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Training and Employment

Volume 496: debated on Wednesday 15 July 2009

4. What recent discussions he has had with the First Minister on measures to promote training and employment in Wales. (285609)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have regular discussions on training with Ministers, including the First Minister. Investment in training is key to ensuring future prosperity in Wales and placing Wales at the heart of economic recovery.

Does my hon. Friend believe that the future jobs fund could be used for a suggestion by my constituent Gerald Hughes to set up a scheme in which young people would take part in training and preparing for floods by dealing with flood defences and by learning how to fill sandbags and help people whose homes are flooded? Will my hon. Friend meet me to see whether that can be taken up in other areas of Wales as well?

I thank my hon. Friend for her question. She is absolutely right that the future jobs fund is extremely important to the UK, and especially Wales. There are more than 200 bids nationally, and we will examine the Welsh bids closely in the very near future.

My hon. Friend makes a good suggestion with regard to young people, because it is extremely important that we do everything possible to ensure that young people benefit from as many Government schemes as possible. There is a clear contrast between the commitment that we have given to young people and what happened under the previous Administration, when young people were forgotten about and a generation was literally ignored.

Finally, my hon. Friend mentioned that flood prevention schemes are important. I know that that certainly is the case in her constituency because of the River Loughor. Her suggestion would be a good example of using the future jobs fund for the needs of young people and the particular needs of her constituency.

Does the Minister agree that employment and training will be badly affected in Abergavenny as the result of the closure of Hill college? Will he speak to the Welsh Assembly Government about reinstituting the money that they have slashed from Coleg Gwent’s budget, which has brought that closure about?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, discussions have taken place as far as that college is concerned, but a tremendous amount of investment has taken place in further education in Wales. There have also been a number of schemes, such as the ReAct programme, that have fitted in well with what has been delivered by further education colleges in Wales. Such co-ordination and symmetry is absolutely essential to ensuring that education expands to benefit the population as a whole, and we must do our utmost to ensure that there is training and retraining for all people.

The Minister will know that work has already started on the £1 billion, 2,000 MW gas-fired power station at Pembroke, in my constituency, and that there will be up to 2,000 construction jobs. A local firm, Dawnus, has already won a contract and is employing local labour. Will he join me in encouraging other Welsh and UK contracting companies to bid for work on the power station, so that we maximise the number of local jobs and UK jobs for UK workers?

I very much agree with my hon. Friend that, the fact that a new power station is being built in his constituency is a massive vote of confidence in the local economy. Indeed, that very point was made in The Economist only a few weeks ago. On his specific point about employment, there is a marvellous opportunity for the work force of the area and the region. We in the Wales Office are certainly doing our utmost to ensure that local people derive the greatest possible benefit from that investment. To highlight that fact, I know full well that my hon. Friend had a meeting with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on Monday to discuss the matter. He can be assured that we are fully behind him on it.

The defence training project at St. Athan would bring huge opportunities to Wales. Will the Minister confirm that the Secretary of State is co-ordinating with the Ministry of Defence and that the pre-contract agreement letter will be issued to the preferred bidder this week, on time on 17 July—or will the Government delay that?

The hon. Lady is correct to stress the importance of that investment to Wales. It will be the largest single investment ever in the Welsh economy. The defence technical college will be of tremendous benefit, not only to the Welsh economy but obviously to the United Kingdom armed forces. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State fully recognises the importance of that; he has had discussions with the Secretary of State for Defence and they are going forward together. The hon. Lady can rest assured that we recognise the importance of the project for Wales.