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The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Mr. Williams) makes an important point. There is an argument, for example, that we should be involving finance companies that deal with the car industry. That is superficially attractive, but we must bear in mind that that most cars nowadays86 per cent., I thinkare not made in Britain. In a sense, we are financing other countries by doing that, although that is perhaps an
over-simplification. It is not an easy issue. However, his general pointthat we must somehow encourage people to buy carsis valid.
Lembit Öpik: The Secretary of State is aware that Flowform in Welshpool has shut rather suddenly and Stadco in Llanfyllin is planning to lay off 106 workers, in both cases as a direct result of the companies to which they supply car parts reducing their business. What can the Government do to support those jobs, or does the right hon. Gentleman think that we will just have to find re-employment in other sectors for the individuals who are losing their jobs?
Mr. Murphy: The Government can help in a variety of ways not only companies, but the people who need retraining in the course of the job itself or, if the business unfortunately goes under, training for other jobs. There is a variety of schemes. If the hon. Gentleman looks at Real help now, he will see at least 30-odd schemes that can help people in different ways. Ultimately, of course, some companies will not survive, but that might well happen in other times too. The question then is whether there are alternatives for people.
I know that it is not particularly easy in rural Wales because of the nature of the communities there, but it is important always to ensure that, whatever happens, we help the person by retraining and re-skilling or by finding them another job. That is why I touched on the extra money that the Department for Work and Pensions is putting into Jobcentre Plus. There are still roughly 20,000 vacancies in Wales. Of course, they do not always fit in terms of geography and type of job when a company goes under, but it is worth remembering that there are jobs out there that we need to tap into.
Mr. Crabb: The Secretary of State is arguing that there is a unique partnership at work between central Government and the Welsh Assembly Government to protect Wales as best we can from the global economic crisis. Does he share my concern that all the statistics and data coming out of Wales at the moment show that job losses, company failures and the downturn are just as bad in Wales as right across the UK? If so, what does he think is the value of all the extra schemes that he has spent his time talking about?
Mr. Murphy: If things are worse in Wales than elsewhere, it is much more important to have more schemes to help people, not least schemes such as ProAct. That scheme is uniquely Welsh, partly because the money that has come into it from European objective 1 and convergence funding came uniquely to Wales as a consequence of the British Government negotiating that deal, and partly because that deal is delivered to the people of Wales through the Welsh Assembly. That would not have happened elsewhere.
There is a strong case for people in Wales looking to their directly elected representatives in Cardiff, as well as here, to help out. We are able to have our summits and to listen to people in a way that perhaps could not happen in a country of 50 million people, but can happen in a country of 3 million, and that gives us the opportunity to have that free flow of information between us. There is also the possibility of having very localised summitsalmost every local authority in Wales is thinking about an economic summit of its own, and some have already held them. In Newport, in my own authority in
Torfaen, in Flintshire and in Anglesey, the local community is looking at how it can help itself in different ways. Local authorities can help considerably to alleviate difficulties in the local area.
Mr. Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con): The Secretary of State has been regaling the Chamber with tales of the work that the Government are doing to try to help preserve jobs in private sector entities, but would he reassure the House that he has put in the maximum effort for Government-owned agencies? I am thinking of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which has been determined to press ahead with the closure of the Wylfa nuclear plant, despite the vigorous efforts of the local MP, the hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Albert Owen), who is in his place. He has tried to intervene with the Secretary of State to keep that power plant going to preserve jobs in the area.
Mr. Murphy: I understand that there has been an announcement today on the extension of Wylfa, but I have worked closely with my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn on the issue, and the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. Dunne) makes a valid point. We have to keep on talking vigorously to all the agencies that are in a position to engage and deal with employment in Wales and he can rest assured that we are doing precisely that.
David T.C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): I am very grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way; he is being generous. Could he reassure people in my constituency who have heard a rumour, which I hope is completely incorrect, that the original Severn bridge is suffering from a certain amount of degradation and that there might be plans to close it? Could he assure the House that that is not the case at all, and that the community of Chepstow is safe and will always be able to travel to Bristol across that bridge?
Mr. Murphy: I cannot give a reassurance about rumours, but I will certainly take the issue up with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport and find out whether there is any truth in the rumours that are obviously going around the town of Chepstow. That is the first I have heard of the matter, but I will certainly take it up.
The Secretary of State mentioned the importance of the economic summit. I was wondering what plans there are for members of the board of United Kingdom Financial Investments, which holds the Governments stake in the partly nationalised banks, to come to Wales to hear the experiences of businesses there. There are examples in my constituencyI am sure that this is true for other hon. Membersof businesses that have been badly treated by banks in which the Government have a stake. Could representatives of UKFI come to hear first hand the experiences of businesses in Wales?
That is a good idea, and I will certainly follow it through. The Deputy First Minister of Wales, with whom the hon. Gentleman has some connection,
was talking to me only last week about getting the heads of the banks in Wales to come together to talk about banking practices and other issues raised by hon. Members, and I shall take that point up.
Mrs. Gillan: Could I press the Secretary of State to give us more details on the announcement on Wylfa? I have seen an announcement, but I thought that it related to two sites in Cumbria with RWE, and that it merely referred to Wylfa. I am not sure whether the extension to 2014 is wishful thinking or whether it has been confirmed today, and I would be grateful if he elucidated.
Mr. Murphy: The Under-Secretary of State for Wales, my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. David) will give more detail to the House when he makes his winding-up speech. I do not want to give information that is inaccurate in any sense, so I shall make sure that my hon. Friend deals with Wylfa in that speech.
I have two other things to mention as far as the economy is concerned. The first is the announcement by RWE npower of plans to treble the size of its carbon capture pilot project at Aberthaw from 1 MW to 3 MW. Subject to planning permission, the construction of the £8.4 million project will begin later this year, with plans for the pilot to be fully operational by 2010. That is good news for us in Wales. It is the first pilot plant in the United Kingdom to capture carbon dioxide directly from a commercially operating power station. It will also provide a boost to the local economy and, given that the economy of our country is historically based on coal, it is excellent news for us.
The other issue I wanted to mention, given that my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Dr. Francis) is in his place, is the important work that his Committee did on globalisation. Everybody should read the report in question, and I would like to draw one part of it to the attention of the House:
In the course of this inquiry, we have collected numerous examples of innovative practice in Wales, spanning the full range of economic sectors. These examples demonstrate that, despite the present difficulties, Wales does have the essential ingredients necessary to face the challenges of globalisation.
Albert Owen (Ynys Môn) (Lab): On the economy, I am sure that my right hon. Friend will join me in welcoming todays announcement by PV France to locate a bakery in Anglesey, creating 105 jobs. That was done working in partnership with the local authority and the Welsh Assembly Governments single investment grant. Although the Secretary of State is right to concentrate on the economic downturn that is affecting the real economy in Wales and elsewhere in the United Kingdom, and the support mechanism, there still are some good news stories, and those 105 jobs in my constituency are to be welcomed, particularly given our aims towards the Irish market.
I turn to another important issue that the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs is dealing with, which is the Welsh language legislative competence order. I have presented the proposed Welsh language order to Parliament for pre-legislative scrutiny, and I hope that hon. Members will urge their constituents to have their say on the proposals. I want to see the biggest public debate on the Welsh language of recent years, and to hear from all sectors of society in Walesthe public sector, business, the voluntary sector and the general publicto ensure that the draft order meets the needs of the people of Wales.
When the order was published some weeks ago, some people thought that I was somewhat lukewarm on the issue of the Welsh language LCO. Indeed, this was referred to in Mr. Vaughan Rodericks blogwhich is of course written in Welsh, but has been translated for me because we have a very good Welsh language scheme in the Wales Officein which he says:
Paul Murphys press release on the Welsh language LCO was rather lukewarm. He said more consultation was needed and that the order could change. To use his words, it is not set in stone.
Don Touhig is the problem. One said, Don is Pauls best friend, and they spend a lot of their spare time in each others company, and with their families, and they go on holiday together like brothers.
In reality, we have come a great distance in the past 20 or 30 years on the Welsh language in Wales. When I was a lad, no one was taught Welsh in Gwentit was not on the curriculum. In my constituency today, I have three Welsh-medium schools: one secondary and two primary. Every child in Wales, and in my constituency, is taught Welsh. The best way to develop an interest in the Welsh language is for people to learn it, and for them to be taught itthat is the challenge. The best way forward, as with everything else in this regard, is to move forward by consensus. There should be a consensus among the people of Wales that we have a sensible way forward, and we should give the Welsh language an opportunity to flourish, which of course it should.
By asking people in Wales their views on the Welsh language order, we are giving them the opportunity to express their views on a detailed document, on which this House will eventually have to decide to vote. It will do two things. It will give the opportunity to all peopleparticularly those affected by the orderto make their views known, and it will also mean that we can explain to people and reassure them about what is not in the Welsh language order. Some of the mixed correspondence that we are all getting does not reflect what is likely to be in the order. It is a draft order, which means that the Welsh Affairs Committee, chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon, will have a proper opportunity to examine it. In doing so, it will talk to people in Wales who are involved in the matter. The Assembly itself will be able to do exactly the same thing. I have sent letters today to public bodies and others in Wales, and I will share any results of the consultation with the House and with our colleagues in the Assembly, so that we can come to a proper decision.
Mrs. Gillan: The notes that the Secretary of State has sent out accompanying the draft order set out possible effects on institutions that go beyond the Welsh borders. For example, the BBC is specifically mentioned as falling under the Communications Act 2003, and of course any Government Departments delivering services in Wales would be included in the requirements, because they would exceed the £200,000 limit. Will he consider extending the consultation to his colleagues in other Departments and to organisations such as the BBC? It seems to me that there could be an effect on both sides of the Welsh-English border and further afield in the UK.
Mr. Murphy: Government Departments do of course have the opportunity to comment upon legislation. The BBC will submit a view through BBC Wales, and if it wants to comment on effects on business or broadcasting across the border, there will certainly be an opportunity. Ultimately, the consultation is about listening to people and ensuring that when we eventually introduce the order it is watertight, means what it says and is the result of the most widespread public debate possible in Wales. That is very important.
David T.C. Davies: Is not the real problem that no matter what goes into the final order, the Welsh Assembly will end up with the power to make legislation on the Welsh language, and there will be no input from Members of this House?
Mr. Murphy: The order will define the parameters of what the Welsh Assembly is able to legislate on. It will stategiving considerable detail, unlike a lot of legislationprecisely what such future legislation can deal with. The establishment of a Welsh language commissioner is one example, and it is generally supported. I suspect that we will get the most letters on the issues that affect business. However, as I said earlier, the idea that a small corner shop or a small business will be affected is wrong. Certain matters might need closer and tighter definition so that we do not capture people who are not intended to be covered by the order.
A lot of the bodies mentioned in the LCO already have sophisticated Welsh language schemes, so it will almost rubber-stamp what they already do. Nevertheless, if there are genuine concerns about aspects of the order, whether from business or the public, there will be an opportunity for people to make their views known. I very much welcome that.
Importantly, individual Members of Parliament and of the Assembly can also hold their own consultative processes. For example, I see from yesterdays Daily Post that Lesley Griffiths, the Assembly Member for Wrexham, has invited people to have their say on the Welsh language and write to her in her role as a member of the Legislation Committee. That is the right thing to do, and people throughout Wales will have the opportunity to discuss the legislation.
The partnership that I mentioned earlier is very important for the people of Wales. Interestingly, the British-Irish Council met last Thursday and Friday in Cardiff, and we were able to share best practice in all parts of the UK and Ireland. For example, the Assembly Government pioneered the creation of a Childrens Commissioner and free bus travel for the over-60s, to which I am now
happily entitled. We have copied those things in England. Wales has learned from the experience of England how to reduce waiting times for hospital treatment, among other things.
Ultimately, we serve the same people. Today, our annual opportunity to discuss Welsh matters enables us to ensure that, together, we serve the people whom we represent, whether we sit on a local authority, in the Assembly or in this House. We can ensure that the people of Wales are more prosperous as a result of the joint policies of both our Parliaments.
Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): First, I thank the Secretary of State for his kind words to David and Samantha Cameron and their family on the death of their son, Ivan. We all share his thoughts, and David will be able to see that the Secretary of State speaks on behalf of Wales in passing on those best wishes to him on this sad occasion.
I apologise to the Under-Secretary of State for Wales; sadly, I will not be here for his winding-up speech and his exchange with my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, West (Mr. Jones). I mean no discourtesy; my timetable has become a little hectic today, and I will be on my way to Wales when he addresses the House.
I should like to continue in the spirit in which the Secretary of State opened this St. Davids day debate. Since we last celebrated St. Davids day, some things have not changed in Wales. First, the brave men and women of our armed services are still defending our interests abroad. My hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth) will be visiting the Welsh Guards based in his constituency, who I understand will shortly depart for Afghanistan. I am sure that, on St. Davids day, all our thoughts are with them and their families. All our thanks go to the Welsh men and women who are serving our country so bravely abroad in our armed services.
I am delighted that we have something else that has not changeda rugby team on the rise, with the prospect of a second consecutive grand slam. I am delighted that the hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Albert Owen) has new baking facilities in his constituency and brand new jobs. I hope that they are not making French breadas the Secretary of State said, I hope that they are making Welsh cakes instead. We have had another set of elections since the last St. Davids day, and I am pleased to say that yet more people in Wales chose to vote Conservative as they sought change through the ballot box.
The Secretary of State is right, however, to say that what has changed dramatically is the economic outlook. We have not compared notes, but I think that he will find that my speech takes the same shape as his, with remarks on the economy in Wales followed by remarks about the Welsh language order. Some 28,000 more people have lost their jobs, and we now have more than 100,000 people out of work. Many thousands of 16 to 24-year-olds are not in work, education or training, which is exceedingly worrying. A significant number of businesses both large and small have closed, and sadly house repossessions are rising. Although that is clearly not confined to Wales, or even to the United Kingdom, the effect on Wales, as the poorest region of the UK, is especially great.
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