Economic Policy

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 27th February 2013.

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Photo of Alison McGovern Alison McGovern Opposition Whip (Commons) 11:30 am, 27th February 2013

What recent assessment he has made of the effects of the Government’s economic policies on Wales; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Labour, Neath

What recent assessment he has made of the effects of the Government’s economic policies on Wales; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Wayne David Wayne David Shadow Minister (Justice) (Political and Constitutional Reform)

What recent assessment he has made of the effects of the Government’s economic policies on Wales; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Susan Elan Jones Susan Elan Jones Opposition Whip (Commons)

What recent assessment he has made of the effects of the Government’s economic policies on Wales; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of David Jones David Jones The Secretary of State for Wales

Before answering the question, I wish the House dydd gwyl Dewi da or a very happy St David’s day for Friday.

The Government are committed to delivering the plan that has cut the deficit by a quarter and given us record low interest rates and a record number of jobs, benefiting families and businesses in Wales. Moody’s decision to downgrade the UK Government bond rating is a reminder of how important it is to fix the country’s finances and a warning to those who think that we should simply borrow more.

Photo of Alison McGovern Alison McGovern Opposition Whip (Commons)

What is good for the economy of north Wales is good for Merseyside and what is bad for that economy hurts us too. The fact that 1,240 more people are in long-term unemployment in north Wales than a year ago does not give me hope for the economy of my constituency. What is the Secretary of State going to do about that?

Photo of David Jones David Jones The Secretary of State for Wales

The hon. Lady is entirely right that the economies of north Wales and Merseyside are inextricably linked. The Government have created more jobs since we came to power. The rate of employment has increased by 1.6%. She should bear it in mind that the Welsh

Assembly Government are responsible for economic development in Wales. They should therefore align their policies closely with those that this Government are pursuing.

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Labour, Neath

Will the Secretary of State admit that his economic policies are failing Wales disastrously? His new jobs are a mirage. One new worker in 10 is underemployed. They are part-timers seeking full-time work or temporary workers who want a proper job. There are underemployed breadwinners who are struggling to put food on the table and heat their homes. That is contributing to the 200,000 children who are living in poverty in Wales. Why does he not apologise for that shameful record?

Photo of David Jones David Jones The Secretary of State for Wales

I will take no lessons from the right hon. Gentleman, whose party oversaw the trashing of the British economy and was responsible for the mess that we are having to clear up. The Government have created more than 1 million private sector jobs since we came to power, against the international trend, and we are proud of that.

Photo of Wayne David Wayne David Shadow Minister (Justice) (Political and Constitutional Reform)

Will the loss of the triple A status of the British economy be bad or very bad for Wales?

Photo of David Jones David Jones The Secretary of State for Wales

The loss of the triple A status is a stark reminder of how important it is to develop sensible policies to fix the economy. I remind the hon. Gentleman that Moody’s recognises that the UK’s creditworthiness remains extremely high and points to the strong track record of fiscal consolidation. Were it not for that, we would be on a negative outlook, rather than a stable one.

Photo of Susan Elan Jones Susan Elan Jones Opposition Whip (Commons)

I am glad to see that the Secretary of State is reading from a script today. No doubt, he is not trusted to make off-the-cuff comments again. I wish him a dydd gwyl Dewi hapus. What will life be like from April, after dydd gwyl Dewi, for the 170,000 working families who will lose their tax credits thanks to his Government, who prefer to give the money to millionaires?

Photo of David Jones David Jones The Secretary of State for Wales

After April, many more families in Wales will benefit from historically high levels of employment and lower taxes. I remind the hon. Lady that since we came to power, 1.1 million people in Wales are paying less tax and 109,000 people are paying no tax at all.

Photo of Jonathan Evans Jonathan Evans Conservative, Cardiff North

What recent assessment has my right hon. Friend made of the prospects for the Welsh house building industry?

Photo of David Jones David Jones The Secretary of State for Wales

The house building industry is extremely important in Wales and a major driver of economic recovery. I was therefore disappointed to read today the comments of Steve Morgan, the chairman of Redrow plc, Wales’s largest building company, who says that the Welsh Government’s housing policies are potentially “catastrophic” for the industry, with the new regulations made in Cardiff likely to add £11,000 to the cost of a three-bedroom house. At a time when Welsh builders need work and Wales needs more homes, that cannot be right. I consequently urge the Welsh Government to align their policies with those of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns Conservative, Vale of Glamorgan

Although unemployment in the Vale of Glamorgan is well below the national average, Barry still needs to attract private sector investment. Ten years ago, Barry was left out of the assisted areas map, which sadly has led to its increased decline. Will the Secretary of State work with the Welsh Government to ensure that Barry receives assisted area status this time around?

Photo of David Jones David Jones The Secretary of State for Wales

The Wales Office is in discussion with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Welsh Government about the assisted areas map for 2014 to 2020, but the decision on which sea areas are awarded assisted area status will be determined by the Welsh Government, subject to criteria set by the European Commission. I am sure they will listen to what my hon. Friend has to say.

Photo of Glyn Davies Glyn Davies Conservative, Montgomeryshire

No coalition Government policy has a greater economic impact on Wales than increasing the spending power of the poorest through raising the tax-free allowance. Will my right hon. Friend tell the House how many people the coalition Government have lifted out of paying tax in Wales over the past two years?

Photo of David Jones David Jones The Secretary of State for Wales

As I have just mentioned, 1.1 million people in Wales are paying less tax as a consequence of policies pursued by this Government, and 109,000 are paying no tax at all. That must be good news for the people mentioned by my hon. Friend.

Photo of Roger Williams Roger Williams Liberal Democrat, Brecon and Radnorshire

The Welsh economy benefits from students from developing countries attending our excellent universities. Following the Prime Minister’s visit to India, will the Secretary of State join our universities in telling students from India, China, Malaysia and Indonesia that Welsh universities are open and that they would be welcome to study there?

Photo of David Jones David Jones The Secretary of State for Wales

Higher education is a major export earner for Wales and, of course, for the United Kingdom as a whole. During his recent visit to India my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made it clear that there is no arbitrary limit on the number of students who can study in the UK, provided they have the necessary qualifications and can speak the language. They are more than welcome to come to the UK.

Photo of Owen Smith Owen Smith Shadow Secretary of State for Wales

Last week the Joseph Rowntree Foundation warned that Wales faces a decade of destitution as a result of policies pursued by this Government, and the Welsh Government said that £600 million is being taken out of the pockets of ordinary Welsh people. Is the Secretary of State telling the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues what people are saying about his Government in Wales, or is he just there to cheerlead for policies that are hammering his country?

[Official Report, 28 February 2013, Vol. 559, c. 7-8MC.]

Photo of David Jones David Jones The Secretary of State for Wales

If this Government were to pursue the policies advocated by the Labour party and try to fix a debt crisis simply by borrowing more, the plight of the individuals whom the hon. Gentleman mentions would be infinitely worse. So far we are providing 109,000 additional jobs for the people of Wales, and we are reducing their tax bills and doing our best to ensure that they get sustainable private sector jobs. The hon. Gentleman has no answer to that.