Covid-19: Support for UK Industries

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:04 pm on 25th June 2020.

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Photo of Fay Jones Fay Jones Conservative, Brecon and Radnorshire 4:04 pm, 25th June 2020

Nearly six months ago I gave my maiden speech, in which I spoke of the international events that Brecon and Radnorshire is home to. They include the Hay-on-Wye literary festival, the Brecon jazz festival, the Green Man festival and even the international bog snorkelling championships in Llanwrtyd Wells. Sadly, all of these have been cancelled this year. Cancelling the Green Man festival in Glanusk deprives us of more than just great music. The festival employs hundreds of seasonal workers and attracts thousands of visitors, all of whom spend money in our pubs, restaurants and local shops. Some events have been able to move online. For example, the Hay-on-Wye literary festival showcased virtual events, involving more than 100 award-winning writers, policy- makers and innovators. This was a huge undertaking, and I congratulate the organisers once again on delivering Hay-on-wifi, as the Prime Minister christened it.

With my passion for farming and agriculture, I have to say that I am gutted by the cancellation of the Royal Welsh Show. This world-renowned agricultural event, the largest agricultural show in Europe, attracts visitors from far and wide, generating up to £45 million for our economy in the process. The Royal Welsh is more than just a show. It is a celebration of Wales itself. For many in the farming community, it is the highlight of the year. The social aspect of the show cannot be underestimated, particularly when one considers the isolation that so often comes with rural life— a point reinforced to me during a meeting with my local branch of Mind, the mental health charity, this week.

Having spoken to the Royal Welsh this week, I know that the team in Builth Wells are working hard to try to deliver the Royal Welsh Winter Fair in November this year, and I am pleased that the UK Government and the Secretary of State for Wales are supporting them all we can, but they need support from both our Governments. The Welsh Government have provided some support to key events such as the Eisteddfodau, our Welsh language celebrations, but nothing so far for the Royal Welsh Show.

In England, outdoor theatres can now open and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is working closely with the arts and culture sector on when indoor theatres can reopen. In Wales, we have no clarity on that. Yesterday, I received an email from Theatr Brycheiniog in Brecon. Since the lockdown, all performances have been cancelled and audiences have stayed away. The theatre staff told me yesterday that they have no idea as to when they can reopen. This could provide some optimism to the thousands of self-employed artists and performers who do not know when they will be able to return to work. Their counterparts in England have visibility, while we in Wales are left in the dark.

I have much to thank this Government for, not least the 10,000 employed and self-employed jobs that have been saved in Brecon and Radnorshire. Of course, there will always be more to do—more cause to go further—to keep on writing cheques, but the harsh reality is that the cake only cuts so many ways. This Government have dug deep to provide an unprecedented level of support in finance and guidance. If only we could say the same in Wales.