Before I answer my hon. Friend, I am sure that the House will want to join my right hon. Friend and me in expressing condolences to the family of the right hon. Lord Walker of Worcester, whose death at the age of 78 was announced earlier this morning. A distinguished Member of the other place and a former Secretary of State for Wales, he was a good friend to the Welsh people.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I are committed to attracting more inward investment to Wales, as we believe it will be a key driver for future economic growth.
First, may I associate myself with what my hon. Friend said about Lord Walker? May I also take the opportunity to welcome my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to their new responsibilities and to wish them well in the challenges that lie ahead?
Given the recognition even by the First Minister both in an interview on “The Andrew Marr Show” and during the Welsh Labour conference this year that there are not enough private sector jobs in Wales, does my hon. Friend agree that success depends on driving up private sector jobs in the Principality in the future?
Yes, my hon. Friend is entirely right. The private sector is the key to future growth in Wales, which is why yesterday’s Budget announced a major package of corporation tax reform that is aimed at making Britain—and, of course, Wales—one of the most competitive parts of the G20. In particular, the exemption of up to £5,000 of employer national insurance contributions for each of the first 10 employees, which applies outside London and the south-east, will be of benefit to Wales.
May I associate myself with the condolences expressed to the family of the late Lord Walker and also congratulate the right hon. Lady and the hon. Gentleman on their appointment to their posts?
Yesterday, there was a recognition by the Government of the need to grow economies outside the south-east of England. We have argued long and hard about the overheating of the south-east and its cost to the north of England and Wales. Will the Minister consider the idea of either regionalising corporation tax according to gross value added or devolving it altogether to the Welsh Assembly so that the needs of business can be met and real support provided for it?
I am glad to hear that the hon. Gentleman welcomes the announcements in yesterday’s Budget. The announcement of the exemption of up to £5,000 of national insurance contributions for new employment outside London and the south-east will certainly be of benefit; to that extent, it is a major departure, which I am sure that the entire House will welcome.