Welsh Affairs

Part of International Women’S Day – in the House of Commons at 4:05 pm on 2nd March 2017.

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Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn Labour, Newport West 4:05 pm, 2nd March 2017

In the spirit of brotherly and sisterly love that characterises this debate, I will advance my main career task of adding to the glittering career of the Secretary of State for Wales. He had the good sense to marry into a family who live in my constituency, which shows that he is a man of ambition.

I urge the Secretary of State to challenge his Cabinet, who seem to use Wales as a kind of Aunt Sally for making comparisons. He could advance his career by promoting some of the great achievements of Wales, and particularly of the Welsh Government. He could start with the Welsh Government’s Bill that introduced presumed consent for organ donation, which has already saved lives and proven to be advantageous. There is a Bill to that effect before this House, and I urge him to persuade the Cabinet of the advantages of introducing the same system in England.

I want to ask the Secretary of State about one of the other great successes of the Welsh Assembly, which was buying Cardiff airport for the bargain price of £52 million. That was derided by some of his friends in Wales, but since the airport was bought it has paid more than £52 million in air passenger duty back to the Government. Steve Brine, who is next to the Secretary of State, took a great deal of time in our debate on the Wales Bill and seemed to give more support to Bristol airport than to Cardiff airport. I say to him that Cardiff airport is another shining success.

In a Select Committee, I reminded the Secretary of State that he was born four years after Wales started paying double tax on the national road system and the Severn bridge tolls, and asked whether his ambition was to ensure that those tolls continued until he retired. That is the way that it is going. By next year, however, the bridge will be all paid for.

I asked the Secretary of State how the toll of £3.70 that he proposed at the time was 50% of £6.70. He and his officials went back to the Wales Office and recalculated, and the next figure I saw was £3. Recently, a question was asked here about how the £3 was calculated. The strange answer was that that was something equivalent to the Humber bridge. We are happy for it to be treated in the same way as the Humber bridge, where £150 million of debt was wiped off. That would give us 10 years at least. Now, the only justification for the tolls is that they are a cash cow, and the Government and the Treasury refuse to give them up.

When the Severn bridge was first opened, Harri Webb wrote a poem:

“Two lands at last connected

Across the waters wide,

And all the tolls collected

On the English side.”

If the ghost of Harri Webb is still about, he might write something along these lines:

“Now all the tolls are collected

The debt is paid in full

But Tory snake oil salesmen

Still rob us with their bull.”

David T. C. Davies made several interesting observations, and I would like to know how they will be followed up.