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Welsh Affairs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:07 pm on 27th February 2020.

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Photo of Stephen Crabb Stephen Crabb Chair, Welsh Affairs Committee, Chair, Welsh Affairs Committee 2:07 pm, 27th February 2020

The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point, and it was exactly the one I was anticipating. He intervened at exactly the right point in my speech where I was about to mention English votes for English laws. I have made my personal views about this known. I strongly believe that Welsh MPs are not second-class. Our role here is as important as everyone else’s and we have a really important job to do. Wales does have a face here. Wales has a voice here, and we are it. It is the particular role of the Secretary of State for Wales to be those things at the Cabinet table, but we have a job to help to strengthen his hand when he goes there to represent Wales. All of us, in the different Select Committees that we sit on, the different all-party parliamentary groups that we belong to and the Question Times that we take part in, are a face and a voice for Wales. There is nothing second-class about our role here, and we should get stuck in as much as possible. Yes, there is a role for party political debate and conflict at times, but there is also a strong role for co-operation and a Team Wales approach from all 40 of us.

I will finish by talking about a practical issue that has already been discussed in part—the shared prosperity fund. I very much hope that the new Welsh Affairs Committee will take an early decision to get its teeth into scrutinising the progress in Government on making decisions about the shared prosperity fund. In the eyes of many colleagues, this is fundamentally a constitutional question of who gets to make the decisions—where the balance of responsibility lies between Cardiff and Westminster over that pot of money. For me, it is primarily an economic issue of how we put that money to good use to benefit the economy. I tried to intervene on my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on this point. I do not think that he or anybody else questions the fact that previous rounds of EU funding have gone to useful causes and good projects—we see that in all our constituencies where this money has been received—but the fundamental point is that the primary objective of EU structural funds is to close an economic gap between poorer regions and areas and an EU average, and if that economic gap has not been closed, there are some hard questions to be asked about whether the money can be used to better effect to achieve stronger economic growth. That is the opportunity that I want the Welsh Government and the UK Government, working together, to take with regard to the shared prosperity fund. I very much hope that the new Welsh Affairs Committee will get its teeth into that.