Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Evans: I shall come on to Plaid Cymru shortly. The hon. Gentleman will acknowledge, if he is being fair, that I condemned the amount of money being spent on Portcullis House. I would have preferred to see the savings that could have been made there going into front-line services. [Interruption.] I am sorry that Labour Members find consistency so unusual, but I can understand why they do.

I shall move on from the national health service to business. Two reports have been published recently. One is from the Federation of Small Businesses, entitled "Barriers to Growth and Survival"--[Interruption.] I shall mention that briefly before I move on to a more up-to-date report from the Confederation of British Industry called "Facing the Future". The Under-Secretary has just reminded me that I mentioned the former report when we last debated these issues. It is necessary for me to remind the House again of what the report said because the Government are not listening.

The report from the Federation of Small Businesses was based on Wales, and on page 25 it deals with dissatisfaction with legislation issues. Of those who responded, 81 per cent. said that they were dissatisfied with the volume of legislation; 83 per cent. were dissatisfied with the complexity of legislation; 79 per cent. were dissatisfied with the rate of change of legislation; 79 per cent. were dissatisfied with the interpretation of legislation; 59 per cent. were dissatisfied with the ability to employ staff; and 65 per cent. were dissatisfied with the cost of compliance.

The Federation of Small Businesses and small business men themselves are saying that the Government are not providing the solution to the problem--they are the problem. I wish that the Government would listen more

5 Mar 2001 : Column 63

carefully to what business men are saying. They are the people who are creating the jobs. Only this week, the CBI stated that businesses are being "smothered by legislation". One of the authors of the CBI's report is Michael Plaut, managing director of the south Wales company, Northmace. He states that

The Government are now introducing the climate change levy, which will cost manufacturing jobs--some jobs are already being shed in anticipation. The Secretary of State read out the names of a number of companies in which jobs were being created, and I welcome every one of those jobs, including the 500 that were announced by Ikea in south Wales this week. However, I ask him also to consider the jobs that are being lost in Wales, such as those at Dairycrest--some new jobs were announced there, but there was a net loss of about 300--and at Corus, where about 6,000 jobs will be lost. A further 165 jobs are to be lost at Dewhirst in Lampeter.

Mr. Ruane: It will be 3,000 jobs at Corus.

Mr. Evans: The hon. Gentleman says that it will be 3,000 jobs. Well, that is all right, then.

Mr. Ruane rose--

Mr. Evans: I ask the hon. Gentleman to sit down and listen to me for a moment. If he does not accept that the enormous impact of the loss of jobs in steel production in Llanwern, Ebbw Vale and Shotton will have knock-on effects, he is seriously mistaken.

Mr. Bercow: Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the worst features of so many Government policies in Wales is that they consistently shuffle responsibility from the Government to beleaguered businesses, forcing the latter to become unpaid tax collectors and benefit distributors? Does he agree that that is a matter of particular concern, given that 99.6 per cent. of companies in this country employ fewer than 100 people, that they account for 57 per cent. of the private sector work force and that they generate two fifths of our national output?

Mr. Evans: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The CBI's report calls businesses with fewer than 250 employees "small", although I do not. There are 3.75 million SMEs in the UK, and they account for 99.8 per cent. of the total UK business stock. They are vital. During the Conservative years, we looked to small businesses to create jobs, and they did so. We shall pay a heavy penalty if we do not recognise that fact and support them instead of trying to strangle them with the rules, regulations and taxation that have been the hallmark of this Government since 1997.

Mr. Ruane: Does not the hon. Gentleman think that he should have better control of his brief, as he is the chief spokesperson on Wales for the Conservative party? A few

5 Mar 2001 : Column 64

moments ago, he mentioned that the job losses in Wales as a result of the Corus closures would be 6,000, but that is not the case; the figure will be 2,800.

Mr. Evans: All that I can say to the hon. Gentleman is that he ought to talk to people, although I am sure that he has. I visited a pub in Shotton a couple of weeks ago, and people there fear that all the small businesses in the area will be affected. Does not the hon. Gentleman think that the consequence of almost 3,000 direct job losses at Corus will be a further 3,000 job losses in other sectors in Wales that serve the steel industry?

Mr. Ruane: That is not what the hon. Gentleman said.

Mr. Evans: The hon. Gentleman ought to know that those people will be listening carefully to what he is saying as well.

The CBI believes that business confidence among Welsh manufacturers has fallen to the greatest extent since last January, according to its quarterly trends survey. The survey suggests that the fall comes as business confidence in manufacturing across the UK as a whole fell by much less. It also shows that the costs for Welsh manufacturers are likely to increase.

There have been 5,168 job losses in Welsh manufacturing since the beginning of this year. That is an enormous number of jobs. While the Secretary of State for Wales still has a position at the Cabinet table--at least, for now--will he speak to the Chancellor of the Exchequer about the matter? When the 10p-on- income-tax-Chancellor--that is the equivalent of what he has put on taxes in the past four years--decides to give some of it back on Wednesday to try to bribe people to support his Government at the next general election, he should look carefully at the taxes that he has already raised and those that he is about to raise. In particular, he should consider the taxes on small to medium-sized enterprises and on manufacturing industry in Wales. He should also reconsider the climate change levy, which a future Conservative Government will abolish. We also support small to medium-sized enterprises and manufacturing industry.

I agree with one remark that the Secretary of State made concerning Plaid Cymru. Seimon Glyn has been mentioned time and again. When Plaid Cymru Members intervened earlier, I thought that they might have taken the opportunity to apologise for Seimon Glyn, the chairman of housing of Gwynedd county council and a leading member of Plaid Cymru in that area. But, no, Plaid Cymru Members did not apologise, and I suspect that they will not apologise for him again. They did so last time, but Seimon Glyn himself withdrew that apology. Indeed, only a couple of weeks ago, he attended a rally in Caernarfon and told 350 protesters that he had received hundreds of messages of support from people all over Wales and beyond and that the future looked bleak for Welsh-speaking villages on the Llyn peninsular in north Wales and in other areas.

Let us be in no doubt about this whatever: Seimon Glyn is a leading member of Plaid Cymru in Wales and he has not been ostracised by members of his own party. They have not booted him out and he still holds the position of Gwynedd county council's chairman of housing, so I can assume only that the very highest commands of Plaid

5 Mar 2001 : Column 65

Cymru support his membership. No doubt he will campaign hard during the election for votes for Plaid Cymru, but it will pay a heavy price throughout Wales--[Interruption.] Oh! The hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) thinks that I am wrong. He obviously thinks that Seimon Glyn has struck a chord with the people of Wales and, indeed, with many people who have come to Wales, contributed and provided so much support over many years.

Mr. Llwyd: May I correct the hon. Gentleman? Our telephone canvassing shows increased support over the past month. Given that Welsh language and culture are under threat and under considerable pressure in some areas in Wales, what policies does he advocate to deal with that?

Mr. Evans: I remind the hon. Gentleman that it was a previous Conservative Government and Wyn Roberts who did so much to support the Welsh language. Indeed, it has been widely acknowledged on both sides of the House that the previous Conservative Government gave unprecedented support through the creation of Sianel 4 Cymru and backing for the Welsh language. I can tell the hon. Gentleman now that we shall continue to support the Welsh language, but we shall not do so at the expense of people who come to Wales to add their contribution by setting up businesses, employing people and visiting Wales. It is a great shame that he has not at least condemned the remarks of Seimon Glyn. Indeed, he has made no reference to those comments, which suggests that he endorses them.

It may have been noted that I have not mentioned the Liberal Democrats. I thought about it, then decided not to. I shall move on.

Next Section

IndexHome Page