Industrial Development

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th April 1995.

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Photo of Mr Barry Jones Mr Barry Jones , Alyn and Deeside 12:00 am, 24th April 1995

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what further measures he will take to encourage industrial development in Wales. [18722]

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Secretary of State for Wales

I shall pursue many policies to ensure a strong and vigorous manufacturing industry in Wales. They will include raising education standards; encouraging more engineers and apprentices and ensuring that the strengths of Wales for investment are understood at home and abroad.

Photo of Mr Barry Jones Mr Barry Jones , Alyn and Deeside

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his help, but may I urge him and his Cabinet colleagues to redouble their efforts to help my beleaguered constituents who work for Raytheon in north-east Wales? Will be confirm that, together with the Welsh Development Agency, he stands ready with cash and grants for the Raytheon board if it is prepared to alter its strategy to close down that great factory? Does he also agree that such a closure would be bad for Britain and for Deeside? At the very least, the service station should be on track until the end of the century. Surely he will help my constituency, because Britain, Deeside and Wales cannot afford to lose that company. I urge him to help quickly.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Secretary of State for Wales

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that that is an important industry and facility. As he knows, I shall do everything in my power to try to keep that company with us, but unfortunately the omens are not good. I agree that regional selective assistance and WDA money are available—as I explained to the company's executive management when they visited Wales recently—for suitable investment projects, should the company wish to develop that facility or to put it to a different use. I again urge the executive management to look at other ways in which they can use the talents of the people and the facilities available for other components, at sub-assemblies and for servicing. I shall continue to argue that case right up to day when the company finally implements its decision, in the hope that it will change its mind. Raytheon has a good work force, who deserve better.

Photo of Mr Wyn Roberts Mr Wyn Roberts , Conwy

I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend mention education in his original reply. Will he take all possible steps to ensure that there are plenty of young entrants to manufacturing industry, because he will know that some companies in south Wales in particular have complained about inadequacy in that respect?

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Secretary of State for Wales

I agree with my right hon. Friend. He will be pleased to learn that, following meetings at the local training and enterprise college, Panasonic now reports more interest in its job opportunities. We are working closely with TECs and others to ensure that there are more apprentices in manufacturing, as we require them. That also means better results at school, which, as Opposition Members will know, I am keen to encourage. I am pleased to say that the Minister with responsibility for education in Wales will shortly be able to announce to the House that the budget prospects for education in Wales are nothing like as bleak as those portrayed by the Labour party during the settlement.

Photo of Mr Dafydd Wigley Mr Dafydd Wigley Leader and Party President, Plaid Cymru

What on earth does the Secretary of State for Wales think he is doing, siding with Shropshire and with the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) against the Development Board for Rural Wales when it is trying to attract work to Wales. Surely he realises that Shropshire has enough incentives, by virtue of its motorway link-ups, and that we are fighting against regions with objective 1 status, such as Merseyside, in trying to attract jobs to Wales. Does he not realise that his job is to stand up for Wales and to attract to Wales as many jobs as possible, from wherever they come, and not to side with authorities on the other side of Offa's dike?

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Secretary of State for Wales

That was synthetic anger if ever I saw it.

As the hon. Gentleman well knows, that is exactly what I do, and I proudly stand up for Wales. It is a first-class place for investors to come to. However, we have a common policy in Merseyside and in north-east Wales, because it does not make sense for the British taxpayer to pay grants to move a business from one side of Offa's dike to the other in either direction.

If a company wishes to change its premises or to expand, or seeks a new location, I hope that the Welsh agencies will be the first knocking on the door with an offer that it cannot refuse, but we shall not waste British taxpayers' money on moving a company that is happy where it is, and we certainly do not want the English authorities to do that to our businesses.

Photo of Mr Ron Davies Mr Ron Davies , Caerphilly

I assure the Secretary of State that my hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) enjoys the full support of Opposition Front-Bench Members in his campaign on behalf of Raytheon, and we wish the Secretary of State well in any intervention that he can make on its behalf.

Does the Secretary of State realise, however, that he would enjoy far greater credibility if he intervened where he had the power to intervene—for example, to save the hundreds of aircraft maintenance jobs that are threatened by the Government's policy at RAF Valley in Anglesey? Does he realise that, as a result of the Government's disqualification of the in-house bid there, market testing has degenerated into forced privatisation, and that there is every likelihood that jobs will be exported from Anglesey in exactly the same way as they will be exported from Raytheon? How on earth can the Secretary of State justify the double standards that he is applying there?

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Secretary of State for Wales

Like the hon. Gentleman, I am worried about the position arising from the RAF Valley decision. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Jones), is in discussions with the Ministry of Defence, and we have asked the training and enterprise council to make absolutely sure that as many people as possible in that district either have the skills or can be trained to gain the skills, so that there is the opportunity of employment for them. Like the hon. Gentleman, I wish something to be salvaged by way of employment for local people, and my hon. Friend and I shall try to do that.