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Welsh Businesses

Volume 515: debated on Wednesday 8 September 2010

6. What recent discussions she has had with ministerial colleagues, the Welsh Assembly Government and CBI Wales on support for Welsh businesses. (13138)

I have regular discussions with many ministerial colleagues to ensure that we support Welsh businesses. I have already met with CBI Wales twice, and I have quarterly meetings planned with the CBI along with other business organisations in Wales, so that the issues affecting individual companies are fed directly into coalition Government policy.

Over the last 10 years, Wales became the poorest part of the United Kingdom under the Administration of Labour both here at Westminster and in Cardiff bay. A recent Oxford Economics report suggests that over the next five years Wales will create only 4,000 new jobs. Given that Wales will have the same macro-economic conditions as every other part of the UK, is not that a sad indictment of the Administration in Cardiff bay and the legacy of Labour?

My hon. Friend has experience of the Welsh Assembly Government and the Welsh Assembly, so I will leave his comments to stand. I agree with him that the situation that we have inherited is shocking across the UK, and it is especially sad in Wales because gross value added per head is the lowest out of all the UK nations and has been that way since 1998. However, I want to be optimistic about the Welsh economy and I have recently visited some very successful businesses that are investing in Wales and looking at creating jobs, including Corus, Sharp and Ultrapharm—the latter is producing wheat-free healthy lifestyle products for Marks and Spencer. I have been impressed by the number of jobs that are starting to appear in the Welsh economy, and I want to encourage more businesses to come and do business in Wales.

With the public sector cuts inevitably having a disproportionate effect on the Welsh economy, what countervailing measures is the right hon. Lady arguing for with the Treasury to stimulate private sector growth in Wales?

I am sad that the hon. Gentleman has to ask such a question, but he knows that he has to because the last Government left this economy in tatters, and it has fallen to this coalition Government to put the economy back together again. As he well knows, we are providing an environment in which business can do business in the UK. We are reducing corporation tax by a penny each year, which will give us one of the lowest corporation tax regimes in the European Union, we have reduced the taxation regime for small companies, and we have incentives on national insurance for entrepreneurs setting up businesses. I can assure him that we are doing everything that we can to create a healthy environment in which businesses and private business can prosper.

What assessment has the Minister made of the impact on private businesses in Wales of the loss of public service contracts and purchasing power caused by redundancies, cuts to rises in benefits and the proposed new VAT regime?

The hon. Lady knows that the deficit needs to be tackled immediately, and it was her Government who left us in this dire financial situation. Of course, I cannot pre-empt anything that might happen in the comprehensive spending review, but I recognise the vital role that public sector contracts play in the prosperity of businesses across Wales, and I know that the economy is heavily dependent on the public sector, so I have already made representations to the Treasury, and will continue to do so. However, I am afraid that the financial mess we are in was the responsibility of her party.