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The Economy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:34 pm on 24th October 2019.

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Photo of Stephen Kinnock Stephen Kinnock Labour, Aberavon 3:34 pm, 24th October 2019

It is a pleasure to follow Chris Green. This Queen’s Speech shows an incredible level of ambition, with 26 Bills and no Government majority to deliver them. High hopes indeed this Government have for our nation. Or could it be, just possibly, that the Government have no ambition at all to deliver this programme and it is nothing more than a naked pre-election stunt? Please do not call a Division on that, Mr Deputy Speaker.

The Prime Minister claims to be turning on the spending taps, but the truth is that the trickle of money from the Government goes nowhere near reversing the level of cuts the Conservatives have introduced since 2010. For the Welsh Government that has meant a decade of diminishing budgets; even with the Chancellor’s extra £600 million for Wales, the Welsh Government’s budget for 2021 will be £300 million lower in real terms that it was in 2010-11. My Neath Port Talbot Council has had to remove more than £80 million from its budget since 2010 and it is expected to find a further £42 million of cuts between now and 2023. Some 28,000 local government jobs in Wales have been lost since 2010.

As budget cuts have gone deeper and deeper, it has become impossible to sustain local services. Dedicated residents have volunteered to run libraries in Taibach, Briton Ferry and Cymmer, as well as the Noddfa community hall, the Gwynfi miners hall and the Afan Valley swimming pool. While the Government have stood by, our communities have stood up, but they should not have to; community action should be in addition to the state, not in place of it.

Fair funding also means replacing EU funding post-Brexit. Regional development funding has been crucial in boosting less prosperous areas all over the UK. My constituency is one of those areas that has benefited. Last year, I set up the all-party group on post-Brexit funding for nations, regions and local areas, which I chair. We have a real fear that the promised UK shared prosperity fund, which will replace EU funds, will be not only a financial grab, but a power grab by a UK Tory Government clawing back powers that sit naturally with the devolved Administrations. The great advantage of the current EU system is that it is data-driven and evidence-based, thus guarding against pork barrel politics. There is a real worry that the SPF will become a politicised slush fund, with a Conservative Government using it to buy votes in marginal seats. There is still no news on the SPF from Ministers. It has already been delayed and time is now running out for organisations on the ground, which need to plan for the future.

The Welsh are a proud, resilient people. We are not looking for special treatment. We are looking for a fair deal, and that is true of people across Britain. The Government like to cite headline employment figures, but when we scratch below the surface we see insecure work and low pay, and, as a result, low productivity. In the UK economy, all that glitters is not gold. The Chancellor offers warm words on an infrastructure plan, but does this really cut the mustard, after 40 years of an economy built on the agglomeration of wealth, power and opportunity in our major cities, at the expense of industrial, rural and coastal areas? We need real change; a national investment bank with regional divisions; a green jobs revolution, underpinned by a 21st-century steel industry; and a proper alterative to post-16 academic education. This is the whole-nation politics that Britain, Wales and the people of Aberavon need and deserve. This is the vision, and the Queen’s Speech will fail miserably to deliver on it.