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Mr. Caton: Will the hon. Gentleman answer the question posed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies)? Under an independent Wales, if Plaid Cymru was successful, how would it meet current public expenditure with a much lower tax take? We need an answer to that question.

Mr. Ruane: Where is the beef?

Mr. Thomas: Hon. Members will have to wait for our manifesto at the general election--[Interruption.] I recommend that the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Caton) reads the manifesto. He will see exactly what our policies are for the people of Wales--[Interruption.] We will certainly send a copy to the right hon. Member for Llanelli. He will need to read the Plaid Cymru manifesto, because he will need to know where his opposition is coming from.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) made the most powerful speech of the debate--with its combination of intellect and emotion. I pay tribute to him. The House will miss his voice--as a Member of this place for a quarter of a century, he has advocated policies in an impassioned way. That will be

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missed. The National Assembly's gain will be our loss, although I am sure that the Plaid Cymru Bench will be full enough--partly, at least, to make up for that.

The hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Smith) is no longer in the Chamber. He spoke eloquently on behalf of his constituents and expressed their anger at the closure in Ebbw Vale. All hon. Members have great sympathy with them. Plaid Cymru Members realise that Ebbw Vale and Blaenau Gwent are among the most deprived areas in Wales. Our motion does not seek to undermine that.

Although British Steel was privatised by the Conservatives, its merger with Corus was approved by the Labour Government. At the time, the situation in the financial markets was known; the Government must have known that the merger presaged large financial restructuring. There is Government responsibility. Although Corus wielded the axe, the death sentence was passed by the Government's economic policies.

I can do no more than read from a memo; it is internal to the National Assembly, but unfortunately, it fell into the wrong hands. It states:

That memo was sent to civil servants by the second most senior civil servant in Wales. It shows clearly that the Government have responsibility for what happened at Corus.

The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Mr. Livsey) made his usual measured and excellent contribution, although his party has partial responsibility for the actions of the National Assembly. Its members in Wales will be judged on that record.

The motion sets out the recommendations of the Select Committee, although our debate has been somewhat overshadowed by events at Corus--rightly so. In a recent report on manufacturing in Wales, the TUC referred to the haemorrhaging of jobs--that is clearly shown at Corus. The motion includes short-term and long-term prescriptions that have cross-party support. We are not actually asking the Government to do much more than note the motion. It would thus be delightful if Labour Members who represent Welsh constituencies could join us in the Division Lobby to show the people of Wales where their hearts are and where their intentions lie.

In the meantime, the Government make the lame argument that at least they are not the Conservatives. Thank goodness that in Wales we have Plaid Cymru to take on the fight from the Labour party at the next general election.

6.46 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. David Hanson): The debate has been interesting. I want to clear up one matter immediately for my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, South (Mr. Jones). We very much welcome the report of the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs. The Government will consider it and will respond to it in due course, so I do not want to pre-empt discussion of the report in this debate.

One of my hon. Friend's key points was about partnership. The Government are considering that idea; we support partnership between ourselves, the National Assembly and local authorities in Wales to ensure that we tackle social exclusion. I shall take lessons from no one

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in the House about social exclusion. I see it every day in my constituency--as my right hon. and hon. Friends do in their areas. Many of us came into politics to tackle social exclusion. The contribution of the Select Committee is certainly welcome, but we recognise those exclusion issues and we will take them on in due course.

There has been considerable discussion of the situation at Corus. My right hon. Friends the Members for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) and for Llanelli (Mr. Davies), the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd), the right hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley), my hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Smith), the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Mr. Livsey) and other hon. Members referred to Corus in their contributions. Last week's announcement at Corus was devastating for the individuals and communities affected. I live among steelworkers--the Shotton plant is close to my constituency. Many of my friends and neighbours work there.

There is no doubt that Corus has been facing difficulties. Trading conditions are difficult; the company has had to consider such issues. However, for the Government, I say that the response of Corus represents short-termism at its worst. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli pointed out, that response is defeatist; it is a short-term reaction, with no planning for the longer term.

Other manufacturing companies in Wales have taken a different stance. They have taken the long-term view, as my right hon. and hon. Friends pointed out. Toyota and Nissan, in recent weeks, and Ford at Bridgend today have taken decisions on investment in the United Kingdom that are not based on short-term issues.

The Corus decision does not reflect the excellent productivity gains made by the UK steel industry, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli pointed out. In 1999, UK steel output was 571 tonnes per man--compared with 543 tonnes in Germany and 534 tonnes in France. As has been noted, the Government and Corus should get round the table. Corus should reconsider its decision and work with the trade unions, the Government and the Assembly to make progress on the matter.

My hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent is not in the Chamber because he is meeting the Prime Minister--as is my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales--to try to bring some common sense to the matter. They want to discuss with Corus the issues that have been raised in the debate and show the company the correct way forward. Not one steelworker in Wales needs to lose his job. Corus should think again. The company and Corus should consider those issues.

Mr. Caton: Will my hon. Friend assure me that the discussion with Corus will move on? If we cannot persuade Corus to maintain production, it should allow the management and work force to takeover and run the plants themselves. The fact that Corus is frightened of competition suggests that the units can function perfectly well. The work force and management in Bryn Gwyn and Gorseinon in my constituency are considering that option. We must press Corus to allow that to happen, if it is not prepared to carry on production itself.

Mr. Hanson: I hope that Corus will consider those options. As the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire

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said, Corus should consider such issues. In fact, proposals have been put to it from several sources, including Llanwern. However, having attended, as a constituency Member, last week's meeting with Sir Brian Moffat, as did many of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I doubt whether Corus will consider those issues.

While dealing with Corus, I wish to nail an issue to the floor. In his speech, the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas) mentioned e-mails from the National Assembly. Discussions are under way, but no final decision has been taken on the issues mentioned in the e-mail, which does not represent the final view of officials, let alone those of Ministers or Assembly Members. The Treasury has not been involved in those discussions. I ask the hon. Gentleman to work with the Government to ensure that we deal with Corus on a united front, as we should.

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones: I welcome the Minister's assurance that we have moved on from the information given in that e-mail. Will he assure the House that if the Treasury provides money for Wales as a result of those job losses, it will be in addition to the Barnett block and will not be set off against, or top-sliced from, our current budget? Will it be additional money--yes or no?

Mr. Hanson: The hon. Gentleman would expect me to say that the discussions are on-going. We need to work for a solution for Corus and Wales as a whole.

It is not all bad news in Wales today, as many of my hon. Friends have said. In the past two months, the creation of many new jobs has been announced, including 264 jobs at Wireless Systems International in Cwmbran; 110 new jobs at Pure Wafer in Swansea; 100 new jobs at IQE (Europe) in Cardiff; and 83 new jobs at Surface Technology Systems in Newport. BAE Systems has created many new jobs near my constituency, with Government support. Today, Ford has announced more than 500 new jobs at Bridgend, bringing the production of a new generation of Jaguar V6 engines to Wales. The employment action zones in Preseli, Merthyr and north Wales have been important in bringing employment to Wales.

Ford's £240 million investment in Bridgend is particularly welcome because it shows that the Welsh economy and the British economy are open to major foreign investments, which support and bring employment to this country. That challenges the issues that Corus has brought to the table about the impact of Government policy on the steel industry. If that massive investment can go ahead, I feel confident that other investment will also go ahead.

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