; I have seen his early-day motion 1877 on the subject. The Secretary of State has been very involved and has made what appear to have been effective representations. I say on my right hon. Friend’s behalf that I am sure he would be delighted to open the facility, which is another clear example of how the Government are being proactive to make sure that in every part of Wales, in every sector of the economy, we are doing everything possible to ensure that we get through this economic downturn as quickly as possible.

Last month, when I asked the Secretary of State why France, Germany and even Italy had delivered on their automotive assistance programmes while our £2.3 billion scheme, which was announced back in January, had not paid out a penny, he said:

“The money is coming through”—[Official Report, 10 June 2009; Vol. 493, c. 777.]

In a written answer to me last week, a Business Minister confirmed that still not a penny in loans or loan guarantees had yet been given to support the industry. Is a grand announcement followed by seven months of inaction this Government’s idea of being proactive and providing real help now?

Let us be clear about the effectiveness of the measures being taken. The car scrappage scheme is being very effective; it is having an effect on the automotive sector and a positive impact on British Steel and Corus. It is extremely useful. We also need to recognise that we have—[Interruption.]

Order. I apologise for having to interrupt the Minister. A practice is growing up in which Opposition Front Benchers ask a question and then witter away from a sedentary position. That is not acceptable, and I do not want it to happen again.

The reason the Opposition are wittering away, as you so correctly put it, Mr. Speaker, is that they do not like the answers. The answers show clearly what the Government are doing effectively in intervening in the Welsh economy. We have mentioned the car scrappage scheme; let us also not forget that the future jobs fund will create 150,000 jobs across the United Kingdom as a whole—about 7,500 in Wales—with an investment of about £50 billion. That is effective. There is also the ProAct scheme, from which 63 companies and nearly 4,000 workers benefit, and the ReAct scheme. All those measures contribute materially to improving the lot of the people of Wales and improving the Welsh economy.