Wales politics

Growth figures show economy 'on mend', say Welsh Conservatives

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Media captionSarah Dickins says growth will encourage firms like Tata Steel

Welsh Conservatives have hailed the latest growth figures as "further proof" the economy is "on the mend".

The UK economy grew by 0.6% in the three months to June, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The figures are up from 0.3% growth in the previous quarter.

But Labour's Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith said it was "a small step in the right direction" after "three wasted years".

It is the first estimate for growth during the second quarter of 2013, based on around 44% of actual data on economic activity.

'Challenging backdrop'

Welsh Shadow Business Minister Nick Ramsay welcomed the figures as "an extremely encouraging sign" and "further proof that the UK economy is on the mend".

"Despite a challenging economic backdrop, it is clear that the Conservative-led coalition is making welcome progress," he said.

Mr Ramsay urged Labour Welsh government ministers to "play their part in restoring economic confidence".

But Welsh ministers said they had helped create and safeguard more than 17,000 jobs over the previous 12 months "in the most difficult economic circumstances".

First Minister Carwyn Jones said: "The latest UKTI (UK Trade and Investment) figures show a massive 191% increase in the number of inward investment projects attracted to Wales in 2012/13.

"This is due to the high priority this Welsh government has attached to selling Wales abroad as a destination for business, trade and investment."

Mr Jones was speaking as he prepared to open a new operational centre housing 200 staff at the Llanwern steelworks in Newport on Thursday.

Workers there manage the Tata Steel supply chain and product range serving 24 countries.

Earlier this year the company invested £3.6m at Llanwern in a hi-tech galvanising line which manufactures coated steel for the vehicles.

'Gathering momentum'

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Media captionSarah Dickins spoke to David Russ, of the South Wales Chamber of Commerce

The director of the employers' organisation CBI Wales, Emma Watkins, warned "underlying conditions are quite weak as consumers are still saddled with debt".

"It's critical that governments in Wales and Westminster renew their efforts to secure a balanced recovery, using investment and trade as its building blocks," she said.

"Although undoubtedly conditions are still challenging, many Welsh companies order books are filling up nicely, some are looking to recruit again and, crucially, many are looking to overseas markets."

Janet Jones from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Wales said there was "gathering momentum" for growth as research showed more firms expected to grow, adding that recent capital spending announcements by Chancellor George Osborne would also help in the medium-term.

"The government should now look to further supporting UK small businesses by increasing competition in banking, enabling a better energy deal and simplifying the complex number of back to work schemes," she said.

'Crucial test'

Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith described the UK growth figures as "a small step in the right direction" but said they followed "three wasted years under this Tory-led government".

"The crucial test now is to ensure that growth is sustained and that it secures rising living standards for the vast majority of working people, not just the most well-off in society."

Plaid Cymru said it was "hopeful" the Welsh economy was "finally turning the corner" but party economy spokesman Alun Ffred Jones there was still "a great deal of work to be done in creating better paid work in Wales".

"Until wages are going up and there is an increase in living standards then there is no cause for celebration," he said.

"Many of the jobs created recently have been at the lower end of the market, and more than one in ten people in work in Wales are under-employed, either working fewer hours than they would like or in a job for which they are over-qualified.

Welsh Liberal Democrat economy spokeswoman Eluned Parrott said the economy was showing "strong signs of recovery" but there was a "long way to go".

"The UK coalition government was formed at a time when the country's finances were in complete ruins," she said.

"Slowly but surely the plan is working and the economy is recovering."

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