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Enterprise Zones

Volume 536: debated on Wednesday 23 November 2011

6. What recent discussions she has had with ministerial colleagues and Ministers in the Welsh Government on the cross-border economic implications of the development of enterprise zones. (81785)

I have regular discussions with ministerial colleagues and with the First Minister on various issues, including enterprise zones in Wales. It is vital that businesses investing in Wales are given the same or even better competitive advantages as businesses in places just across the border such as Bristol and Merseyside.

Given that enterprise zones not only create jobs but have a wider geographical impact on the supply chain with regard to the economy, does the Minister share my surprise at the procrastination of the Welsh Government in locating enterprise zones in Wales?

This is becoming a common theme. Although the enterprise zones have been declared by the Welsh Government, we have only a recent letter from the Minister for Business, Enterprise, Technology and Science of 22 November to Assembly Members, which says that the Department is currently working hard with colleagues in transport, planning and elsewhere to ensure that its enterprise zone policy can be delivered. We can only hope that it gets a wiggle on and gets those details out to businesses as fast as possible.

Blaenau Gwent, with high unemployment but great potential, includes an enterprise zone. I thank the Secretary of State for meeting developers who propose to build a £200 million race track there. She offered to speak to Ministers from the Treasury and from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills about that infrastructure plan and capital allowances. Following those representations, will she meet me to feed back on progress?

I am always happy to meet the hon. Gentleman, and I was pleased to meet him and the business people who are thinking of investing in Blaenau Gwent. There is a lot of work to be done on the project, which is exceedingly ambitious, but as the area has been designated by the Welsh Government as an enterprise zone for the automotive industry, I hope that good progress will be made. If any help can be given, I am always happy to see what I can do, and I will certainly be pleased to feed back to the hon. Gentleman.

Order. I apologise for interrupting the hon. Gentleman, but there is a considerable hubbub in the Chamber, which is very unfair for Members asking questions and the Ministers answering them. Let us have a bit of order and some self-respect.

Does my right hon. Friend share my regret that it is almost impossible to answer the question about cross-border implications, because there are no details other than the location and sectors for the Welsh enterprise zones?

It is increasingly difficult when relying on another Government to implement a policy, but I remain optimistic because I want the message to go out that Wales is open for business. Enterprise zones will give an advantage to businesses going into these areas and create jobs, and there are good forecasts for the number of private sector jobs to be created by 2015, so I walk in hope. I encourage the Welsh Government to do everything that they can, and I stand ready to help them.

The funding available for the Bristol enterprise zone is nearly as much as the entire amount for enterprise zones for the whole of Wales. How can the Secretary of State justify supporting that alongside the tax on trade and investment in Wales that the Severn bridge toll represents? Will she resist this massive investment at the doorway of Wales that would stop inward investment into Wales?

The amount given to the Welsh Government as a consequence of what is being spent on enterprise zones in England is calculated in exactly the same way under our Government as under the previous Government. The Minister in Wales has received £10 million towards enterprise zones, but she also has a budget of nearly £15 billion at her disposal, and she can decide how she spends that. I encourage the hon. Gentleman to encourage her to look at what she can do in those enterprise zones to encourage businesses.