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Inward Investment

Volume 541: debated on Wednesday 29 February 2012

You may have noticed, Mr Speaker, that some Members are wearing leek ties or daffodils in advance of St David’s day. May I take this opportunity to wish everybody a happy St David’s day for tomorrow, 1 March?

I am committed to working with UK Trade & Investment, the Welsh Government and others to improve the level of inward investment that is attracted to Wales. Last week’s report by the Welsh Affairs Committee highlights a number of important issues. In particular, the need for joint working between this Government and the Welsh Government is very clear.

Does my right hon. Friend welcome the Welsh Affairs Committee report and agree with it that the Welsh Government should engage more positively with the UK Government to attract investment to Wales?

I can reassure my hon. Friend that I welcome the sterling work of the Welsh Affairs Committee, as I am sure do all Members, given that it was a unanimous report. It highlights areas that must be addressed by the UK Government and the Welsh Government. Recently, I met Nick Baird, the chief executive of UKTI, to discuss the response. I have said right from the start of this Government that I want to encourage closer working between the Welsh Government and the UK Government, particularly in the light of some of the disappointing figures in Wales.

General Dynamics has celebrated 10 successful years in my constituency. Will the Secretary of State congratulate the Labour Government, who were instrumental in bringing General Dynamics to my constituency?

I have always said that politicians of all parties should co-operate to bring inward investment to both the United Kingdom and Wales. I have great pleasure in congratulating any individuals who were involved in bringing General Dynamics to Wales. I have visited General Dynamics on many occasions and it is an excellent company. I am pleased to concur with the hon. Gentleman’s sentiment.

Does the Secretary of State believe that restoring the Welsh Development Agency brand would reignite inward investment to Wales?

I think that—[Interruption.] The personal remarks from a sedentary position have put me off my stride temporarily, even though they were not about me. My hon. Friend is absolutely right that branding is exceedingly important. There is no doubt in the UKTI report by the Welsh Affairs Committee that the WDA was a great brand for Wales that was well known across the world. I know that many people would like to bring it back. I think that is worth considering, although perhaps in another form. There is no doubt that branding is an important aspect when marketing Wales.

I join the Secretary of State in marking St David’s day. Will she join me in marking Wales’s magnificent triple crown victory over England on Saturday? I am sure she will have no trouble in doing so.

Since coming to office, how much private sector inward investment have the Secretary of State and her Government helped to bring to Wales?

What a magnificent victory that was. It brought a tear to a girl’s eye to see the team doing so well. As far as the match on Sunday goes, Cardiff were robbed and they played very well.

Inward investment and that side of business life are devolved to the Labour Welsh Assembly Government, as the right hon. Gentleman should know, given that he was an architect of the legislation. Since coming into government, I have met delegations from Taiwan, China, Turkey, Japan and Russia to promote Wales as an investment decision. Indeed, I launched the first ever trade mission of Welsh businesses to Bangladesh, led by the Wales Bangladesh chamber of commerce. I stress to the right hon. Gentleman that there needs to be a partnership between the UK Government and the Welsh Government because when making inward investment decisions companies look at the UK as a whole. We need to give them reasons to go to Wales.

The Secretary of State’s replies are immensely courteous, but I am afraid that they are a bit long.

I thank the Secretary of State for her reply, but remind her that in the 15 months since the Government spending review, the UK economy has grown by a miserable 0.2%—15 times less over the same period than the Office for Budget Responsibility’s 3% growth prediction in June 2010 after Labour left office. That collapse has massively damaged inward investment and jobs in Wales. Is it not high time that the Government changed course and followed the lead of the Labour Welsh Government with their Jobs Growth Wales scheme, which provides jobs for 4,000 young people in Wales? Where the Tories are hammering Wales, Labour is standing up for Wales.

I have to say that I will take no lessons from the right hon. Gentleman, particularly given that, since we came into government, we are investing £1 billion in electrifying the great western main line and putting £60 million into broadband. It is important that both Governments work together. If the First Minister goes on a business delegation and brings back business to Wales I will be delighted, but I think that we should work together—and, for the right hon. Gentleman’s information, we will be sticking to plan A.