Page last updated at 17:26 GMT, Friday, 9 January 2009

Jobs key to Welsh economy says PM

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Mr Brown on why he hopes there will be an increase in apprenticeships during the economic downturn

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said the key to turning around the economic downturn in Wales lies in creating and safeguarding jobs.

Mr Brown visited south Wales as part of his three-day regional tour of the UK and met workers in Cwmbran and Cardiff.

He said maintaining employment levels across Wales was crucial in fighting the economic crisis.

"It's about jobs and it's about safeguarding good jobs and it's about creating more jobs," said Mr Brown.

"It's about helping people who happen to lose their jobs to get into new jobs as quickly as possible.

"We've created more than 100,000 jobs in Wales in the last 10 years and we've got to make sure we can keep as many jobs.

Wales has been investing in some of the great new industries of the future and is in a position to benefit when the world grows
Prime Minister Gordon Brown

"Where people become unemployed and looking for a job we're trying to do more and we'll be announcing plans next week so that we can help people get jobs far more quickly.

"There's lots of vacancies in Wales and we want to get people into these vacancies as soon as possible.

"One of the things I'm very keen to achieve is that the apprenticeships increase during this downturn rather than the other way round.

"It always happened in previous downturns that we lost these skills but we're going to increase the investment in skills."

The British leader was speaking at the Contour Aircraft Systems factory at Llantarnum Estate near Cwmbran where he toured its workshop and met staff.

He added that Wales was in a good position to benefit when the economy eventually turns, which he said could only happen with the rest of the world's help.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown meeting Contour staff
Mr Brown spoke to workers at the Contour Aircraft Systems near Cwmbran

"Wales has been investing in some of the great new industries of the future and is in a position to benefit when the world grows, as it will come back to doing soon," he said.

"What we're looking for is the international cooperation that is necessary to stop this downturn deteriorating further.

"We need that level of international cooperation because we're all dependent on each other."

Mr Brown was accompanied on his visit to the factory by Welsh First Minister Rhodri Morgan and Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy.

The company employs 980 people and makes seats for airlines including British Airways and Air France.

The firm has not been badly affected by the downturn but chief executive Paul Carter does not think his company will remain unscathed.

"Will we be immune? No," he said. "But will we become another Woolworths? No.

"There will be short term pain, but I'm sure it will be manageable."

When a prime minister does get to an area and gets to talk to people, he does get that sense of what attitudes are in an area
Lord Kinnock, former Labour leader

Staff at the factory were very positive about the PM's visit and Colleen Teague, 47, who works in Contour's cutting area, said: "It does morale the world of good to see the Prime Minister taking an interest, and coming down here."

While Susan Perrin, 56, who works in the company's finance department, added: "It's nice for Welsh industry. It gives you a boost."

Mr Brown was later shown around the the newsroom at Media Wales in Cardiff, which publishes the Western Mail and South Wales Echo newspapers.

Asked what help he could offer the Welsh economy, he said Wales will see more than 2bn of public investment in school, transport and hospital projects over the next year to help it remain afloat.

Former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, who is from south Wales, said the visit would "enrich" Mr Brown's understanding of what is going on in the area.

"When a prime minister does get to an area and gets to talk to people, he does get that sense of what attitudes are in an area," Lord Kinnock told BBC Radio Wales.

"It's still better than sitting in that ivory tower in Downing Street."

'Economic problems'

Plaid Cymru finance spokesperson Chris Franks said: "I hope Brown has come to apologise for the economic problems he has created in Wales.

"New Labour and the Tories are joint architects of the deregulation that led to the credit crunch and economic hardship for many."

Conservative shadow Welsh secretary Cheryl Gillan said: "The prime minister's visit brings no comfort to the thousands of workers who have lost their jobs in Wales over recent months and the thousands more whose jobs are at risk in the months to come.

"If he thinks he will manage to persuade people he's the man to solve this economic crisis then I suspect he will be very disappointed."

Jenny Randerson, for the Liberal Democrats, said: "Another day goes by and we've heard that more and more people are losing their jobs in Wales.

"It seems that Gordon Brown is coming here to see the mess he's created."

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