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The Economy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:50 pm on 24th October 2019.

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Photo of Albert Owen Albert Owen Labour, Ynys Môn 3:50 pm, 24th October 2019

This will be my last Queen’s Speech after 18 years in this place, as I have announced that I will not be standing at the next general election. I will miss some things, but not jumping up and down for hours to get the opportunity to speak—I have to say that I have not enjoyed that at all.

Let me begin with the withdrawal agreement and Brexit itself, because it will have a huge impact on my constituency and the port of Holyhead, which is the fastest growing port in the whole United Kingdom in terms of trade with Europe. It is massive. A border down the Irish sea will mean tariffs and added costs for Welsh communities and businesses, and checks that will take time and delay cargoes. For the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say in his opening remarks that no economic impact assessment is necessary shows his lack of understanding of the policy that his Government are pushing through. The Brexit Secretary does not understand the implications of tariffs and customs checks either, and of course the Prime Minister said that there would never be a border down the Irish sea. It is not a border; it is an economic iron curtain for many of us in Wales, and it is really disappointing that the Government have done this.

We have no impact studies, but the Welsh Government reckon there will be a 7% reduction in the Welsh economy over the next 15 years. That is probably why the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not want to produce the figures—because he knows that there will be a negative impact.

I want to try to be as positive as I can about the Queen’s Speech, although it will be difficult. I welcome the Environment Bill because we need to build consensus on the challenge of climate change and a low-carbon economy. I want to see a UK Government working with the devolved Administrations on this. There are good practices in other parts of the United Kingdom that we need to adapt into Bills here, including on a low- carbon infrastructure.

If we are serious about climate change, we need a revolution in renewables, but we also need to invest in carbon capture and storage—and, yes, in new nuclear. If we are to reach our target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, we need to double our low-carbon infrastructure. We have an infrastructure plan, but it is not ambitious enough. We need to work together on this now. We need a low-carbon revolution—not just in energy generation, but in our homes and the built environment. We need to do it street by street and community by community, with gas fitters being replaced by solar and underground storage engineers. It has to be done now and it can be done. Mr Deputy Speaker, you and I are old enough to remember North sea gas coming online. That revolution employed thousands of well-paid engineers and fitters, and that is what we should be talking about now.

This Queen’s Speech lacks content, because it should mention how we will make a material change to the lives of the people we are sent here to represent. In that respect, it has failed on all scores and I will not be supporting it tonight. I will, however, work with the Government if they want to improve people’s lives through a green revolution and ensuring that there are high-quality green jobs in this country. My constituency has a proud record and we have the ability to move forward, but there are new projects that lack a funding mechanism—another missed opportunity. Tidal and marine energy does not have the necessary funding for it to become a mature and much-needed technology for the future. The Government have missed that opportunity. We need lagoons—not just in Swansea bay, but in Colwyn bay and in Cemaes bay in my constituency.