My Lords, the latest figures published by the Office for National Statistics show that in 2017 gross value added per head was £28,096 in England, £19,899 in Wales, £25,485 in Scotland and £21,172 in Northern Ireland, with nominal growth since 1999 of 75% in both England and Wales, 84% in Scotland and 70% in Northern Ireland.
My Lords, those figures speak for themselves. They reflect the failure over 20 years of successive Governments, in both London and Cardiff, to close the yawning income gap between Wales and England. Does the Minister accept that they would have been significantly worse were it not for the EU structural funds, of which Wales gets 22% of the UK allocation, compared to only 6% of UK-originated regional funding? As the Government are committed to replacing EU funding with a UK shared prosperity fund, will the Minister give a cast-iron guarantee that Wales will get a needs-based share of that new fund and not a Barnett-type, population-based share, which would see Wales lose £2 billion over the next six years compared to the funding we would have expected were we to remain in the EU?
The noble Lord has been a tireless campaigner for 45 years, in the other place and now here, for reducing the inequalities between Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom. He cited income; the figures I gave were for gross value added. If you look at gross disposable household income, which is slightly different, the gap is slightly narrower but still there. Since 2010, Welsh gross value added per capita has grown by 24%, faster than in Scotland and Northern Ireland. To address his question, he is quite right that when the EU structural funds expire as we leave the EU, the shared prosperity fund will take their place. The size of the shared prosperity fund is a matter to be resolved in the current spending review. There will then be consultation on how it is allocated. However, I have received a very strong message from the noble Lord and from the Welsh Government that they want the replacement to be at least the same size as the structural funds and allocated primarily on the basis of need, and they want the devolved Assemblies and local partners to be involved in that decision. While I cannot give a cast-iron guarantee, I have given one with green tinges round the edge.
My Lords, is it not true—perhaps the Minister could confirm this—that the England figure hides the most enormous disparity between London and the south-east and the rest of the country? That gap in GVA, GDP and productivity can be met only by a proposal put forward by the commission chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, equivalent to the kind of investment and programme put in place by West Germany when it combined with East Germany. That would overcome not only the disparity described this afternoon but the deep alienation and division that exists in our country.
The noble Lord makes a powerful case for a generous shared prosperity fund. The Government have tried to do what they can to reduce the disparity; extra funds were allocated to Wales in the 2018 Budget, giving the Welsh Government a £550 million boost. The GVA figures for London are slightly distorted by including people who commute into London but do not live in London. None the less, there is a regional imbalance. Public expenditure per capita is much larger in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland than it is for England. That is one of the ways that the Government seek to redress the imbalance the noble Lord just referred to.
My Lords, the impact of the 2008 financial crash and the economic troubles that followed it was far greater outside London and the south-east than it was in this area. Since we are going into a period where the economy is weakening—we have had very poor first-quarter figures and the US economy looks like it is beginning to move into recession—what measures do the Government have in place to make sure that regional imbalance is countered? Have efforts such as the northern powerhouse and the Midlands engine actually delivered, or are they largely discussion and the creation of institutions that are not yet having any impact?
I challenge what the noble Baroness said about the economy weakening. The economy has grown continuously for nine successive years. Employment is at a record level. Real wages are rising. The public finances are now under control. We are in the middle of the pack for future growth in the IMF forecast. Some of the issues she raised are matters for the spending review—both the amount of grant for local government and the shared prosperity fund—but she is unduly pessimistic in painting that scenario.
I think the comparison was not direct, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, will recognise. The disparity between the west and the east of Germany was far greater economically and in almost every other consideration, including socially, than the gap between England and the rest of the United Kingdom. While I understand where the noble Lord is coming from, the parallel he gave is not one that should be followed too closely.