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Inward Investment

Volume 525: debated on Wednesday 16 March 2011

5. What recent discussions she has had with ministerial colleagues on measures to attract inward investment to Wales. (45735)

7. What recent discussions she has had with ministerial colleagues on measures to attract inward investment to Wales. (45737)

Clearly, with so many of our companies in Wales having strong links with Japan, and given that some of our inward investment comes from there, I am sure the whole House would like to join me on behalf of Wales in sending our deepest condolences for the appalling tragedy.

I have regular discussions with ministerial colleagues on measures to attract inward investment to Wales. Last month I hosted a trilateral meeting between the First Minister, the Deputy First Minister and the UK Minister responsible for trade and investment to discuss how we can work together to bring much-needed investment to Wales. We will be meeting again shortly.

Does the Secretary of State agree that Wales has much to offer business, as the Welsh Affairs Committee heard yesterday from Sir Terry Matthews? Can she also tell us what she is doing to work with the Welsh Assembly to bring inward investment to Wales?

Although it is too early to prejudge the outcome of the Committee’s inquiry on inward investment, a clear message on skills emerged in oral evidence last week. That message was consistent with the conclusions of the earlier cities report. Certainly, I will see how the UK Government can work with the Welsh Assembly Government to encourage more inward investment, because Wales is a great place to do business.

In the last couple of weeks, a number of strong foreign trade and investment visits have been made to Wales, particularly from India and the US. Does the Secretary of State agree that those are vital for Wales, and that we should maximise the opportunities that they present?

It is very easy to agree with my hon. Friend on that, because we need to maximise the opportunities that such visits present. Wales’s share of UK inward investment projects halved in the past decade from 6% to 3% and we need to act quickly to reverse that. It is therefore important to work across Government Departments in Whitehall, together with the Welsh Assembly Government, so that we have a cohesive programme for attracting inward investment.

With unemployment reaching a 17-year high this morning—up to 8.7% in Wales—where is the Secretary of State’s plan for growth?

I am tired of Members talking Wales down. The message that has just gone out from the hon. Gentleman is not a positive one. The unemployment figures were announced this morning. Although I have given them a cautious welcome because the economic inactivity rate continues to fall, I want people to know that we have a willing and able work force and that Wales is open for business. It is about time the hon. Gentleman joined me in talking Wales up.

It emerged in the Welsh Affairs Committee’s visit to Germany that vital inward investment opportunities were not being taken up by UK Trade & Investment because of the abolition of regional development agencies in England. Does the Secretary of State accept that this may represent a major opportunity for Wales and if so, what is she doing about it?

I had a particularly good meeting with the First Minister, the Deputy First Minister and the Minister responsible for trade. I am keen that we should have some joined-up government, because we have not been taking advantage of all the opportunities that exist. After the Assembly elections we shall have to take that forward with the new Welsh Assembly Government, and I know the current Welsh Assembly Government have been looking at rationalising their offices abroad and having a more comprehensive programme—one that is engaged with UKTI, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Foreign Office, and the Wales Office. Together, we will have a stronger presence.