I would like to take this opportunity, in the last Welsh Question Time before the general election, to pay tribute to the Welsh Members who have announced their intention to stand down. All eight right hon. and hon. Members have served their constituencies with distinction and played a vital role in making the case for Wales, as I know they will continue to do outside this House. We wish them all the very best.
Across the UK there have never been more people in work. In Wales there are 41,000 more people in work since the election, but we recognise that the job is not yet done, which is why we must stick to our long-term economic plan, which is starting to bear fruit for Wales.
May I associate myself with my right hon. Friend’s comments on the departing Members?
In my constituency unemployment has fallen by 27% year on year, and it has fallen by over 40% since the height of the recession, a situation that is replicated across Wales. Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating the small businesses the length and breadth of Wales that have contributed to the jobs-based recovery, and will he assure me that the policies put in place by this Government will continue if he remains in post after 7 May?
I absolutely agree that it is businesses across Wales, and particularly in north Wales, that are leading the economic recovery, creating the jobs that are making such a difference to the lives of families up and down Wales. What puts that at greatest risk is the prospect of a Labour Government with no vision or plan for the Welsh economy.
The unemployment figures in my constituency have been coming down for the past 15 years, with the exception of the recession years between 2008 and 2012, but many of those jobs are zero hours, part time and for agency workers. I have written to the Secretary of State about the prospect of between 200 and 300 jobs being lost at 2 Sisters. Will he meet me and a delegation from the company, because it is important to the Welsh and UK food industries?
I absolutely will meet the hon. Gentleman, who knows that I take a great interest in job prospects in Ynys Môn, and we will look into the situation in more detail. I caution him against peddling a gross caricature of the Welsh economy, because less than 3% of Welsh workers are on contracts that could be described as zero hours. Opposition Members are quite wrong to peddle this gross caricature of what is a business-led recovery that is bearing fruit.
My hon. Friend makes an important point. He knows that I meet Welsh Government Ministers frequently to discuss how we can secure the economic recovery for Wales, because it is a shared enterprise across the two Administrations: they know the efforts that we have made to create a strong foundation for a business-led recovery in Wales, and we need them to play their part in helping to bring unemployment down across Wales.
May I begin by wishing you a belated happy St David’s day, Mr Speaker, and all Members of the House and by adding my thanks to all the Welsh Members of all parties who are retiring, but particularly my right hon. Friends the Members for Torfaen (Paul Murphy) and for Neath (Mr Hain), both distinguished former Secretaries of State who have served Wales extremely well?
We have heard an impressive array of statistics from the Secretary of State this morning, but will he set aside the spin for one moment and tell us what has really happened to the jobs market in Wales on his watch? How many of those new Tory jobs in Wales are on zero-hours contracts and pay a pittance in wages?
Let us remind ourselves of what we inherited in 2010. Under the previous Labour Government, unemployment across Wales had increased by 80%, youth unemployment had increased by 75% and, worst of all, long-term unemployment had increased by more than 150%. That is a scandalous record on jobs in Wales. I am proud to be part of a coalition Government who have created the right foundations for a business-led recovery to turn that around.
I think workers in Wales are heartily sick of this Tory propaganda. The truth is that of the 100,000 new jobs in Wales, as the Office for National Statistics said last week, 90,000 are zero-hours contracts paying, on average, £300 less per week than full-time jobs. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies said this morning, the average family incomes of workers in Wales have declined under this Government. Why does the Secretary of State not say the one thing he can to workers from Pwllheli to Pembrokeshire that would give them hope: vote Labour?
If the hon. Gentleman thinks that is any kind of boon for the Welsh economy, I point him to the opinion poll conducted by BBC Wales which this morning shows that a majority of voters across Wales, even in the Labour heartlands—from Rhondda to Cynon Valley, from Caerphilly to Pontypridd—prefer my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to remain as leader rather than the Leader of the Opposition.