Cardiff City Deal

– in the House of Commons at 10:09 pm on 6th July 2015.

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Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Jackie Doyle-Price.)

Photo of Craig Williams Craig Williams Conservative, Cardiff North 10:10 pm, 6th July 2015

It is a privilege to lead this Adjournment debate on the Cardiff city deal. Let me say at the outset that the hon. Members for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) and for Cardiff Central (Jo Stevens) may feel free to contribute, and I look forward to their interventions throughout the debate.

First, I will set out a bit of the history of Cardiff and explain why I think it is best placed for a city deal. I will then say a bit about the business community, higher education and other sectors that are doing vibrantly well in Cardiff. Cardiff is a great city, capital and region. The city has huge cultural heritage, with two fantastic castles, historical arcades and Spillers, the oldest independent record shop. The city has a wealth of history. In 1909, the first £1 million cheque was signed in the Cardiff Coal Exchange, when the port was one of the largest in the world. I can see the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth smiling at that; the Coal Exchange is located in his constituency.

More recently, financial and professional services firms are being attracted into relocating to Cardiff and existing companies are expanding, which is extremely welcome. Deloitte is bringing 500 new jobs to the city. Admiral, Wales’s only FTSE 100 company, has recently moved into a new 3,000-employee headquarters in the heart of the city. Principality, the seventh largest building society in the UK, continues to thrive. We have specialists in technology, finance and administrative services, such as Equiniti, which is establishing a new financial technological hub, FinTech. Cardiff and Vale College has recently opened a major £45 million building, which will help students enter the financial services sector. Local firm ActiveQuote, which was recently recognised as one of the 10 fastest-growing firms in Wales, is creating 74 new jobs after winning four contracts to operate health and protection insurance comparison sites, such as Confused.com, Gocompare and Money.co.uk.

Cardiff also has an exciting start-up scene. New technology-based sectors, such as the life sciences hub in Cardiff bay, have become the nerve centre of a vibrant and prosperous Welsh life sciences ecosystem. I pay tribute to the work being done by the Welsh Government on driving the life sciences hub. GE Healthcare has recently opened an innovation village at its base in Cardiff North to help develop businesses and new ideas and bring them straight from the university into the commercial world. Cardiff Start is a growing community of new digital firms and NatWest is opening a new entrepreneurial spark accelerator for young entrepreneurs in early 2016.

Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Opposition Whip (Commons)

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this important debate. Does he agree that Cardiff is rapidly becoming an important hub for the creative industries? Will he join me in welcoming the work that has been done by Cardiff city council and by the Welsh Labour Government to encourage the creative industries, particularly the new Pinewood Studio Wales, the BBC

Drama Village and many other facilities? That is building a real hub of expertise and creativity, which are being exported to the world.

Photo of Craig Williams Craig Williams Conservative, Cardiff North

The hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point. It is almost like he has read my speech, because I was coming on to the media and culture. Culturally, Cardiff attracts major films and studios through that investment. This is what the debate is all about: the UK Government, with their many arms and Departments, working with the Welsh Government and local authorities to build on the investment being made by both Governments. We need only to look at “Doctor Who”, “Casualty” and, of course, the Welsh soap opera, “Pobol y Cwm”, being filmed in and around Cardiff, to see the great potential we have.

Of course, BBC Wales is establishing a new huge 1,200 employee headquarters in the middle of Cardiff. That is a welcome development with an anchor tenant for the redevelopment of the centre. As the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth has already said, Pinewood Studio Wales in Wentloog has a major appeal. US TV and cable shows, “The Crow” and “The Bastard Executioner”, are being filmed there and they are welcome. Cardiff is of course still home to S4C, and that is welcome.

For foodies, it is claimed that Cardiff has more restaurants per head than any other part of the UK, a very welcome development. A burgeoning street food and craft beer scene has developed through the efforts of local entrepreneurs. Cardiff is also home to Brains, which I was lucky enough to visit with the Prime Minister recently, one of the greatest British regional breweries, established in 1882 and a strong family business.

Photo of Jo Stevens Jo Stevens Labour, Cardiff Central

I, too, congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing the debate. He mentions food and I wonder whether he welcomes the launch of the slow food movement in south-east Wales, which encourages local providers and sources to generate a new initiative?

Photo of Craig Williams Craig Williams Conservative, Cardiff North

I certainly do. The other day I asked my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs about securing food labelling and honouring and protecting our established brands, such as Welsh lamb, which is as important in south-east Wales as in the rest of Wales. We should look after our brands, our identities and our intellectual property in the food industry as well as in every other industry.

Let me move on very neatly to sport before I move on to the great potential I see for the city deal.

Photo of Chris Davies Chris Davies Conservative, Brecon and Radnorshire

Before my hon. Friend moves on, may I congratulate him? In a very short time, he has not just secured this Adjournment debate but has done so much for the people of Cardiff and Cardiff North, not just as a Member of Parliament but as a county councillor. He has been entrenched there since moving from Montgomeryshire and I congratulate him on all the hard work he does. With all this tremendous investment coming to Cardiff, how does he feel that it benefits the rest of Wales, particularly mid-Wales and areas such as Brecon and Radnorshire, which I represent?

Photo of Craig Williams Craig Williams Conservative, Cardiff North

I thank my hon. Friend for that kind intervention. I am unashamed of the fact that Cardiff is the engine room of the Welsh economy. Securing those high-quality good jobs and dragging them from London will deliver on our long-term economic plan, as I am sure my hon. Friend will appreciate, to build it up to be that true engine room.

The most recent achievements for the city involve our sporting prowess. Cardiff City had a recent spell in the premiership, albeit that it was a little too short, while Cardiff North residents Sam Warburton and Gareth Bale have pushed the Welsh rugby and football teams to recent success. We have massive ability and a proud record of catering for large-scale sporting activity in Cardiff. The FA cup finals between 2001 and 2005 gave us confidence as a city. This week, once again, we will welcome the Ashes back to Cardiff for the first of the series. Although I welcome the England and Wales Cricket Board to the SWALEC stadium and hope that we triumph over the Australians, I must highlight the fact that there is no finer city in which to celebrate when Wales triumphs over England at the Millennium stadium—a great city and a great stadium. Cardiff is an Olympic city, and a venue for the rugby world cup and the Champions League final.

Higher education is a subject that must not be missed. Cardiff Metropolitan University and the University of South Wales have invested tens of millions of pounds in new buildings in our city, including the new school of art and design at Llandaff and the iconic Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama building on North Road, which houses one of the UK’s top conservatoires.

Following its rating as the fifth best research university in the UK, Cardiff University has revealed ambitious plans to boost economic growth through the creation of a £300 million innovation-led campus. The first part of that project involves a £17.3 million award from the UK Government to the Compound Semiconductor Research Foundation, the first of its kind in the UK. It has the potential to become one of the leading clusters in Europe, and it will continue the university’s strong partnership with a great company in Cardiff, IQE plc, which is the leading global compound semiconductor wafer supplier. Any Member with a smartphone in their pocket who wants to look up what that means will probably find that that company is part of the supply chain involved in its manufacture.

Despite all that success, Cardiff still has a long way to go. In my previous role as chairman of the council’s economic scrutiny committee, I saw many reports, including the 2014 Welsh index of multiple deprivation, which showed that the southern arc of Cardiff was among the most deprived communities in Wales. I also saw that the Welsh capital was ranked only 24th in the 2013 competitiveness index report, having fallen seven places since 2010. It has been outranked by Norwich, Derby, Leeds and Bristol. I pay tribute to those cities, but I want my city to be far above them, and 24th is not good enough. That same report concluded that

“whilst government agencies and devolved political institutions have given the British economy the chance to diversify its competitiveness away from its dependence on the financial sector, this opportunity has not been embraced”.

The need for a strong city deal could not be clearer.

The city deal could also transform our transport infrastructure. The ball is now in the court of the local authorities, businesses and higher education institutions, and skills and infrastructure are the key to transforming our city and the south Wales economy. Fair play to the Minister for Transport in the Welsh Government: at least the Metro is starting to emerge in skeleton form, and it is also good to be talking about completing infrastructure projects such as the Eastern Bay link. Drivers going through the Butetown tunnels have been frustrated for far too long by the fact that neither the link nor the city circle—a ring road around Cardiff—has been completed.

The Secretary of State for Transport made a commitment in this House two weeks ago, saying that the electrification of the Great Western line was his top priority. That is not only welcome but essential for the development of the south Wales city region. That key fast link between the two capital cities will help to drive the south Wales economy. It is worth noting that Cardiff is the closest European capital city to London, and we must unashamedly mark that fact, as the Cardiff Business Council has done. The link will also offer the potential for a direct link to Heathrow, opening up the possibility of investment from across the Atlantic bridge as well as much further afield. In business, time is money, so Cardiff coming closer to London will attract investment. With Crossrail, the journey from Cardiff Central to Canary Wharf will take just two hours. The Government could deliver nothing more terrific for the people of Cardiff. This, more than any other factor, illustrates why the city deal—the first in Wales—is so badly needed. Without decent transport and infrastructure, we will go nowhere fast.

My predecessors in Cardiff North have raised many of these issues in this Chamber before, but it is only now, thanks to this Government, that a city deal is being offered. At a time when England and Scotland are forging ahead and developing core cities, city deals and city alliances, Wales has lacklustre spatial plans. The Labour Welsh Government have dragged their feet, up to a point. Far too often, I see an attitude in the Senedd of “anywhere but Cardiff” in relation to investment, and the probable local government reorganisation risks being a bit of a mess. The Welsh Government have to drive the city region agenda in conjunction with local authorities in south Wales, and that has to get going now, rather than waiting until after the local government reorganisation. I see the Welsh Government as having arrived in the room for the city deal but not yet having pulled up the chair to the table.

After winning the opportunity to hold this debate in the Chamber, I contacted the leaders of all 10 local authorities in the south Wales area to work on a cross-party basis and ask them for their thoughts and opinions on the city deal and how they see it affecting their authority. I want to focus on two of the responses, those from Blaenau Gwent and Monmouth. I thank those leaders for taking the time to respond positively and frankly and for their statesman-like approach to the issue.

The first was Councillor Peter Fox, leader of Monmouthshire county council. I shall read out his view because it is important to get it right. He stated:

“The opportunity to lever in investment money has to be grasped or the City Region will never be competitive on the wider stage . . . Business are fundamental to a successful deal, it is crucial for me that business are given some serious reins here. The business community know what they need, they know how to create opportunity and growth . . . The key partner which I hope will really grab this is the Welsh Government itself and currently

I am unclear of their commitment . . . If they don’t keep up and actively get on board there is a threat to the deal before it starts”.

Those are stark words from Councillor Peter Fox, and I share his view that business organisations such as the Cardiff Business Council which bring businesses together have a key role, alongside the officers in all our various councils, who have the skills and expertise to move the project forward, and the Welsh Government. The four pillars—higher education, the private sector, our local authorities and the Welsh Government—must all work together in close collaboration.

Photo of Jo Stevens Jo Stevens Labour, Cardiff Central

I was delighted that the hon. Gentleman made so many references to iconic buildings in my constituency, but I notice that all the companies mentioned at the beginning of his speech have located in Cardiff with the help of the Welsh Labour Government. The hon. Gentleman should give credit to the Welsh Labour Government for that.

Photo of Craig Williams Craig Williams Conservative, Cardiff North

The hon. Lady is very unkind to me. I name-checked the Welsh Government more than once and gave them due credit for a lot of investment in the city. If the Welsh Government were as kind as UK Trade & Investment and the UK Government, as in the case of the broadband investment that was made in the city, we would see a lot more Welsh Government logos on that UK Government investment. I have been very kind to the Welsh Government. I do not accept the broader point.

Secondly, the leader of Blaenau Gwent council rightly identified the main challenge as the need to identify sufficient schemes and projects that will raise the gross value added across the region, not just for Cardiff. That is the key. Such leaders get it, as one would expect from the leader of Blaenau Gwent: the city deal would deliver for the region and develop sufficient quality employment and skills to meet the regional needs. Clearly, the city deal has a time scale, but it needs to feed into projects such as the Circuit of Wales in order for growth to be linked into the region. That is how such projects and the city deal can all work together—a strong vision and one that I support.

In conclusion, I hope this Adjournment debate has demonstrated both why Cardiff needs a city deal and how this would enable huge regeneration across south Wales. We must to ensure that the engine room of the Welsh economy, Cardiff, has the power and capital funding to become the fastest-growing capital city in Europe.

Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar Conservative, Charnwood

My hon. Friend is already well known as a passionate and strong advocate for his city and his constituents. Does he agree that a strong and successful Cardiff is good news not just for Wales, but for the whole of the UK, and plays a key role in delivering our long-term economic plan and our one-nation strategy? The potential that we are seeing from Cardiff is just the start of what that wonderful city has to offer this country.

Photo of Craig Williams Craig Williams Conservative, Cardiff North

My hon. Friend has far more eloquently made the case for the city deal for Cardiff, Wales and the United Kingdom. This is a great offer for south Wales, Cardiff and all four pillars that I mentioned. They can apply for anything. The ball is firmly in the court of the civic leaders of Cardiff and south Wales. They should come to the UK Government with a business plan and make their case.

In the city deal for Ipswich, the city was given control over jobcentres and many other significant powers. This is the time for civic leaders in south Wales to step up, come up with a plan and transform the south Wales economy. They have a willing audience at this end of the M4.

I have outlined some of the hurdles in our way to becoming the fastest-growing capital city in Europe. The main one, on which I shall end, is that the city deal needs a delivery body. We are very good in Wales—better than any other part of the UK—at forming committees. We love committees and we will talk endlessly on committees. Having previously been a committee chairman, I know that to be true—as soon as I arrived in this place I wanted to join several Committees, and now I have. The city deal needs a delivery body—a modern-day Welsh Development Agency or Cardiff Bay Development Corporation version 2—and organisations that have traditionally tended to work against each other need to come together and collaborate. Only then will we see the benefits of the first Welsh city deal, and only then will our region and the Welsh nation tackle huge inequality, the need for regeneration and the huge infrastructure challenges we face.

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns Government Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales 10:30 pm, 6th July 2015

I congratulate my hon. Friend Craig Williams on securing the debate and, more importantly, pay tribute to him for the way in which he has pressed the case for Cardiff this evening and championed the opportunity that the city deal offers. He is a true champion for Cardiff and has pressed the case for the city deal for a long time now, and for the benefit of not only his constituency, but the wider region.

My hon. Friend truly sees the regional impact that a city deal can have. As he has said, the city deal is a transformational opportunity for Cardiff and the capital region. It has the potential to create jobs, improve living standards, drive growth and improve the quality of life for all across a wide area. It forms part of the Government’s plan to drive productivity.

I should also underline that we start from a good base. As has been highlighted across the House, Cardiff is a great place to live and work. It was recently named the best city in the UK in which to live, with low unemployment, growing disposable income and relatively low living costs. Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan has the highest GVA—gross value added—per head in Wales, and Wales is the fastest growing part of the United Kingdom. Unemployment is lower than in neighbouring large cities such as Bristol, Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool. Cardiff has a fantastic cultural heritage. Many of its successes have already been highlighted by my hon. Friend. The UK film incentives have played a major role in attracting new investment by film makers, independent television companies and the BBC.

Cardiff has also built a strong reputation for hosting major international events, such as the six nations, the FA cup and test match cricket. I was pleased to celebrate the confirmation last week that the champions league final will be played in the city in 2017, and in the same summer as the International Cricket Council’s champions trophy. That demonstrates the great breadth that Cardiff and the city region has to offer. We then need to add the Ryder cup and the NATO summit held only a short distance away in Newport. These events show that the Cardiff capital region packs a great punch. A city deal offers a great opportunity to build on these successes.

A city deal must be ambitious and innovative. It should not be focussed on capital inputs, finance or parochial interests; a city deal is so much more. I am pleased that the cross-party support for the city deal announced by the Chancellor in last year’s Budget is gathering momentum. The Government have already concluded 28 city deals in 27 cities. It started with eight deals in the largest cities outside London. It is estimated that the eight core deals will create 175,000 jobs and 37,000 apprenticeships.

There are great examples of successful projects. My hon. Friend mentioned the city deal in Ipswich. In Nottingham the local authority used the city deal to accelerate the growth of business in its creative quarter. The “Inspired in Nottingham” programme matched 185 students with business mentors, and 122 of them developed a prototype or began trading, and at least five of them now run businesses with six-figure turnovers. Newcastle and Gateshead established an accelerated development zone that has created over 1,450 jobs so far and used tax increment financing powers to speed up development. Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire city deal established an infrastructure delivery programme and investment fund, and it plans to build a distributor road to the motorway, which will also accommodate 4,000 new homes. These are just some examples of the variety of opportunities that a city deal can offer.

The Cardiff city deal, however, should not be limited or governed by those examples. I hope that the private sector and relevant authorities will consider the best of the deals so far and use them as their starting point. The Cardiff vision needs to be bold and strong, independent and dynamic. It must not be constrained by demands for cash. The successes I have listed have been based on innovative solutions in areas such as skills through making the right connections with educational institutions, job centres and apprenticeship providers with a number of infrastructure projects. At the heart of a successful strategy is the power of local partnership working that gets behind what works and positions business-led solutions.

A short time ago, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales met local authority leaders and highlighted the four-pillar approach that my hon. Friend mentioned, which has a role for local authorities and for the private sector, including higher education and further education. Such startling universities as Cardiff University, which is part of the Russell Group, Cardiff Metropolitan University, which is the most successful post-1992 university, and the University of South Wales, which is attached to Cardiff and Vale College, have major parts to play, along with the Welsh Government and the UK Government through the investments that have been made in rail infrastructure and the business-competitive environment that has allowed the Welsh Government and UKTI to attract investment.

Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Opposition Whip (Commons)

The Minister mentioned rail infrastructure. We all welcome the electrification of the great western main line, but does he agree that we also need new station capacity, particularly to the east of Cardiff in some of the more deprived areas, to ensure that people can access the jobs and opportunities that might be developed through a city deal?

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns Government Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales

It is up to the authorities involved—the Welsh Government and all those who play a part—to come forward with those sorts of bids. That demonstrates the innovative thinking that is needed. The best thing about the city deal is the bottom-up approach. It is about what the business community and civic leaders demand and see as their opportunities rather than a top-down Government approach saying, “This is what you must have.” That is the strength and the benefit of the programme.

The four-pillar approach demonstrates that all can focus their attention on outcomes. All must work hand in glove, with the needs and demands of the business community—the wealth creators—central to the plan. In April, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government visited Cardiff to meet business leaders. When he was questioned about the role of the private sector in the city deal, he underlined the central role that the business community must play and the fact that all organisations must have bought into the plan for the Government to respond positively. We are keen to work with all partners to help to secure the city deal.

It is important to underline the need for joint working between local authorities themselves. Obviously Cardiff’s is central to the city deal, but I was pleased to hear my hon. Friend share comments from the leaders of authorities such as Blaenau Gwent and Monmouthshire. These authorities are a little further away than many from the centre of Cardiff but see the potential that the city deal offers their areas. That demonstrates that all authorities should play a part and that this is genuinely benefiting the region. I hope that some of the authorities that have not yet have been so engaged can take the lead from places like Blaenau Gwent and Monmouthshire.

This is not about competition with the next authority; it is about creating a larger cake in which we can all share. The fact that authority areas in Wales are smaller means that people may live in one but work in another. Everyone can benefit with the right sort of plan. The Welsh Government have proposed local authority changes in recent weeks. These are naturally likely to raise issues between councils, but I do not want those to detract or distract from the opportunity of the city deal. The timescales are tough, but we should not be governed by timescale. This demonstrates the willingness of the Government to work with the authorities and to be ambitious not only in the plans themselves but in terms of timescale. We want this to happen, but the lead must come from the community.

There has never been a better time to invest, innovate or prosper. Wales is coming back. When the capital city region succeeds the whole of south Wales benefits directly, with a knock-on effect to all parts. It is important that all local authorities, the Welsh Government and business communities across the capital region seize that opportunity. Cardiff has a first-class reputation, a brand that is recognised and a strong private sector. We must use the city deal to bind them all together.

Question put and agreed to.

House adjourned.