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Employment Trends

Volume 608: debated on Wednesday 13 April 2016

The labour market in Wales has never been stronger. Although we recognise the challenges facing the Welsh economy, there is a lot to celebrate. Unemployment has fallen to its lowest since 2008 and the number of people in work in Wales is at an all-time high.

I welcome the Minister to his position. He is quite rightly focusing on the issues affecting steel production at Port Talbot, but what assessment has he made of the decision by Aston Martin to build its new DBX car at St Athan?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight that success story. It is a success story for all of the United Kingdom. It is an investment in St Athan, in Wales and in Britain, creating 750 highly skilled jobs in Wales and the west midlands, and I am very grateful to the Prime Minister and to Michael Fallon for the work that they have put into achieving that success.

I think that the hon. Gentleman was referring to the Secretary of State for Defence, the right hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Michael Fallon). Some name was mentioned, but it does not mean anything in the Chamber.

Since 2012, Jobs Growth Wales has helped 15,000 people into meaningful employment. Given that youth unemployment is falling faster in Wales than in the UK as a whole, does the Minister agree that the UK Government could learn from the Welsh Labour Government in this regard?

It is interesting to note that an independent audit of Jobs Growth Wales has highlighted that some 80% of its spending has been inefficient. However, it is important to point out that successful jobs creation in Wales is dependent on co-operation between the two Governments, which is exactly what we saw in relation to Aston Martin.

11. My hon. Friend will know that tourism is a major employer. Will he take this opportunity of paying tribute to Andrew R. T. Davies, the leader of the Conservatives in the Welsh Assembly, and to Anthony Pickles for coming up with the idea of bringing the Prince of Wales’s regalia to Wales? Will he also praise the Prince of Wales for following up on that idea? What discussions is the Minister having with the Welsh Government to promote this?

(904370)

I will of course join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to the leader of the Welsh Conservatives. It is important to highlight the importance of tourism to the Welsh economy, and bringing the regalia back to Wales is the right thing to do. I am certain that the castle of Conwy in my constituency would be delighted to host them.

Does the Minister think that his colleagues’ plan to sack hundreds of civil servants in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in Cardiff will help or hinder employment trends in Wales?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question, but she will be aware that it would be inappropriate for me to comment on a leaked report. The key thing that we need to be aware of is that wherever in Wales we look—north, south, west or east—we are seeing employment growth.

14. I welcome my hon. Friend to his new position and congratulate him on his new job. Does he agree that the reductions to business taxes announced in the Budget and the ability of people to keep more of their own earnings will create an environment in which the private sector can invest and in which employment opportunities can come to Wales in the same way as they do to the rest of the country?

(904373)

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. The tax cuts that have been put in place by this Government since 2010 are to be welcomed. Of particular importance in the Budget was the announcement on small business rates, and I call on the Welsh Government to follow the example of the Westminster Government to ensure that Welsh small businesses have the same advantages through their business rates as do those in England.

The right hon. Lady asks an important question. There is more work to be done and, again, there is a need to work together on this issue. However, I would highlight the fact that more and more people with disabilities are now in work—152,000 more in the past 12 months and over 300,000 more in the past 24 months. We need to ensure that the successes we are seeing across the country are replicated in Wales.