Welsh Affairs

Part of International Women’S Day – in the House of Commons at 3:25 pm on 2nd March 2017.

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Photo of Byron Davies Byron Davies Conservative, Gower 3:25 pm, 2nd March 2017

If my hon. Friend bears with me, I will address that point in a moment.

There are positive points, of course. The Department for Transport has invested heavily in the great western line, and the new intercity express rolling stock, which will shortly be introduced on services to Cardiff and Swansea, will provide passengers on the line with greater capacity, a more comfortable journey and decreased journey times. I have already spoken to the Department, Ministers and others to try to ensure that we look at new solutions to our transport problems, such as greater services to west Wales or a complete reconfiguration of rail services with a Swansea Parkway station and other solutions to try to unlock the vast untapped potential in south-west Wales. I implore Members on both sides of the House to work together and lobby so that we can make those positive changes for the people we represent.

On a slightly brighter note, I have previously spoken at length about the benefits of the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project, but it really is a huge opportunity for Gower, south-west Wales and our nation. It is a world-first pathfinder project that could put Wales on the map as a world leader in renewable energy and its associated skills base. The tidal lagoon is exactly the sort of game-changing infrastructure project that Wales needs, and I know from my many meetings with Ministers across Government that it is being looked at extremely closely.

On a topic relating to the lagoon, it is vital for productivity and for the future prospects of our young people that, post-Brexit, we invest in and encourage skills development. ColegauCymru/CollegesWales is doing excellent work to provide skills, training and education for a wide age range that can make a real difference not just to individuals but to families and the country. The lagoon could be the catalyst that unlocks a greater level of skills training and development, which could encourage jobs and investment in engineering, thereby enabling companies to invest in other projects in Wales to benefit all our constituents.

Before I finish, I wish to bring up a local issue that has been worked on across party lines. The decline of the cockle industry has lost the economy around £23 million over the past 10 years. It was once an extremely successful industry in Gower that supported the community and was the livelihood of many people; now, 95% of cockles die at around one year old. The problem has existed for around 10 years, and the cockle beds have not recovered since the mortality started in 2005.

In 2000, the area had the best cockles in Europe and exported to France and Spain, bringing tens of millions of pounds into the region, but the cockles are no longer suitable for the high-end market, and there is a limit to how many small cockles can be sold. The local cocklers are unable to guarantee a regular supply of cockles to the processors. The season starts in May but is finished by July, whereas it used to be a year-round business. The local cocklers believe the cockles are being killed by sewage discharge, although the science around the issue remains a mystery. Natural Resources Wales should be working with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, because the problem affects other parts of the UK as well.

There should be further scientific work, and help from the Welsh Government, to save the cockle industry in Gower. Going forward, we can be hopeful about the future of the lagoon and improve skills in science, technology, engineering and maths, but we must not forget the great artisanship of the industries that our communities were built on. Although we face challenges, I firmly believe that by challenging our institutions to do more to find bold projects that will drive Wales forward, and with us elected representatives fighting the corner of our constituents in common cause, we can forge a better and more prosperous Wales that stands ready to embrace the future.