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Mr. Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire): All the areas affected by foot and mouth value the rural recovery plan, but is not the Secretary of State disturbed to hear that tourist businesses outside the areas covered by objective 1 and 2 funds find that state aid laws prevent them from obtaining substantial funding from the Wales tourist board? For instance, a person in my constituency has a project to build a leisure centre costing £750,000, but the grant aid available to him is limited to less than £50,000.
Mr. Murphy: I hear what the hon. Gentleman has said. I know that foot and mouth disease has caused serious difficulties in his area. He and I attended a service in Brecon cathedral some months ago, which was attended by representatives from all the different walks of life in his constituency. I shall certainly make sure that what the hon. Gentleman has said is put to the Ministers for Rural Affairs and for Finance, Local Government and Housing in Cardiff. However, I know that the Welsh Assembly has given substantial help to tourism, and only last week my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport announced another package to ensure that tourism comes into Wales, both from within the UK and from overseas.
Mr. Mark Prisk (Hertford and Stortford): The Secretary of State rightly highlights the need for vigilance, especially with regard to contaminated meat imports that could bring foot and mouth back to Wales. However, Customs and Excise and the other agencies trying to patrol the ports report severe manpower shortages. Will the right hon. Gentleman say what measures he is taking to correct that shortfall of officers?
Mr. Murphy: It is not for me to take those measures, but I shall certainly make clear to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and to colleagues in other Departments how important it is to liaise with Customs and Excise, local authorities and other agenciesand with the Assembly, too, where that is relevantto ensure that there is a programme to deal with imports of illegal food. Much greater vigilance is necessary at airports and ports, as is a good public information programme. The hon. Gentleman can rest assured that the Government are aware of the points that he has made.
The difficulties of the past year have not been confined to rural areas, but have been experienced too in some of our urban areas. Not long ago, the Welsh Grand Committee met in Cwmbran to debate the future of manufacturing industry in Wales.
Of course, we have had the difficult news about Corus and there have been other examples of industries moving to eastern Europe and elsewhere, but the issue is whether those industries are being replaced in Wales.
Many of us can remember, because we are that old, a time when our valleys were dominated by coal and steel. I remember, 30 years ago, when those industries were declining, how they had to be replaced, sometimes by heavy engineering and other forms of manufacturing. In my constituency, 12,000 jobs that had replaced the jobs in coal were lost in 20 years, but those in turn are now being replaced by jobs in information technology, computerisation and so on. That, added to the measures that the Government have introduced for the benefit of the people of Wales in their hugely successful new deal programme, means that there is not a single constituency in Wales that cannot point to an improvement in its unemployment figures.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): Of course we agree that, as heavy industries decline, they must be replaced by more modern ones, but surely it only accelerates the process of the decline of heavy industries such as steel in south Wales when the Government give encouragement and active assistance to someone like Mr. Mittal to help competitors in places such as Romania.
Mr. Murphy: We will have the opportunity to debate these matters in greater detail next week. I look forward to that debate, in which I will take part. I will comment briefly on the hon. Gentleman's pointshe knows Wales reasonably wellbut I want first to finish the point that I was making.
The way in which our industries change and we skill up our people to work in the new industries is the key to their future. Why did we get objective 1? The whole purpose is to bring the Welsh economy up to the standards of those of other countries in Europe, so that we can follow the lead of the Irish economy and become, in a matter of 10 or 20 years, one of the most successful regional economies in Europe.
The hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) knows that I had to spend a great deal of time speaking to the chief executive and chairman and other people at Corus to try to find out what it would take for them to retain those 3,000 jobs in Wales, and 6,000 in the rest of the United Kingdom. Time after time, I asked Brian Moffat and the others whether the Government could do anything to change their minds about their intentions for the steel industry. The answer was no. I rather suspect that they had made their minds up at the time of the merger.
On every single day of those negotiations, I was in contact with the steel unions. The Iron and Steel Trades Confederation will certainly agree with what I am saying. Time and time again, we said that we would like to offer various measures of assistance, but Corus was not willing to change its strategy, so we had to ensure that, when those decisions had been takenthey affected my constituents far more than the hon. Gentleman's: at least 1,000 of mine lost jobs at Llanwern and Ebbw Valesomething was done to replace the lost jobs.
The Government and the Assembly put together tens and tens of millions of pounds to regenerate our local economies. For example, there is the railway from Ebbw Vale to Cardiff, which has long been needed. I worked in Ebbw Vale for 17 years, so I know a little bit about the situation in Blaenau Gwent.
On the point about Mittal, it is wrong to say that Corus would have changed its mind or done anything different because of the Prime Minister's letter to the Romanian Prime Minister. It would not have made a ha'porth of difference. Why is it always said, whenever the Government, or any other European Government, help an economy that needs help, be it in Asia, Africa or eastern Europe, that we are harming our own economy?
Some of my colleagues have sent trade delegations to Romania that have included Welsh companies. When we help to bring up to modern economic standards countries such as those that want to join the European Union, which is what we do as a developed country, of course we run the risk of creating a competitor, but we also ensure that trade with that country improves, allowing Wales to export to an economy that is much sounder than it was. That is the reason behind the Prime Minister's letter and that is why we wanted to ensure that the industry and economy in Romania were up to scratch.
Adam Price (East Carmarthen and Dinefwr): The Secretary of State will have seen the letter from Graham McKenzie of Allied Steel and Wire to the Prime Minister. Does he agree with Mr. McKenzie's assessment that Mr. Mittal's acquisition of the Sidex plant in Romania was detrimental to the interests of the Welsh steel industry, because it will result in direct competition and endanger jobs in Wales?
Mr. Murphy: There are very strict regulations in Europe on dumping, and the Government have strict policies on protectionism, including for the United States. We will debate these matters in greater detail next week, but the hon. Gentleman and his party very much agreed with objective 1 funding, the whole idea of which is that the wealthier countries in Europe, including Germany, should provide funding to improve the Welsh economy, among others.
I cannot understand how a party that has said that is fundamentally for Wales and Europeit did not say much about Britain until this latest episodecan object to assistance to Romania, which although not part of the European Union, is a struggling country trying to become part of it. The hon. Gentleman is saying that every time we help such a country it is to the detriment of Welsh industry.
Alan Howarth (Newport, East): My constituents, including those at Llanwern, are deeply appreciative of the energetic efforts that my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor made to try to find ways of helping Corus when it was contemplating the discontinuation of steel making at Llanwern. They did everything that they could to ensure that that disaster did not take place, but Corus proved hard to help, as my right hon. Friend said. I thank him also for his unwavering commitment to ensuring that Newport, which is not an objective 1 area, got effective assistance, including, for example, through the urban regeneration company which the First Minister has promised us. It would be enormously helpful if we could have the Minister's continuing support to ensure early clarification