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Volume 611: debated on Wednesday 25 May 2016

The labour market in Wales is going from strength to strength. Last week’s figures delivered a hat-trick of good news for the Welsh economy: employment is up to a new record high, unemployment is down to its lowest level since 2008, and the number of people on the claimant count continues to fall.

Do not the Minister’s figures show that the Government’s welfare reforms are working in Wales and helping employment for ordinary people?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I recently visited Cardiff with the Minister for Employment and it was truly inspiring to hear the team at the Cardiff jobcentre highlight how universal credit and the flexibility it offers is encouraging people back to work.

The Minister will have seen this week’s Treasury assessment of the impact of withdrawal from the European Union on the UK economy. Could he give us his view of the impact of withdrawal on the Welsh economy?

The right hon. Gentleman is well aware of my position on this issue. I believe quite passionately that the Welsh economy is stronger for being part of the European Union. Whether for our manufacturing industry, our agriculture industry or our small businesses, I think the stability and certainty of being part of the European Union are good for Wales.

The unemployment level in Cardiff North is at a record low of 1.7%. Does the Minister agree that to support this trend and keep unemployment down, the new Welsh Government have to deliver on infrastructure promises such as the M4 relief road and the south Wales Metro, towards which this Government have given hundreds of millions of pounds?

My hon. Friend has been a great champion for the capital city of Wales since he was elected to this place. The £500 million contribution of the UK Government to the city deal in Cardiff will be essential for employment, growth and the continued success of Cardiff, but we need to keep up the pressure. The question marks over the M4 relief road are a barrier to growth in south Wales, and my hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise his concerns about those delays. [Interruption.]

Order. A great many people in Wales will be attending to our proceedings, and I must also inform the House that today we are visited by the eminent figure Cardinal Charles Bo from Rangoon in Burma. We want to impress him not only with the quality of our interrogation but with the decency of our behaviour, so a little less noise would be helpful.