Employment Levels

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 24th February 2016.

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Photo of Rehman Chishti Rehman Chishti Conservative, Gillingham and Rainham 11:30 am, 24th February 2016

What recent assessment he has made of trends in the level of employment in Wales.

Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham Conservative, North West Norfolk

What assessment he has made of trends in the level of employment in Wales; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns Government Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales

Employment in Wales is now at a record high, with more people than ever before having the security of a pay packet to provide for themselves and their family. Aston Martin has been mentioned. That is testimony to the significant investment that Wales is attracting.

Photo of Rehman Chishti Rehman Chishti Conservative, Gillingham and Rainham

As a former student of Aberystwyth University, the oldest and the best law school in Wales, I have been pleased to see that more than 80% of employees in mid-Wales are now employed by small and medium-sized enterprises. Will the Minister join me in acknowledging the significance of that thriving community to the economy in Wales?

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns Government Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales

My hon. Friend is right and he is a true champion of Aberystwyth and of mid-Wales. He will be pleased to hear that there are 3,500 additional small businesses in that area, with an extra 5,500 people going out to work every day since 2010 as a result of the economic stability we have brought about.

Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham Conservative, North West Norfolk

Does the Minister agree that the key to further enhancing employment in Wales is diversification and innovation in the rural economy, just as is happening in East Anglia? What specific measures does he have in mind to increase enterprise in Wales’s more remote areas?

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns Government Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales

My hon. Friend is a great expert on rural issues in relation to the success in his constituency in North West Norfolk, and I pay tribute to that. Employment growth in rural Wales has outperformed employment increases across the whole of Wales, which demonstrates the dynamism and the broad base on which those policies are being implemented. There is a range of initiatives such as the British Business Bank, the start-up loan scheme and the new enterprise allowance scheme on a UK Government basis, and we are keen to work with the Welsh Government to try to diversify further.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Labour, Delyn

Now that it is official Government policy to support membership of the European Union in the referendum, will the Minister and the Secretary of State produce a report that shows the benefit of the European Union to jobs and investment in Wales?

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns Government Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales

Our position is clear. The Government support the deal that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has negotiated. Of course, Europe is important to our exporters and businesses, but it is also important because of the money repatriated from Europe to Wales and the United Kingdom through cohesion funding.

Photo of Mark Williams Mark Williams Liberal Democrat, Ceredigion

As Aberystwyth’s MP, I reiterate the comments of Rehman Chishti. If we are serious about creating more jobs, and we are, that means real investment in real infrastructure. Why, then, has the Government’s mobile infrastructure project been such a failure and delivered so little for rural Wales?

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns Government Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales

The hon. Gentleman raises this issue persistently. As a result of representations from him and others, I met Openreach earlier this week, as well as Broadband Delivery UK. I have plans to meet the mobile operators shortly to discuss what more can be done to improve the mobile infrastructure. With the 4G auction, at least 95% coverage will be gained in Wales. That contrasts significantly with the 3G auction and the low percentage that Wales was left with last time.

Photo of Guto Bebb Guto Bebb Conservative, Aberconwy

Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating my constituent, Mr Sean Taylor, on the further expansion of his company, Zip World? In four years this company has gone from no staff to 220 staff, revitalising the economy of rural north-west Wales, to the benefit of employment and diversification of the local economy.

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns Government Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales

Many Members will appreciate the difficulties that zip wires can present, but I pay tribute to my hon. Friend, who is a true champion of zip wires and the success and diversification that they bring not only to his own constituency, but to Arfon. We are keen to see the further support and diversification of that business in his area.

Photo of Susan Elan Jones Susan Elan Jones Shadow Minister (Wales)

Following the excellent news about Aston Martin, I pay tribute to that company, to our dynamic pro-business Welsh Labour Government and to everyone who was involved in securing the deal. As we are discussing trends in employment, and with around 200,000 jobs in Wales dependent on our EU membership, what does the Minister think would happen to trends in employment if we were daft enough to leave the EU?

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns Government Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for recognising the efforts that the UK Government have made to attract investment, particularly with the major Aston Martin investment in my constituency. I think those comments should be underlined. Of course, the Government do not plan to leave the European Union; the Prime Minister has made the case, having negotiated a strong deal, and we are confident that the British people will support that when the referendum comes.