Welsh Affairs

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 1:51 pm on 26th February 2009.

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Photo of Paul Murphy Paul Murphy The Secretary of State for Wales 1:51 pm, 26th February 2009

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered the matter of Welsh Affairs.

Before starting today's debate, I would like to extend, through Mrs. Gillan, the thoughts, prayers and sympathies of everyone in Wales, of all political persuasions—I am thinking particularly of Welsh Members of Parliament—to Mr. Cameron and his family at this difficult time for them.

You are a serious Welsh lady, Madam Deputy Speaker. Like you, I am glad to be present at this annual Welsh day debate. It is sometimes called the "St. David's day debate", but as hon. Members know the feast day of that saint is Sunday. Today is, in fact, the feast day of St. Isabel of France—rather appropriately, bearing in mind what might happen on the rugby field in Paris tomorrow. I am sure that we all send our best wishes to the Welsh rugby team for tomorrow.

Each year we take this unique opportunity to debate all that is Welsh. However, this year there is little doubt that our minds have to be focused on the significant economic challenges that all of us collectively face. Wales, along with every country in the world, cannot insulate itself from the worldwide economic problems. No one could have predicted the sheer scale and speed of recent events. This is no ordinary crisis, and it is clearly not the result of the usual cycle of domestic inflationary pressures. It is the first financial crisis of the global age.

What has changed since the United Kingdom recessions of the '80s and '90s is that it used to be thought that spreading financial risk globally would insure against it. Instead, however, the risk has impacted globally. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement earlier today has great relevance to that point.

Since the '80s and '90s, there is no doubt that the Welsh economy has been dramatically transformed. As I look back at last year's debate—as we get older, I suppose that we tend to look back—I remember that I spoke about Wales's record employment, the importance of the knowledge economy and the fact that the Wales of the future will be a small but clever country. The present economic crisis is hitting us hard, but we are starting from stronger foundations than ever before. The financial crisis has caused a world recession, with consequences that are hurting individuals, families and firms right across Wales. Government action on regional, national and international—and, indeed, local—levels is required to intervene and support our economy by helping people and businesses.

Our decisive action in October, to invest £37 billion to strengthen our banks and stop them collapsing, was vital for our economy—not for the sake of the banks, but, as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor said earlier, for the people and businesses in Wales and around Britain that rely on them. In January, we announced further measures designed to reinforce stability, to increase confidence and capacity in order to get credit flowing again. The pre-Budget report in November additionally provided a £20 billion injection for the economy, including targeted support for small businesses, a temporary reduction in VAT and support for homeowners facing difficulties. We calculate that approximately £1 billion has come to Wales because of that fiscal stimulus.

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