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Inward Investment

Volume 538: debated on Wednesday 18 January 2012

2. What recent discussions she has had with Ministers in the Welsh Government on inward investment in Wales. (89233)

I have had a range of meetings with Welsh Government Ministers and look forward to meeting the Welsh Government Minister for Business, Enterprise, Technology and Science on 6 February, when we plan to discuss, among other things, inward investment.

The right hon. Lady will know that RBS is blaming the lack of investors for its decision to pull the plug on a deal to save Peacocks, threatening thousands of jobs. My constituents cannot understand why they were expected to bail out RBS, but RBS is refusing to help them in their time of need, when their jobs are at risk. What is the right hon. Lady doing to talk to RBS about its responsibilities in this matter?

The moment I heard about Peacocks, I discussed it with the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, and the Welsh Assembly Business Minister has spoken to the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr Prisk). I have the greatest sympathy. I have shopped in Peacocks myself and I know how many jobs depend on it. It is important that we explore every possibility, but I am not going to stand at the Dispatch Box, as the hon. Gentleman knows, and make false promises. We will look at what we can do for Peacocks, but it will involve the Welsh Government, as he well knows.

Does the Secretary of State agree that inward investment played an important part in the Welsh economy and could do so again, but to have an impact Westminster and Cardiff must work together? Is it not disappointing that the Welsh Assembly seems to be very reluctant to talk with UK Trade & Investment about providing growth for the Welsh economy?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I was disappointed to see that in an interview on this very subject in an article in the Western Mail today no reference was made to working with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and UKTI. I have always advocated team Wales and that we should be working together. I was delighted to see that my noble Friend Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint, who is responsible for UKTI, has opened an invitation to every MP to get together with UKTI and host a seminar in the constituency, perhaps together with MPs from neighbouring constituencies. That is a great innovation where we can all work together, whether it is the Welsh Government, Assembly Members, MPs or Members of this House.

The worrying news about Peacocks hangs especially over the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan) where the headquarters stand, and the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Owen Smith) with its distribution centre at Nantgarw, but the ramifications are felt right across the country, including in my own constituency where many travel to work in those centres, but also in retail centres such as in Maesteg. Will the Secretary of State directly intervene and work to keep these 10,000 vital jobs, not least as the jobless number is now rising inexorably throughout the UK, the economy is flatlining and consumer confidence is plummeting?

The hon. Gentleman speaks powerfully, but he has been a Minister and knows that direct intervention would not be appropriate until more investigations have been made as to the reasons for this reported failure of Peacocks. Because so many jobs depend on this, if there are any redundancies or job losses, Jobcentre Plus will be there to provide individual support, as it has done in other instances. I assure him and all those beyond the Chamber whose jobs depend on Peacocks that this Government and the Welsh Government, and I am sure all of us together, will do what we can.

Given that up to now Assembly Ministers have been very slow off the mark to take action to help out with the terrible situation facing Peacocks, will the Secretary of State ensure that Ministers at both ends of the M4 pull together to try to put pressure on the banks to ensure that we can save this important Welsh company?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This is a very important company and there are many jobs to consider, as I have said before. I cannot say too often that we will look at doing all we can, but I cannot stand at the Dispatch Box and make false promises at this stage before we have further and better particulars and we know the outcome of the current negotiations that are taking place between Peacocks and the banks. She should be comforted by the fact that the Minister for Business, Enterprise, Technology and Science in the Welsh Government, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills in our Government and I have all already been in contact on this matter.