Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th July 2018.
What recent steps he has taken to promote Wales’s international trading opportunities.
My Department continues to work closely with the Department for International Trade on promoting Wales’s trading opportunities. During my recent trips to Qatar, Kuwait, Hong Kong and the US I saw at first hand the enthusiasm for Welsh exports as well as the potential for foreign direct investment projects to come to Wales.
Given Wales’s connectivity on the M4 corridor, does my right hon. Friend agree that we can truly capitalise on trading opportunities internationally for Wales and, indeed, the Thames valley by improving the Reading to Gatwick road corridor?
My hon. Friend will be aware that I have been a strong supporter of the third runway at Heathrow because it is important to the Welsh economy, and connectivity to airports is vital to deliver its prospects and objectives. He is right about the M4 corridor. With the abolition of the Severn tolls, it creates an opportunity for a natural economy to develop between Bath, Bristol, Newport and the south Wales economy in general, to create further economic growth.
The Secretary of State knows that Airbus is one of Wales’s most important trading entities and companies, so does he think it is a good or bad sign that the chief executive of Airbus is so worried about the Government screwing up Brexit that he is now stockpiling goods that he feels he will not be able to get in to make his finished products?
I think the hon. Gentleman is out-of-date. The latest statements from Airbus have welcomed the Chequers agreement, because it will allow the company to protect its supply chain. That demonstrates the positive relationship that we have with large international companies, in seeking to protect their interests but taking the opportunities of leaving the European Union and looking to new markets elsewhere.
Is it not the case that following the passing of the Trade Bill yesterday, Wallonia, a region of Belgium, will have more influence over EU trade policy than Wales will have over post-Brexit UK trade policy?
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade announced that we will have the widest, most extensive consultation in relation to future trading arrangements. We will not only talk to the devolved Administrations regularly, as I always do, but talk to key stakeholders in Wales to ensure that we respond to their priorities. We are determined to have the widest consultation to ensure that people have the facts at hand rather than sometimes inaccurate reports.
The expanding digital economy will bring further opportunities for Welsh businesses, yet they tell me all the time that broadband speeds are still too slow to trade. What are the Government doing about this?
On average, the superfast broadband threshold in Wales is higher than it is across the rest of the UK, but the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that more work needs to be done. Significant sums of money have been available, with £69 million going to the Welsh Government from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, in addition to the £56 million of gainshare that has come from that. Of course, the priority on how the Welsh Government spend that has largely been driven and directed by them. I am keen to work closely with them to see that we can get to the communities that have not yet received superfast broadband, because clearly that brings them opportunities economically.