The Government recognise the high importance of supply chains to the manufacturing and engineering sectors in Wales, both of which are significant components of the Welsh economy.
Does the Minister agree that small and medium-sized enterprises are a key part of the economy, both in Wales and England, and that the Government are absolutely right to focus on making sure they are attached to these supply chains, to develop their products and services further?
My hon. Friend is entirely right to highlight the mutual dependence of supply chains that emanate in England and Welsh manufacturing industry, and vice versa. In fact, Airbus accounts indirectly for about 135,000 jobs. The Welsh Government, to whom economic development is devolved, should be keen to foster those supply chains and, for that purpose, should be working very closely with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
On Friday, I visited the Orb works in Newport, which, thanks to a very large investment in the supply chain by Tata, is now producing world-class electrical steel, which is good news for the work force and for manufacturing in Newport. Steelmakers in Wales are still experiencing a subdued market, however, as yesterday’s news showed, so what more are the Government doing to help steelmaking in Wales?
The Government are very closely engaged with the steelmaking industry via UK Trade and Investment, and I would reiterate the point that, given the news we heard yesterday, it is extremely important that the Welsh Assembly Government should work closely with UKTI to foster that industry.
Does the Minister agree that one of the major challenges facing the Welsh economy is the deficit in exports generated in Wales and imported goods and services from other states, as well as from within the UK? What discussions is the Minister having with Cabinet colleagues and the Welsh Government to expand and diversify the Welsh export base—in particular in manufacturing, once a great strength of the Welsh economy?
The hon. Gentleman is entirely right to point that out. Over the next few weeks there will be an enormous opportunity for Welsh industry in the shape of the British business embassy, which exporters and importers from all over the world will be attending. I understand that the Welsh Assembly Government are now engaging, albeit tentatively, with that embassy, but I urge them to do more.