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International Trading Opportunities

Volume 655: debated on Wednesday 27 February 2019

I start by congratulating coach Warren Gatland and captain Alun Wyn Jones on their most magnificent victory in Cardiff on Saturday. Speaking as a proud Englishman, it was a joy to watch the game. There is no better way to kick off Wales Week in London, in which we champion and celebrate everything that is great about Wales, including its rugby team.

The Wales Office works closely with the Department for International Trade on promoting Wales’s trading opportunities. From trade missions to his work with trade commissioners and sitting on the Board of Trade, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State works continually to create potential both for Welsh exports and for foreign direct investment projects to come to Wales.

I associate myself with my hon. Friend’s remarks, although I preferred the first half.

Many people will have used the M4 this weekend. Given the M4’s potential for promoting international trade in Wales, and indeed in the rest of the country, will my hon. Friend tell me what progress has been made towards honouring the commitment from the 1960s to build the M31 from Reading down to Gatwick Airport, via the M3?

I know that my hon. Friend is a great champion for that project, and rightly so. He is right to raise this important issue. The Department for Transport recognises the importance of cross-border connectivity. It has been gathering evidence to inform the second road investment strategy—RIS2—which will govern investment in England’s motorways and major A roads between 2020 and 2025. Economic growth is one of RIS2’s five stated key aims and will play a part in the appraisal of schemes. It will be published in 2019.

I join the Minister in congratulating the Welsh rugby team on their excellent victory. They are on course for the grand slam this year. The Minister will be aware that REHAU plastics in my constituency, which has traded internationally for more than 40 years, has announced its closure. It will now concentrate its business on the European mainland. Will his Department work with the Welsh Government, myself and local government to try to retain those important trading jobs? They are international jobs, and we need them on Anglesey.

Absolutely. I have a sneaking feeling that rugby might be a running theme throughout these questions. We recognise the importance of REHAU as an employer in the region and on Anglesey, and we will work closely with the hon. Gentleman and with the company to achieve the best possible outcome, most importantly for the important staff who work there.

There are many excellent international trading companies in north Wales, but in order to continue to thrive they need access to the most modern digital infrastructure. What discussions is my hon. Friend having with the North Wales Economic Ambition Board to ensure that growth deal funding is targeted towards improving digital connectivity?

My right hon. Friend is indeed a great champion of north Wales. I recently met that board to discuss its progress in finalising its proposition to utilise the £120 million that we and the Welsh Government each allocated to the deal. Digital infra- structure is currently an underpinning project, but we have set the region a challenge to go even further and to be even more ambitious about what the project can achieve for the region by working closely with a range of partners, including the private sector.

Jim Callaghan, a Labour Prime Minister, brought thousands of jobs to Ford in south Wales. Why is a Tory Prime Minister taking those jobs away?

I politely remind the right hon. Lady that we have record employment in Wales. Tough commercial decisions have been made in recent months, particularly by Hitachi. However, I point to the good economic news in Wales, particularly the record job numbers.

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi hapus for Friday, Mr Speaker. I pay my good wishes to Sam on the sad loss of Paul Flynn. This is the first chance I have had to do that. He was a great man. He actually stood in my constituency in 1974.

In January, Dyson announced the relocation of its HQ to Singapore, Hitachi ended its interest in Wylfa and Airbus said it was prepared to leave Wales in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The Government’s handling of Brexit has been described as a “disgrace” by Airbus’s Tom Enders and a “state of total confusion” by tycoon Sir Martin Sorrell. What message does that send to international investors and traders about trading opportunities in Wales?

If I might politely say so, the hon. Gentleman is being a little selective with his examples. I would point him to the employment figures. The real figures show that foreign direct investment last year created 3,107 new Welsh jobs, which is a 20% increase. I understand why he might want to paint a gloomy picture. Airbus has made it perfectly clear that it does not want no deal. It wants a deal, and the best thing that he and his party could do is support the deal when it comes before the House.