Welsh Affairs

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 5:09 pm on 26th February 2009.

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Photo of Daniel Kawczynski Daniel Kawczynski Conservative, Shrewsbury and Atcham 5:09 pm, 26th February 2009

As the hon. Gentleman knows, my main duty is to England and I speak on behalf of my constituents.

The Welsh Assembly creates huge difficulties for English border towns. As I said earlier, the Royal Shrewsbury hospital loses £2 million a year as a result of the different mechanism whereby the Welsh Assembly pays for treatment across the border. When I made that point to the Chairman of the Welsh Affairs Committee, he gave a derisory reply. We have patients coming from Wales to the Royal Shrewsbury hospital who get life-saving medication to which my constituents in Shrewsbury are not entitled. I have to fight tooth and nail to secure life-saving treatments for my constituents that people from Wales get automatically in our hospital. That causes huge frustration and anger and divides our two communities.

Another problem is bovine tuberculosis. We in England had to kill 40,000 cows last year as a result of bovine TB. I am grateful that the Welsh Assembly is looking into that terrible problem and that it is holding trial culls of badgers in Wales. It is just a shame that there is not more co-operation between our Parliament here in London and the Welsh Assembly over the issue, which transcends our borders. There should be far more assimilation and co-operation in dealing with such major issues.

The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire also mentioned flooding. He thanked the Minister for his intervention, which he said would prevent part of his constituency from being flooded. However, flooding causes tremendous misery on our side of the border. Shrewsbury floods repeatedly, as do all the other towns on the River Severn, through Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire, causing hundreds of millions of pounds of damage in lost business. The way to resolve the problem is not to have little barriers in each town, but to have a wet washland scheme at the source of the River Severn, across the border in Wales, which would flood a large piece of agricultural land, which would become a marsh in the summer, encouraging wildlife, and a lake in winter. However, the hon. Gentleman said that thanks to the Minister's intervention that proposal has been blocked. I shall be telling my constituents in Shrewsbury about that and trying to find out more about how the Minister intervened to prevent mere scrubland or agricultural land from being flooded in a rural part of mid-Wales. The Minister is happy to do that, despite all the suffering from flooding in Shrewsbury and all the other towns down the River Severn. That is simply unacceptable.

On a positive note, I should like to put in a plug for the Wrexham-to-Marylebone rail service, which goes through Shrewsbury. Welsh and English MPs are working together to secure that link, which is vital for business and tourism. However, Virgin Trains and Arriva are doing everything possible with the Office of Rail Regulation to try to scupper that service. I very much hope that the Minister will do everything possible to safeguard that important service, which operates from Wrexham to London.

I have great concerns about the grants that the Welsh Assembly gives to businesses, which are much greater than those that we can afford in England. Those grants are uncompetitive and unfair. They lead to many Shropshire firms going just across the border to set up business and thus causing—[Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members are cheering, but those moves are leading to significant job losses in Shropshire.

Finally, a lot of Welsh children come across the border to go to schools in my constituency. Many rural primary schools are under threat from closure because we receive only £3,300 per annum for every child and we are ranked 147th out of the 149 local education authorities in England, which is leading to huge pressure on our schools. I hope that the Minister will bear that in mind as well.

I am trying to say this respectfully, as the only English MP in a Welsh debate, but what I am trying to get across is this: I love Wales. We went on holiday to Wales last year, to Mwnt bay, which is absolutely beautiful. My family and I even spent an afternoon on the beach in Mwnt with my hon. Friend Mr. Crabb and his family. During my holiday I also met Mark Williams in Aberystwyth, in his constituency. We all love Wales and we all want to see it prosper.

I am just trying to convey some of the problems and frustrations I have as a Member of Parliament representing a border town that is losing out in certain ways as a result of increasing changes between the Welsh Assembly and our own Parliament. I very much hope that we can all work across the border because, at the end of the day, we are one country and we should be working together to improve the lives of our constituents in both countries.

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