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    19 January, 2007

    Jobs for South Wales

    I was delighted with the news that the Metrix bid had won the Defence Training Agency for St Athan, and I intervened on the statement:

    Leighton Andrews: I add my congratulations to you and your team, First Minister, and to the Wales Office Ministers, and their team, and to all those who have given their support in campaigning for this, including my parliamentary colleague, Chris Bryant, who chaired the group of MPs supporting the campaign to get the Metrix bid.

    Those of us who represent south Wales constituencies all had constituents working at the Defence Aviation Repair Agency. We know, therefore, that the successful Metrix bid will be of benefit not only to the Vale of Glamorgan constituency of my colleague, Jane Hutt, but also to our own constituencies, because many of our constituents will seek to work there. However, I also understand that it is wider than that, and that companies in north Wales may well gain from the success of this bid. Therefore, this is a day on which the whole of Wales can celebrate, is it not?

    The First Minister: I am grateful for those comments. Again, looking back to the days when DARA was at its peak some five years ago, before the end-to-end review, the commuting pattern to St Athan was extraordinary. People who had started in defence establishments, say, in Pembrokeshire, who lost their jobs when those bases closed, would be given the right to commute, albeit 70 or 80 miles; they would commute regularly. Many people from the Llanelli and Ammanford areas and across to Monmouthshire also worked in DARA St Athan. Some of the people who lost their jobs at DARA commute to the MoD Procurement Executive at Abbotswood, just outside Bristol, because they want to keep their pensions and so forth. So, long-distance commuting is not unknown in this field. However, the point that you make about the Valleys is important. The Valleys was a major area of recruitment by DARA, and there was a very high skill level among the Valleys airframe and aerospace fitters who worked there.

    There will be opportunities for the supply chain in Wales, not only for the civilian services, in terms of supplying food and other consumables that any big establishment of this kind would generate, but in the aerospace field particularly.

    You mentioned north Wales. This will give the same boost to the economy of the south Wales region that the expansion of Airbus has provided for north Wales, where I think the number of jobs in the aerospace industry has risen from about 4,000 to about 7,000 over the past five to 10 years. This will provide a very similar boost in the same industry in south Wales. Worldwide, that means that Wales is one of the key centres of aerospace expertise—although this goes much wider than aerospace now, because it will take on a lot of naval and other military training of a technical kind, as well as logistics and languages training, if package 2 comes through.

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