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Manufacturing Industry

Volume 691: debated on Wednesday 17 March 2021

We have provided £2.75 billion in direct support for businesses in Wales during covid. The job retention scheme has been extended until September, and we are introducing a new super deduction to cut companies’ tax bills by 25p for every £1 they invest in new equipment.

A recent report by Grant Thornton stated that Brexit could cost Flintshire and Wrexham as much as £300 million a year. Manufacturing is vital to the future of north Wales, but numerous companies are telling me of the difficulties they are having exporting. Instead of saying that everything will be fine, when are this Government going to sort these problems out and get this moving?

I draw the right hon. Gentleman’s attention to the additional £5.2 billion we have provided to the Welsh Government and the £2.75 billion to businesses in Wales, with £1.5 billion in bounce bank loans and £503 million in coronavirus business interruption loans. This is all about jobs and livelihoods in the part of Wales that he represents so vigorously, and he should welcome that, as he should welcome the £20 million announcement this morning for the south Wales industrial cluster. There is good news, and he cannot dwell on the past in order to make political capital.

On 10 February, the Prime Minister said from the Dispatch Box that there would be a world-leading battery plant in Bridgend, but I think he meant the Vale of Glamorgan. It has been moved to Blyth because of investment from the Tory Government. The Secretary of State then decided to take to Twitter to praise the Prime Minister for announcing that the mythical battery plant was going to be in Bridgend. Could the Secretary of State set out when he will deliver a world-leading battery plant for the Bridgend county borough or, indeed, for the neighbouring Vale of Glamorgan, and when he will start bringing inward investment into the Bridgend borough? That would all be very welcome, because my constituents deserve a lot better than what the Secretary of State is currently not delivering.

I think that the hon. Gentleman’s question was probably intended for the First Minister in Cardiff, but I will do my best to answer it anyway. As he well knows from the Prime Minister’s statement, there is considerable investment going into Wales. There are some really encouraging job prospects, particularly around gigafactories and the like.

The hon. Gentleman can shake his head as much as he likes, but he fails to grasp that there are many millions and billions of pounds going into exactly these kinds of technology improvement in Wales.

Bridgend has lost the Ford factory, and we did not get the investment from Ineos that we were hoping for. For Bridgend and the wider area to move forward, the town needs regeneration in order to increase the attractiveness of the overall area for investment. Can my right hon. Friend outline what the Government are doing to help towns such as Bridgend?

Absolutely. I start by reminding my hon. Friend—not that I need to—that Bridgend is a priority 1 area for the levelling-up fund, which means that it has potential access, with his assistance, to significant sums. Each local authority will get £125,000 of capacity funding to make those bids to the central fund. I hope he will recognise that there is a real focus on exactly the kind of town and area that he represents as part of the levelling-up project, which will produce jobs and livelihoods in a way that has perhaps been difficult in the past.

Highly skilled workers in the aerospace industry across Wales, such as those at AIM Altitude, are now facing redundancy or even factory closure, as this sector will take years, not months, to recover. While overseas competitors are giving their companies support so that they can up production when the sector recovers, the UK Government still have not brought forward a specific aerospace package some 12 months after the pandemic started. Is the Secretary of State just going to sit there and watch these industries fold, or can he persuade his Cabinet colleagues to put in the long-term support that these high-value industries need?

The hon. Lady’s comments are not reflected by large companies, such as Airbus, whose judgment I trust in these particular circumstances. I simply repeat what I said in answer to an earlier question: the UK Government have provided £5.2 billion for the Welsh Government; £2.75 billion for businesses in Wales; another £1.5 billion in bounce back loans and £500 million in CBILS loans. If that is not an indication of how committed we are to this particular sector, which I absolutely recognise is going through an especially difficult time, I do not know what is.

But if we are going to retain these industries and rebuild for the future, then we need a comprehensive UK-wide plan. However, this Government have just shelved their industrial strategy, scrapped their advisory council and are now preparing to rip up their industrial policy, so when will the Secretary of State and his Cabinet colleagues develop a forward-looking, far-reaching UK industrial policy that will build on our fantastic skill base to guarantee the new green jobs of the future?

I disagree with the hon. Lady’s comments. She has referred to some process issues. We want to get process and bureaucratic issues out of the way and actually deliver money and prospects, jobs and investments to the places that need them the most. That is what the Government are committed to doing, and we have widespread support from industry in that ambition. As I said in answer to an earlier question, only this morning a further £20 million has been announced for the South Wales industrial cluster. Rather than talk about process, bodies and bureaucracy, we are actually doing real things.

Can I wish everybody celebrating a happy St Patrick’s Day today?

As my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith) has said, the Secretary of State will be more than aware of the complex challenges that coronavirus has presented to the aviation sector and the entire manufacturing supply chain. I hear what the Secretary of State says about Airbus, but sadly, General Electric and British Airways in my constituency of Pontypridd have had to make significant staffing cuts. This sector is crying out for financial support, but its pleas are falling on deaf ears, so will the Secretary of State therefore please update the House on his recent conversations, specifically with the Chancellor, on a sector-specific support package for Wales’s aviation industry?

The Chancellor has, I think, made it very clear how he is supporting every sector that has been so adversely affected by the coronavirus. In fact, I do not think there is a Government in the world who have done as much in financial support either for this sector or, indeed, other sectors or individual families. That has been to the huge credit of the Treasury and all those who have been part of the team that has been able to do that. The Office for Budget Responsibility forecast for economic recovery next year and the year after is a testament to that, and that should benefit this sector just as much as it does everything else.