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Economic Growth

Volume 735: debated on Wednesday 5 July 2023

This Government have put in place steps to deliver growth and to level up across the whole of the United Kingdom. The IMF now predicts that cumulative UK growth over the 2022-24 period will be higher than that in Germany and Japan, and the Bank of England made one of the biggest upward revisions to its growth forecast for the UK. In Wales, the Government have invested in two freeports and will guarantee at least one investment zone to support economic growth.

But the most recent data is not pretty reading as far as the Welsh economy is concerned. The Welsh economy still has not returned to pre-pandemic levels, unlike in England, and unemployment in Wales is going up, unlike elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Does my right hon. Friend share my concern about what is going on inside the Welsh economy under the Labour Administration in Cardiff? Does he agree that what we need is a laser-like focus on supporting growth, supporting business and unleashing all the opportunity and potential in Wales?

My right hon. Friend is correct. It is deeply disappointing that growth in Wales is now below pre-pandemic levels, whereas in England it is above pre-pandemic levels. The Welsh Labour Government need to ask themselves some difficult questions and perhaps stop concentrating on nanny state policies, such as the ban on meal deals, the 20 mph limit and the ban on new roads and start thinking about what they can do to deliver jobs—I do not mean the £100 million scheme to create a whole load of extra Senedd Members.

The Secretary of State will be aware of the announcement last week that has shocked the Bridgend communities about Zimmer Biomet and the suggestion of losing more than 550 jobs. I, along with my Senedd colleagues, have met the Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething. May I ask the Secretary of State to do all he can to make representations to the Business and Trade Secretary to encourage Zimmer Biomet to change its mind and keep the jobs in Bridgend and to grow from Bridgend to ensure that we keep these well-paid, highly skilled jobs into the future?

The hon. Gentleman makes a very useful and important point. Bridgend is a wonderful place in which to invest and do business, and the new freeport will make it even better in the vicinity. I have been in touch with the Department for Work and Pensions about that, but I am very happy to talk to those in the Department for Business and Trade about what further measures can be taken to encourage that company and others to take advantage of the wonderful working environment that is Bridgend.

On the 75th anniversary of our NHS, created by Welsh founder and Labour Minister Nye Bevan, may I thank, on behalf of Labour Members, all our NHS staff in Wales, past and present, for their dedication and public service?

Last week, the Department for Business and Trade published its report on foreign direct investment in Wales. Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating the Welsh Labour Government’s Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, on his success in delivering economic growth through attracting an additional 3,000 jobs to Wales in the past year?

I think the hon. Lady will be aware that both the Minister for Economy in Wales and the Department for Business and Trade work closely with embassies across the world to ensure that investors know about the enormous opportunities that exist in Wales. I hope she will agree with me that that is testament to the fact that, while we may have political differences, on the issue of foreign direct investment, the UK Conservative Government and the Welsh Labour Government both enjoy working constructively together.

I am pleased to hear the Secretary of State’s response. I am sure we can both agree that we want strong economic growth across Wales and the rest of the UK. The last Labour Government gave the go-ahead for new nuclear sites in 2009. Nearly a decade on, none is up and running, and it is now two years since Hitachi pulled out of the Wylfa project. Labour is ready to deliver new nuclear to ensure energy resilience, security and lower bills—[Interruption.] What have the Government been doing? When are they going to stop talking and start acting?

I am delighted that the hon. Lady has set out that the Labour party now supports nuclear power. It was not something that was evident to us when Labour was in opposition a few years ago. Labour had an opportunity over the 13 years it was in government to build nuclear power stations, but it is good that it has belatedly decided that it will support new nuclear power in Wales. I can assure her that I am happy to work with the Welsh Labour Government and anyone else who is interested in making sure that Great British Nuclear can take forward sites such as Wylfa, which is an excellent site for new nuclear.