Between 1979 and 1983, 102 projects were recorded. Between 1984 and 1987, 202 were recorded and, since 1987, 271 have been recorded. The recorded value of inward investment in Wales since 1984 is £4 billion and the number of new and safeguarded jobs now exceeds 100,000. We intend to build on those excellent results in future years.
I welcome the successful figures which my right hon. Friend announced. Does he agree that all that would be put at risk if we were to return to the bad old days of excessive strikes and secondary picketing, not to mention the TUC's campaign of hostility towards inward investment in which it has described those companies as alien culture—a comment still not denounced by the Opposition, who have given a nod and wink of tacit approval?
I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. The favourable tax regime for companies and individuals is a great attraction, as are the work force and the industrial relations harmony which exists in Wales. When the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) was a Minister in the second half of the 1970s, the number of working days lost per thousand employees was 1,183 a year. Between 1986 and 1990, the figure fell to 174. I now announce that we have the best figures for the past 100 years since records began. In Wales only 17 working days were lost per thousand employees. That would be placed in jeopardy if we were to go back to the bad old days of industrial strife and of the winter of discontent under the previous Labour Government.
Will the Secretary of State advise the Welsh Development Agency, in its efforts to attract new investment, to be a bit more circumspect about whom it assists? Mady Gerrard, formerly of New York, when trading as GG International Ltd., left behind a trail of debts and then went into liquidation. With the full backing of the WDA, she is now back in business. Is that fair to all the small companies, especially in south Wales, to which she owes a lot of money?
I wish that the hon. Gentleman would not cite one example in trying to prove his case. He referred to small companies. I am pleased to be able to announce this afternoon a package of 41 projects by small companies throughout Wales, involving the investment of more than £11.7 million, leading to the creation of more than 400 new jobs. That shows that it is not just major inward investment projects that deserve and receive help. The WDA and the Welsh Office also give outstanding support to small businesses.
If the Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Jones) would take off their rose-coloured spectacles for just a moment, they would see that a wave of bankruptcies is passing through Wales—like Sherman marching through Georgia. Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the recession is now going so deep and cutting so far into the heart of Welsh industry and employment that it will take us several years and a change of Government to recover?
Not at all, and the hon. Gentleman should not talk down the Principality. Wales is weathering the worldwide recession far better than many other parts of the United Kingdom and the world. I am especially pleased to be able to announce today a £5 million investment by Smiths Crisps in Swansea. That is just another example that shows how well Wales is doing in terms of inward investment.
Is the Secretary of State aware of the disappointment felt in my constituency at his Department's decision to refer the Hamilton oil project to a public inquiry? Does he accept that many of my constituents—shipyard workers, in particular—feel that the Government have caved in to pressure from one or two well-heeled environmentalists, putting their demands above the needs of the long-term unemployed in Birkenhead and the surrounding area? Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that he might be able to counter some of those fears if he expedited the public inquiry? Is he in a position to tell the House how quickly the public inquiry is expected to report?
I cannot comment on the merits of the proposal, which is formally before me for decision under planning law. I recognise, however, that the proposal raises issues whose significance is not merely local, and there have been a considerable number of representations both for and against it. In those circumstances, the holding of a public inquiry offers the fairest, speediest and surest way of dealing with the decision. I am happy to announce that arrangements are now in hand to hold an inquiry commencing on 12 May. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the final decision on the application will be issued as soon as possible after the inspector's report has been received and considered.
I echo the point made by the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field).
Is not my right hon. Friend's forceful presence in the Cabinet the main reason for inward investment in Wales? Does he agree that, if devolution has the consequences that the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) predicts, there will be no voice in the British Cabinet arguing for the kind of conditions that have produced massive inward investment in Wales?
I agree with my hon. Friend. I believe that Wales gains considerably through the office of Secretary of State and from having a seat in the Cabinet. I know that the Liberal Democrats have conceded that their proposals for a Welsh assembly would mean the abolition of that post. It is about time that the Labour party came clean and explained why the Leader of the Opposition, having once been so implacably opposed to devolution for Wales, is now in favour of it. The position of Secretary of State is a great asset in securing inward investment, and it is about time that the Labour party came to terms with the results of their devolution proposals.
We all celebrate the success of inward investment, which is crucial for Wales. We also remember that it was a Labour Government who first created the Welsh Office and then the Welsh Development Agency.
Will the Secretary of State concede that the recession is one of the deadliest—and of the utmost seriousness—in respect of the Welsh economy? Whether on the M4 or the north Wales expressway, there appears to be a march to the dole with a loss of more than 2,500 jobs already this year. I hope that the Secretary of State is aware of the redundancies announced by employers in Wales, including British Steel. British Aerospace, Allied Steel, Ford, BP, Ferranti, Marconi, Ferrodo, National Power, Trecwn and Brawdy in Pembroke, Royal Worcester, Christie Tyler and South Wales Electricity. Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that he has no policy or strategy or, in Government, the will to deal with those pressing problems? He will lose parliamentary seats in Wales because he has no policies to tackle unemployment.
As the hon. Gentleman points at me and says that I will lose, I must inquire gently why the Labour party has not yet been able to put up a candidate against me in my constituency. As for the hon. Gentleman's doom and gloom, he is rapidly becoming well known as the agony aunt for Wales. He is an amateur merchant of doom and his comments were a forecast of the kind of problems that Wales would have if ever the Labour party were to win the general election.