ST David’S Day

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:02 pm on 28th February 2019.

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Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Labour, Delyn 2:02 pm, 28th February 2019

I thank my hon. Friend Tonia Antoniazzi for securing this debate. Along with my hon. Friends, I pay tribute to Paul Flynn, my former hon. Friend the Member for Newport West, who would sit on this Back Bench close to us and make contributions every week tackling the Government and promoting Labour values.

I did not know Steffan Lewis personally, but I know that, taken at a young age, his family will be devastated. I also offer my condolences to the team in the Assembly and to Plaid Cymru as a political party.

I want to make just four points in this debate. The first point is about Brexit. Whatever we end up doing on Brexit, the Secretary of State for Wales has an absolute duty to make sure that a no-deal Brexit is ruled out. He will have before him the evidence from Airbus near my constituency, which employs 14,000 workers across the United Kingdom, thousands of them in north Wales. Katherine Bennett and Tom Enders, two senior Airbus officials, have warned about the consequences of no deal. The Secretary of State will know that Tony Walker of Toyota, which employs hundreds of people in north Wales, and in Derbyshire, has said that a no-deal Brexit will cost Toyota £10 million a day. The Secretary of State will know from talking to farmers across Wales that a no-deal Brexit will mean that we cannot take Welsh lamb to the table of Europe while no deal remains on the table in the United Kingdom. He will know that firms such as Vauxhall, and myriad firms in my constituency, small and large, are facing uncertainty because no deal remains on the table. The one thing he can do in responding to this debate is to rule out no deal, whatever we settle on with regard to Brexit.

The second issue I want to focus on is getting some assurances from the Secretary of State about the north Wales growth deal. My hon. Friend Albert Owen set out very clearly what is required. We have a potential growth deal of £335 million. We have had an announcement from the Government of about £240 million, with match funding from the Welsh Government and from local sources and the private sector. We need to ensure that the Government consider what they promised they would do in Budgets four and five years ago and deliver on the north Wales growth deal. As Mr Jones said, this is a great opportunity for investment to modernise the infrastructure of north-east Wales and north Wales as a whole, and the Government should take it.

My third point relates to council tax. My local authority has made it very clear that the difficulties it faces with teachers’ pensions, in particular, are putting it under tremendous strain. That is why this year we have had a council tax increase that is well above average. I know the pressures that my local colleagues are facing. The Secretary of State has devolved teachers’ pensions to the National Assembly for Wales and to the Welsh Government, but no money has gone with that. He needs to explain to this House today the financial settlement in relation to that, and to make sure that it is secured, not just for the past year but in future years.

My final point—my hon. Friend Anna McMorrin touched on it—is about scrutiny of the Welsh Office and scrutiny of the Conservative Government’s performance in Wales. There is now even more limited opportunity for that than there was previously. Let me take, for example, the Welsh Grand Committee. When we had a Labour Government from 1997 to 2010, the Welsh Grand Committee met 39 times to debate Welsh matters. In the nine years of this Conservative Government, it has met nine times. Six of those occasions were in the first two years of the Conservative coalition, from 2010 to 2012. There have been only three in the past three years, and there were a whole three years when the Welsh Grand Committee never met at all. The Welsh Grand Committee gives us an important opportunity to raise issues such as these. Does the Secretary of State wish to continue with it, and, if so, when will it meet in future?

It is about time that we reviewed the issue of cross-party discussions on English votes for English laws. In the Brexit debates, when I have had to discuss issues in my constituency relating to teachers, health workers and people working in businesses in England, I cannot vote on those issues for my constituents on the border who are impacted by them. That is not sustainable for the future. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff North also mentioned, a 30-minute—