Relocation (Minimum Wage)

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons am 12:00 am ar 17 Mawrth 1997.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn , Gorllewin Casnewydd 12:00, 17 Mawrth 1997

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will establish how many jobs have been relocated from Wales to countries that have the minimum wage in each of the past five years. [18834]

Photo of William Hague William Hague Secretary of State for Wales

There are no data readily available to perform such an analysis.

Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn , Gorllewin Casnewydd

Is not Newport doubly fortunate, as it can look forward to the LG semi-conductor jobs and to being represented in the future, as in the past, by splendid Members of Parliament? Is it not extraordinary that the Government can count the number of incoming jobs and announce the figures again and again, but cannot say how many jobs have left this country to relocate in countries with both the minimum wage and the social chapter? Is it not extraordinary that when LG is up and running, it will be competing for semi-conductor jobs that used to be based in Newport but are now located in France and Germany? Why does a country such as Britain, which has won 74 Nobel prizes for science, have to buy scientific jobs from a country that has never won such a prize?

Photo of William Hague William Hague Secretary of State for Wales

We all commend the hon. Gentleman on his becoming modesty in describing himself as a splendid Member of Parliament. I certainly hope that Newport will be represented by two splendid Members in the coming Parliament, but not necessarily the current ones. The hon. Gentleman should not presume about the outcome of elections.

If Labour Members are so in favour of the minimum wage, why cannot they say at what level they would set it? It is because it would be either so low as to be utterly irrelevant or so high that it would price people out of work. They will have to own up to that in the coming weeks.

Photo of Mr Llew Smith Mr Llew Smith , Blaenau Gwent

Is the Secretary of State aware that in Blaenau Gwent we have some of the lowest wages in the United Kingdom? Would he be willing to work for £2 or £3 an hour? What advice would he give to families who have to bring up children on that kind of money?

Photo of William Hague William Hague Secretary of State for Wales

The hon. Gentleman must recognise that wages cannot be raised by Government diktat. Wages and living standards are raised by having an enterprise economy, by the promotion of employment and by businesses doing well and having to compete to employ people. That is happening increasingly in many parts of Wales. We have already made south-east Wales the best place in Britain to get a job, and I want that to be the case in the whole of Wales. That will deliver rising living standards all round.

Photo of Mr Wyn Roberts Mr Wyn Roberts , Conwy

Is it not a fact that the company referred to by the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) is a French nationalised company, Thomson SLG? Is it therefore surprising that it should behave in such an extraordinary way?

Photo of William Hague William Hague Secretary of State for Wales

My right hon. Friend has a point—apart from having asked another question after I had paid tribute to him on his previous question. He could also have mentioned the fact that unemployment in France stands at 12.5 per cent. and has risen in the past year, whereas unemployment in Wales is about 8 per cent.—depending on which definition one uses—and has fallen dramatically in the past year.