15 July 2009 : Column 271

15 July 2009 : Column 271

House of Commons

Wednesday 15 July 2009

The House met at half-past Eleven o'clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]

Business Before Questions

Contingencies Fund 2008-09

Order ed,

Oral Answers to Questions


The Secretary of State was asked-

Manufacturing Industry

1. Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North) (Lab): What recent discussions he has had with Ministers in the Welsh Assembly Government on the performance of manufacturing industry in Wales. [285606]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Wayne David): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has regular meetings with the First Minister on the Welsh economy. We are working closely with the Welsh Assembly Government to ensure that the Welsh manufacturing sector receives all the assistance necessary for it to emerge from the global economic downturn well placed to meet the challenges of the future.

Julie Morgan: Is my hon. Friend aware of the good news for my constituents in Cardiff, North? Quotient Bioresearch is to take over the business of GE Healthcare, thus saving 75 highly skilled jobs, many of them belonging to my constituents in Whitchurch. In addition, the company is to invest up to £15 million in a new facility in Cardiff. Is that not a vote of confidence in manufacturing in Cardiff and the rest of Wales?

Mr. David: Indeed it is. I congratulate my hon. Friend on the hard work that she has done on that and other issues in her constituency. I am aware of the announcement and I welcome the fact that £15 million is to be invested and 75 posts are to be saved. That shows that we are wholeheartedly committed to helping people and businesses
15 July 2009 : Column 272
in Wales through the economic downturn, and that we always put the Welsh economy on the road to recovery-unlike the last Conservative Government, who let tens of thousands of young people become a generation of lost workers. We are being proactive in helping the economy to get through these difficult times, and that is the truth.

Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): Is the Minister aware of the excellent work conducted by the support unit at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, together with Lord Mandelson's office? It helped to secure a very substantial loan from the Royal Bank of Scotland so that a new manufacturing operation called Regal Fayre can be set up in the town of Montgomery. Will the Minister pass on my thanks, specifically to John Stewart in that department? Will he also praise the Royal Bank of Scotland for living up to its requirement to support new business? Finally, may I, through the Minister, ask whether the Secretary of State for Wales will consider opening that new plant, which is a real success story and will lift the town of Montgomery out of recession?

Mr. Speaker: Order. From now on, I want shorter questions and pithy replies.

Mr. David: The hon. Gentleman has mentioned some very good news; I have seen his early-day motion 1877 on the subject. The Secretary of State has been very involved and has made what appear to have been effective representations. I say on my right hon. Friend's behalf that I am sure he would be delighted to open the facility, which is another clear example of how the Government are being proactive to make sure that in every part of Wales, in every sector of the economy, we are doing everything possible to ensure that we get through this economic downturn as quickly as possible.

Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): Last month, when I asked the Secretary of State why France, Germany and even Italy had delivered on their automotive assistance programmes while our £2.3 billion scheme, which was announced back in January, had not paid out a penny, he said:

In a written answer to me last week, a Business Minister confirmed that still not a penny in loans or loan guarantees had yet been given to support the industry. Is a grand announcement followed by seven months of inaction this Government's idea of being proactive and providing real help now?

Mr. David: Let us be clear about the effectiveness of the measures being taken. The car scrappage scheme is being very effective; it is having an effect on the automotive sector and a positive impact on British Steel and Corus. It is extremely useful. We also need to recognise that we have- [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. I apologise for having to interrupt the Minister. A practice is growing up in which Opposition Front Benchers ask a question and then witter away from a sedentary position. That is not acceptable, and I do not want it to happen again.

15 July 2009 : Column 273

Mr. David: The reason the Opposition are wittering away, as you so correctly put it, Mr. Speaker, is that they do not like the answers. The answers show clearly what the Government are doing effectively in intervening in the Welsh economy. We have mentioned the car scrappage scheme; let us also not forget that the future jobs fund will create 150,000 jobs across the United Kingdom as a whole-about 7,500 in Wales-with an investment of about £50 billion. That is effective. There is also the ProAct scheme, from which 63 companies and nearly 4,000 workers benefit, and the ReAct scheme. All those measures contribute materially to improving the lot of the people of Wales and improving the Welsh economy.

Aluminium Production

2. Albert Owen (Ynys Môn) (Lab): What recent discussions he has had with (a) ministerial colleagues and (b) the Welsh Assembly Government on aluminium production in Wales. [285607]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain): At least the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) was not Twittering in the House.

I commend my hon. Friend on his tireless efforts on behalf of the workers of Anglesey Aluminium. As he knows, I have had regular discussions about the future of the company with colleagues in Government and the First Minister, as well as with Rio Tinto and the unions.

Albert Owen: I thank the Secretary of State for that reply and for his efforts, as well as those of UK Government Departments and the First Minister on behalf of the Welsh Assembly Government. Does he agree that although these are very difficult times, the parent companies of Anglesey Aluminium in my constituency, Rio Tinto and Kaiser Aluminium have a moral and social obligation to accept the generous offer that the Government have made-nearly £50 million-to assist them through this difficult period so that they can continue to commit to the work force and the local economy for the next 30 years, as they have indicated?

Mr. Hain: Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend. We have put nearly £50 million on the table as a result of cross-Government collaboration, including with the Welsh Assembly Government, and that should be taken up by Rio Tinto and Anglesey Aluminium. Many businesses would give their right arm for that kind of support. Anglesey Aluminium and its parent companies have benefited from decades of loyal work on the island, and I hope that these companies will think again. Meanwhile, we are exploring all options to try to secure employment in that factory.

Mr. Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire) (LD): No one will underestimate the importance of aluminium smelting to the island of Anglesey, but other smaller companies throughout Wales, such as Kaye in Presteigne in my constituency, which is involved in aluminium casting producing components for the automotive industry, have been badly affected by the recession. The scrappage scheme introduced on the continent has been very successful, and Kaye has benefited from that because it exports most of its production. However, the scrappage scheme in this country has not been so successful, and it is due to end in March 2010. Will the Secretary of State
15 July 2009 : Column 274
make representations to the Treasury and to his colleagues in Cabinet to ensure that the scrappage scheme is extended and enhanced to increase car sales throughout the UK and to allow companies such as Kaye to see a way through the recession?

Mr. Hain: We will certainly look at the hon. Gentleman's request and bear it in mind, because the company is an important local employer. However, the truth is that the car scrappage scheme has had a big effect on new orders for cars. The de-stocking has ended and a lot of car plants are now starting to produce again, and it is partly because of the Government's action that that has happened.

Health Care Provision

3. David Tredinnick (Bosworth) (Con): What recent discussions he has had with the First Minister on co-ordination of integrated health care provision across the England-Wales border. [285608]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain): The UK and Welsh Assembly Governments have worked closely together to agree the revised protocol for cross-border health care provision. I have long promoted the integration of conventional and complementary health care. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his work as chair of the all-party group on integrated and complementary health care.

David Tredinnick: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. Did he, in his discussions with the First Minister, refer to his work as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on the pilot study there? Has he discussed the cost-effectiveness of integrated health care? Will he be discussing that with the new Secretary of State for Health in England?

Mr. Hain: I have discussed with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State the success of the pilot to which the hon. Gentleman refers, which I established as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland between 2006 and 2008 and which had spectacular results. As a result of doctors being able to prescribe complementary health care free on the NHS, some two thirds of participating doctors agreed that their patients' health had improved. About half the patients took fewer painkillers, half took less conventional medication, including prescriptions, and two thirds had less time off work. This is therefore a win-win situation. I hope that the pilot will be extended to England, to Wales, back into Northern Ireland-because the new Government there have not extended it-and to Scotland.

Mrs. Betty Williams (Conwy) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend have discussions with the Welsh Assembly Government to ensure that there is a strong relationship-as strong as ever-concerning orthopaedic surgery, especially with Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt hospital in Oswestry? I have to declare an interest, as does the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik), because about 12 years ago we were patients there. It is important for patients in north Wales and mid-Wales to be happy in their minds that the relationship will continue.

Mr. Hain: I agree with my hon. Friend. My hon. Friend the Minister and I will certainly bring that up with our counterparts in Cardiff. It reflects the fact that
15 July 2009 : Column 275
waiting times are coming down in Wales, that patient care has been improving, and that there are more nurses, doctors and health care staff than ever before, all of which would be put at risk if the Conservatives came to office with their savage cuts policy.

Hywel Williams (Caernarfon) (PC): I have recently had discussions with representatives of north Wales GPs about the practice of placing in institutions people who have complex medical needs, often psychiatric needs, without adequate referral or adequate support services being in place. Will the Secretary of State discuss with his colleagues who have responsibility for health in England the possibility of writing to health and social services bodies prevailing on them to refer properly and to provide proper services when they place people with complex medical needs in Wales?

Mr. Hain: I am obviously concerned to hear what the hon. Gentleman says, and I will certainly take that matter up. If he cares to write to me with any specific instances, I will be happy to make representations on his behalf.

Mr. David Jones (Clwyd, West) (Con): The Secretary of State will know that the report of the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs on cross-border health services identified the inadequate payment of English hospitals by the Welsh Assembly Government as one of the principal barriers to the timely treatment of Welsh patients. To what extent does he regard it as part of his role to co-ordinate discussions between the Department of Health and the Welsh Assembly Government, with a view to ensuring that English hospitals receive fair payment and Welsh patients receive fair and timely treatment? To what extent is he actually doing so?

Mr. Hain: As the hon. Gentleman knows, a protocol has been agreed that is designed specifically to deliver what he is asking for. If he knows of any shortcomings, I am happy to make further representations. That is my job. However, the protocol achieves what he wants, and I hope that it is working effectively.

Training and Employment

4. Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab): What recent discussions he has had with the First Minister on measures to promote training and employment in Wales. [285609]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Wayne David): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have regular discussions on training with Ministers, including the First Minister. Investment in training is key to ensuring future prosperity in Wales and placing Wales at the heart of economic recovery.

Nia Griffith: Does my hon. Friend believe that the future jobs fund could be used for a suggestion by my constituent Gerald Hughes to set up a scheme in which young people would take part in training and preparing for floods by dealing with flood defences and by learning how to fill sandbags and help people whose homes are flooded? Will my hon. Friend meet me to see whether that can be taken up in other areas of Wales as well?

15 July 2009 : Column 276

Mr. David: I thank my hon. Friend for her question. She is absolutely right that the future jobs fund is extremely important to the UK, and especially Wales. There are more than 200 bids nationally, and we will examine the Welsh bids closely in the very near future.

My hon. Friend makes a good suggestion with regard to young people, because it is extremely important that we do everything possible to ensure that young people benefit from as many Government schemes as possible. There is a clear contrast between the commitment that we have given to young people and what happened under the previous Administration, when young people were forgotten about and a generation was literally ignored.

Finally, my hon. Friend mentioned that flood prevention schemes are important. I know that that certainly is the case in her constituency because of the River Loughor. Her suggestion would be a good example of using the future jobs fund for the needs of young people and the particular needs of her constituency.

David T.C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): Does the Minister agree that employment and training will be badly affected in Abergavenny as the result of the closure of Hill college? Will he speak to the Welsh Assembly Government about reinstituting the money that they have slashed from Coleg Gwent's budget, which has brought that closure about?

Mr. David: As the hon. Gentleman knows, discussions have taken place as far as that college is concerned, but a tremendous amount of investment has taken place in further education in Wales. There have also been a number of schemes, such as the ReAct programme, that have fitted in well with what has been delivered by further education colleges in Wales. Such co-ordination and symmetry is absolutely essential to ensuring that education expands to benefit the population as a whole, and we must do our utmost to ensure that there is training and retraining for all people.

Nick Ainger (Carmarthen, West and South Pembrokeshire) (Lab): The Minister will know that work has already started on the £1 billion, 2,000 MW gas-fired power station at Pembroke, in my constituency, and that there will be up to 2,000 construction jobs. A local firm, Dawnus, has already won a contract and is employing local labour. Will he join me in encouraging other Welsh and UK contracting companies to bid for work on the power station, so that we maximise the number of local jobs and UK jobs for UK workers?

Mr. David: I very much agree with my hon. Friend that, the fact that a new power station is being built in his constituency is a massive vote of confidence in the local economy. Indeed, that very point was made in The Economist only a few weeks ago. On his specific point about employment, there is a marvellous opportunity for the work force of the area and the region. We in the Wales Office are certainly doing our utmost to ensure that local people derive the greatest possible benefit from that investment. To highlight that fact, I know full well that my hon. Friend had a meeting with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on Monday to discuss the matter. He can be assured that we are fully behind him on it.

15 July 2009 : Column 277

Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): The defence training project at St. Athan would bring huge opportunities to Wales. Will the Minister confirm that the Secretary of State is co-ordinating with the Ministry of Defence and that the pre-contract agreement letter will be issued to the preferred bidder this week, on time on 17 July-or will the Government delay that?

Mr. David: The hon. Lady is correct to stress the importance of that investment to Wales. It will be the largest single investment ever in the Welsh economy. The defence technical college will be of tremendous benefit, not only to the Welsh economy but obviously to the United Kingdom armed forces. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State fully recognises the importance of that; he has had discussions with the Secretary of State for Defence and they are going forward together. The hon. Lady can rest assured that we recognise the importance of the project for Wales.

Next Section Index Home Page