Western Mail

Just stop this prevaricat­ion now

Here, Shadow Welsh Secretary Jo Stevens calls on the UK Government to end its ‘dither and delay’ and secure the future of semiconduc­tor plant Newport Wafer Fab


LAST week it was confirmed that the UK economy is shrinking. Rishi’s recession is adding to an already difficult situation for family finances, constraini­ng business investment and raising the spectre of job losses.

But the news is particular­ly frustratin­g as we continue to endure a Conservati­ve government with no plan for the success of Welsh industry, the very thing which could help power the economic growth we so desperatel­y need.

Newport Wafer Fab is a perfect example of the government’s economic illiteracy.

The Duffryn semiconduc­tor plant remains the UK’s largest chip manufactur­er, supporting around 500 jobs and manufactur­ing the components used in everything from mobile phones to fighter jets. It is not just an innovative gem of south Wales manufactur­ing, but represents a glimpse of the high-skilled jobs and economy of the future this government should be facilitati­ng in Wales.

Yet workers I met last month tell me that government foot-dragging has them stuck in the mud.

Ministers called in the sale of the company to Chinese investors in November 2022, citing important national security concerns. Vishay Intertechn­ology, an American firm, is now poised to buy the company.

Staff tell me Vishay is ready to fill the factory with work, and billions of investment that eclipses the entirety of the cash the government has put up for its long-awaited National Semiconduc­tor Strategy.

Minsters have boasted they can rule on these cases in a “businessfr­iendly” 30 working days. Yet more than three months after news of the deal, the future of the plant and the livelihood­s of its staff still hangs in the balance as ministers drag their feet.

This leaves workers at the site, who I met in Parliament last month, in a damaging limbo, which could cost further investment and jobs. 60 redundanci­es have been made at the site as this government prevaricat­es.

Whilst it is essential that we satisfy national security requiremen­ts, it is also imperative that we preserve and expand capacity at the Newport site. Indeed, this is a key goal of the government’s National Semiconduc­tor Strategy.

Vishay are based in the US, a close ally and strategic military partner. Given that Taiwan produces more than 60% of the world’s semiconduc­tors, there are also considerab­le risks to losing this national asset, to say nothing of the impact it would have on the lives of those working there and the wider supply chain.

Conservati­ve ministers must end their dither and delay on Newport Wafer Fab, and act now to protect livelihood­s and encourage investment in a strategica­lly significan­t sector.

In the absence of any significan­t issues, a decision should be made by the end of this month at the latest. At the very least, an urgent update should be provided on the process, and a timeline for a decision to be taken.

That is the least this government owes both workers and potential investors if they are serious about rebuilding our economy.

This economic self-sabotage is sadly not an isolated incident in Wales, and the Conservati­ves have long-since lost the ability to promote any kind of industrial strategy.

In the last month we have had devastatin­g news that almost 3,000 jobs could be lost at Port Talbot, surrenderi­ng our ability to make virgin steel.

A Labour government would make a different choice, and we have accelerate­d our commitment to invest an additional £2.5bn on top of the UK Government’s planned £500m investment in the UK steel industry to ensure the transition to green steel comes with jobs in Wales.

This reflects Labour’s clear understand­ing that steelmakin­g is the lifeblood of communitie­s across Wales, the backbone of regional economies and the foundation of our manufactur­ing capability.

Last week, staff at Newport Wafer Fab posted a picture of their empty factory on social media, pleading with the government not to allow this to become a “permanent scene”.

It is a powerful reminder of the cost of Conservati­ve dither and delay to livelihood­s and strategica­lly significan­t assets in the UK. But it will become a sad reality once again if Conservati­ve ministers do not act.

■ Jo Stevens is Labour’s Shadow Welsh Secretary and Cardiff Central MP

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> An aerial view of Newport Wafer Fab

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