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4. Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North) (Lab): What plans he has to prevent jobs in Wales moving overseas. [142072]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain): I will continue to fight to ensure that jobs stay in Wales, and not move overseas. Foreign firms are still choosing Wales as an attractive place to do business. Last year, employment in Wales rose by 61,000.

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Julie Morgan: I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. What would he say to the staff at Tesco house in Maes-y-Coed road in the Cardiff, North constituency, who in July were taken to the city hall and praised by Tesco for their loyalty, and a few weeks later were told that 230 of their jobs were to go to Bangalore?

Mr. Hain: I would join my hon. Friend in saying that that treatment is unacceptable, and that we continue to fight, as she does, for more call centre and finance centre jobs in Cardiff and right across Wales. The record shows that more and more jobs in this sector are being created. For example, The Number, which is part of the new directory inquiries network, recently opened a call centre in Cardiff creating 467 full-time and 105 part-time jobs in Cardiff. Whatever the plight of her constituents, under this Government, more and more job opportunities are being created, and her constituents will be helped to find other jobs. I agree with her, however, on her criticism of Tesco.

Mr. Bill Wiggin (Leominster) (Con): Can the Secretary of State confirm whether Hansard was correct when it reported that he thought that the transfer of call centre jobs to India could actually create a big return for the Welsh economy? Alternatively, was the The Western Mail wrong when it said that he would fight for every call centre job in Wales? Surely he did not make both statements.

Mr. Hain: First, I welcome the hon. Gentleman to the Front Bench. We look forward to his pronouncements. May I mourn the passing of the hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans), who brought a certain chippy style to the Front Bench, which we very much enjoyed? I am sure that his replacement, with his old Etonian gravitas, will provide us with a different dimension, although with his boss, the right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry) sitting next to him, I am not sure who actually speaks for Wales. We might learn that later from the Conservative party. In respect of his question, were he to read further in Hansard, he would find that both the The Western Mail and Hansard were correct, because I said that I wanted

in Wales and that I will fight to continue to do that.

Mr. Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will have heard the announcement last week of 170 job losses at a garment factory in Aberbargoed in my constituency. I thank him for the support that he has given to those workers in that difficult situation, but will the Government reaffirm their commitment to long-term investment in quality jobs and quality training? That is the only way forward.

Mr. Hain: I very much agree with my hon. Friend that that is the only way forward. It is the way forward being driven by our Government in Westminster and by the Labour Welsh Assembly Government in Cardiff. I am sure that he will recall many details of coal communities in his and surrounding constituencies that were absolutely devastated under the Conservatives. I find it astonishing that, given our record of investment, to

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which he referred, the Leader of the Opposition on a visit to Wales last Saturday said that coal communities had

What an extraordinary statement. Coal communities, including in my hon. Friend's constituency, were decimated under Margaret Thatcher. Under Labour, they are being rebuilt, with more jobs, more investment and higher standards of public services.

Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion) (PC): The question asked the Secretary of State what plans he had. So far, the only plan that he has brought forward to stop jobs going out of Wales is to put tolls on the M4. Will he now look at one aspect of the Welsh economy—the 700 jobs lost in Welsh agriculture in the past year? To help prevent those jobs from being lost, I suggest a plan to help local authorities to buy local food to keep Welsh farmers in jobs. Will he do that?

Mr. Hain: I share the hon. Gentleman's desire and interest in seeing that local produce is used by the local public sector, schools and others. Since he raised the issue of the effect on jobs of the situation on the M4, may I explain to him the reality? The truth is that the M4 at the Brynglas tunnel is increasingly choked with traffic, which affects jobs and the economy of south-east Wales. That is why the Assembly would have the option, as I discussed when I was Minister with responsibilities for transport in Wales a few years ago, of building the M4 relief road around Newport to provide an alternative, which could be tolled and built by the private sector as has been achieved around Birmingham. In that way, drivers in Wales, whether lorries or cars, would have a choice: to travel at perhaps 40 mph through the Brynglas tunnel, or to go around the new relief road and pay a toll. In the end, however, that is a matter for the Assembly.

Higher Education

5. Dr. Hywel Francis (Aberavon) (Lab): What recent discussions he has had with (a) the First Secretary and (b) the Secretary of State for Education and Skills on the future of higher education in Wales. [142073]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain): Regular ones—we and our officials have worked closely to agree our proposals to transfer to the National Assembly for Wales responsibility for the remaining elements of higher education funding, including responsibility for student support in Wales.

Dr. Francis : I thank the Secretary of State for that reply. He will be aware of the successful and excellent widening access strategies in Welsh higher education. For example, at the North East Wales institute of higher education, 50 per cent. of the students are over the age of 30. May I invite him to join me on a journey of hope whose destiny is to guarantee sustainable, fair and equitable opportunities for part-time and full-time adult students?

Mr. Hain: Indeed, we are increasing the grants for part-time and mature students, and this is part of a new package, under this Government, of raising and

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widening opportunities for students right across the income level. Since he referred to this matter, may I congratulate my hon. Friend on his work prior to becoming a Member of Parliament with the Community university of the valleys that he initiated—am I right in saying—in Banwen in my constituency? That work, together with the wider work that the Government are doing both here in Westminster and in Wales, is giving new hope to part-time students and to students who never thought that they would have a chance to go to university.

Mr. Bill Wiggin (Leominster) (Con): Does the right hon. Gentleman think that it is fair that the Assembly has suggested that it will pay the top-up fees for Welsh students studying at English universities or should it be using its money to support students at Welsh universities?

Mr. Hain: The longer that the hon. Gentleman is on the Front Bench—and I hope that it will be the Opposition Front Bench—he will understand that, if the higher education Bill goes through, this matter will be devolved to the National Assembly so that decisions can be made in Wales. I hope that he will speak up for Wales and encourage that devolution.

Compared to what we are offering to the students and families of Wales, the hon. Gentleman offers a prospectus for higher education funding that would see, on average, the number of students from each constituency in Wales cut by 400. There would be 400 fewer students from each constituency going to universities under the Conservatives when compared to our higher education proposals, which will increase the number of students getting the chance to go to university. In many cases, they will be from constituencies such as mine and they will be the first people to go to university in their families' history.

Mr. Wiggin: We think that students should go to university based on the size of their brain and not on the depths of their wallet. How many Welsh MPs does the right hon. Gentleman think agree with him that the Government's policy on top-up fees needs to be tweaked, or is this similar to his comments on the European constitution and is just a "tidying-up exercise"?

Mr. Hain: We are looking in detail at all the representations made to us in terms of the final proposals that come in the Bill. I remind the hon. Gentleman and the House what the choice is. The choice is between a Labour Government, who are increasing opportunities for students in Wales, who are removing the up-front fee and who are also offering more and more students the chance to go to university, and his policy, which will plunge Welsh universities back into the bankruptcy from which we have rescued them and deny thousands of students in Wales the chance of studying at university. That is the choice; we are confident that the people of Wales will back us in the choice that we are making.

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Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): To see excellent examples of widening access, may I invite my right hon. Friend and other Members to visit the exhibition in the Upper Waiting Hall that is being held by the North East Wales institute of higher education in Wrexham? All Members will see what can be achieved and how lives can be changed by widening access to higher education. Is he aware, however, of the difficulties that a border university faces in dealing with students from England and Wales? Does he think that the Government's proposals will improve the position or make it more difficult?

Mr. Hain: May I first acknowledge the excellent job that the North East Wales institute of higher education does with my hon. Friend's support as its local Member of Parliament? I have visited that fine institute and hope that everyone will have the chance to see the exhibition. My hon. Friend will also agree that we are putting record investment into universities and creating record opportunities for students. I am sure that the specific issues that he wants to address will be solved by the new proposals that we are bringing forward—with his support, I hope.

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