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Mr. Murphy: The whole letter is printed in the booklet "The privatisation of Sidex SA Galati", so it is there for all to see. The hon. Gentleman still misses the main point. It is all very well questioning the newly discovered Britishness of companies, but it is much more important to concentrate on Romania and eastern Europe. If eastern Europe does not come up to the level of other countries of the European Union, how on earth can we expect enlargement to work? How on earth do we expect companies from Wales and the United Kingdom to invest in Romania, which has a population of 25 million? If right hon. or hon. Gentlemen had a factory in their constituency that traded with Romania, they would welcome this news, not disparage it.
Mr. Llwyd: No doubt it is laudable to assist Romania to modernise and to join the European Union. We are in favour of the EU, but I doubt that it is sensible or right for the Government to bat for Romania against Welsh and British jobs, and to use British taxpayers' money to bring the Romanians over to sign the deal.
Mr. Murphy: In no way is it a question of using the full power of the state or British taxpayers' money. I shall come to the issue of the British taxpayers' money, because that relates to the European loan. I doubt the points that the hon. Gentleman and his party have made about the euro, because I saw in Wales on Sunday last Sunday the headline "Garbagegate MP Sparks Euro Storm". Presumably that refers to the hon. Member for East Carmarthen and Dinefwr, whose views on Europe may differ from those of the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd). They are entitled to disagree, but if the hon. Member for East Carmarthen and Dinefwr opposes Europe, I can understand what this argument is about.
I know that the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy is very much in favour of the European project. Romania is a small countryof all parties, surely the Welsh nationalist party should support small countriesthat is trying to develop and, as a struggling democracy, to get out of the grip of communism that held it down for years. That is what the letter and the debate is about. It is not about a nonsensical claim that the redundancies at Corus were made as a result of the letter that Mittal had. It is nonsense to suggest that, and I shall explain why.
Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley): I am still perplexed about why the Prime Minister saw fit to call this company British when it patently is not. Will the Secretary of State enlighten the House as to whether he thinks LNM is any more British than Usinor, the defeated French company that also has offices in this country? If LNM is more British, will he explain why? Is there any reason other than that Mr. Mittal gave £125,000 to the Labour party?
Mr. Murphy: I doubt whether there are many steelworks in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. Those of us who represent industrial areas know that in a global economy a company's headquarters may be anywhere in the world, and its factories and other parts of the company may be somewhere else. Even Corus, which has said nothing about the tariffs, has an American subsidiary. In this era of global capitalism, we know full well that virtually every company is from a different countrythat is certainly the case in my constituency. It happens all the time.
Let us return to the central point. It is nonsense to suggest that the Welsh steel industry somehow suffered as a result of the letter. Let me first touch on the question of British taxpayers paying towards Mr. Mittal's company
Mr. Blunt: Can the Secretary of State explain why Jonathan Powellor the Prime Minister, or someone else in his private officesaw fit to remove the word "friend" from the Foreign Office draft of the letter?
Mr. Murphy: First, Jonathan Powell did not do that. Secondly, as the hon. Gentleman knows and as any Conservative Member who has been a Minister will know, letters are routinely drafted and redrafted before reaching the Minister who signs them.
Let me now deal with the question of the loan, which is central to the argument advanced by the hon. Member for East Carmarthen and Dinefwr. I assume that he was referring to the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, as there was no other financial involvement. According to the bank, its mission is
The bank has helped similar projects throughout eastern Europe. There has been a 14 million euro investment in refrigerator makers in Russia, as well as a 36 million euro loan to the Croatian tourist industry, a 21 million euro loan to boost the export hopes of Bulgaria's leading pharmaceutical company, and a 21 million euro investment in the railways of Bosnia-Herzegovina to improve the transport of industrial goods. There are many other examples. Just about every project that the bank supports couldif the facts were stretched beyond the realms of possibilitybe said to have some effect on Welsh industries.
Let us now examine the issue of United Kingdom funding of the bank. We have subscribed 1.7 billion euro to its capital. Along with many other countries, we guarantee its loans. That allows it to borrow at preferential rates on the world's markets. But there is no question of any direct financial aid from Britain to make the purchase of Sidex possible: that is a myth.
Mr. Murphy: Of course it is not ridiculous. Let me give an example. My hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig), the Under-Secretary of State for Wales, is going to Prague next week. He will take with him Welsh business people, who will try to secure as much businessand, therefore, trade and jobsfor Wales as possible. That would not happen if the Czech Republic had not been helped. If such countries are not helped to attain a certain standard by the European Union, and by developed countries throughout the world, how on earth can we be expected to trade with them?
A classic example was the privatisation of Sidex. Without it, the chances of an improvement in the Romanian economy and of Romania becoming part of an enlarged European Union would have been very slim.
Adam Price: Will the Secretary of State tell me why no assessment was made of Mr. Mittal's record as an employer in Ireland, where there was the same binding five-year agreement regarding employment as exists in Romania? Mr. Mittal ripped up the agreement two weeks after it was terminated, throwing 600 people out of work. If that is repeated in Romania, how will the Government and the country look to the Romanian people?
Ensuring that we help Romania, which was the purpose of the letter, depends on the success of the steel plant, Sidex. It was holding up the Romanian economy, because it was in the grip of old-fashioned, Soviet-style, communist economics. It had to change, and this was an ideal opportunity.
Mr. Murphy: The hon. Gentleman is better than that question implies. Would he suggest, for example, that some of the American companies that between them employ 3,000 people in my constituency are Welsh? They are American, not Welsh. This nonsense about semantics is rubbish, as the hon. Gentleman, and everyone else, knows.
I turn now to the question of how this country has helped the Romanian economy. Last year, UK exports to Romania amounted to £340 million. Do Opposition Members consider that to be worthless or meaningless? Should the companies in this country that produced that £340 million of exports to Romania be discarded? The increase is substantive, compared to just a few years ago. Companies such as Unilever, Glaxo and Shell have operations in Romania, and that is a pointer to the future.