Stuart Andrew: It is a pleasure to reply to this debate, in what is my last act as a Wales Minister before I move on to the Ministry of Defence. I should like to take this opportunity to say what a great pleasure it has been to work with the Wales Office, and I want to pay tribute to the team, who have supported me brilliantly, and to the work that we have done with Members across the House and in Wales. I...
Stuart Andrew: The hon. Gentleman will know full well that this Government engaged massively with both the Welsh Government and the Scottish Government, and we went a long way in listening to the views that were represented by both Governments. The Welsh Government, thankfully, recognise that the UK Government have come a long way and have produced a measure that is acceptable. It is a shame that the...
Stuart Andrew: The honest answer is: I do not know the answer to that question, but I will be honest about it and I will happily get back to the hon. Gentleman if he will allow me. The hon. Member for Midlothian (Danielle Rowley) talked about how sad it is that people feel they have to choose between being Scottish or British, which is an important point. I consider myself Welsh, but I am also very proud...
Stuart Andrew: The Government recognise that cross-border connectivity is critically important. That is why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have regular meetings with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport to look at what improvements can be made to support better journeys for Welsh and English passengers.
Stuart Andrew: The hon. Gentleman will know that the Wales & Borders franchise is part of the Government’s commitment to devolving powers, so there is a joint responsibility between the two Governments. If he wants me to make representations on his behalf to the Welsh Government, I would be more than happy to do so.
Stuart Andrew: My right hon. Friend raises a very important point. When these services do not run effectively, that has a massive impact on his constituents and all commuters. I would be happy to meet him to discuss this further, so that we can take it up with the people responsible.
Stuart Andrew: It is important to recognise that we are investing a massive amount of money to ensure that the electrification brings about improved journey times. The Welsh Government have come up with some suggestions about how we might resolve these issues, and we will work with them collaboratively on that. Let us not forget, though, that this Government are making a massive investment in the railway system.
Stuart Andrew: My right hon. Friend will know that we are looking at a host of different projects that will improve journey times for passengers in north Wales, such as the Wrexham to Bidston line. On the specific issue that he raises, we are looking at that across the board, including through the growth deal that we are developing at the moment.
Stuart Andrew: I am glad that you like my tie, Mr Speaker. First, I point out that the Government are investing more in our railways than any Government since Victorian times. I accept that there may be some issues with the service, and I will happily arrange to meet GWR to raise the points that the hon. Gentleman made.
Stuart Andrew: Universal credit is already operating in 24 jobcentres across Wales, with a further two scheduled to roll out this month. The number of people receiving universal credit in Wales is over 44,000, and 36% of these are in employment. Wales jobcentres are in the latter part of the roll-out schedule, with full roll-out to be completed by the end of this year.
Stuart Andrew: It is important to recognise that universal credit is a transformational benefits system that is working to get people back into work. The recent employment figures, showing that employment in Wales is up by 5,000, are a significant step, but the issues that the hon. Gentleman raises are exactly why we have been careful. We have made significant changes as we have carefully rolled out the project.
Stuart Andrew: The Secretary of State and I hold regular discussions with Cabinet colleagues and the Welsh Government on Wales and road infrastructure, and we recognise the benefit to communities on both sides of the border.
Stuart Andrew: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to highlight the importance of the M56 and the whole of the cross-border connectivity routes, because the amount of people who live in Wales but work in England is significant. That is why the Secretary of State recently met the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire (Jesse Norman), to...
Stuart Andrew: First, may I wish the hon. Gentleman’s daughter a very happy birthday? As an Anglesey boy myself, I know how important the port of Holyhead is not just to the Isle of Anglesey but to the whole of north Wales and the whole of the country. That is exactly why this Government are working closely with ports around the whole country as we prepare for our exit from the European Union.
Stuart Andrew: Abolishing the Severn tolls will drive the biggest economic stimulus Wales has seen in decades and create the most natural cross-border economic growth corridor, spanning Cardiff through to Bristol and Newport. The UK Government are looking at the capacity and investment needed for roads in the south-west of England once the tolls are abolished.
Stuart Andrew: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This is a significant announcement. The fact that people will be able to cross the border between Wales and England and not have to pay a toll will, we hope, increase economic activity and improve the number of people who enjoy tourism in both the south-west and Wales.
Stuart Andrew: The industrial strategy is a strategy for the whole UK and will bring significant opportunities for Scotland. We are working with businesses, universities and business groups across Scotland to seize those opportunities. In line with devolution, the Scottish Government, of course, hold many of the levers to boost and support the growth that we hope the strategy will bring.
Stuart Andrew: I agree with my hon. Friend. Driving investment is one of the key ways we will deliver the industrial strategy, which will bring the benefits we want to see for Scotland. This pro-investment approach will see a truly global Britain hopefully becoming a leading place for people to invest.
Stuart Andrew: As the hon. Gentleman will know, there will be an announcement shortly. Of course, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has many meetings with his Cabinet colleagues to discuss such issues.
Stuart Andrew: My hon. Friend is absolutely right that an important part of delivering this industrial strategy is the UK and Scottish Governments working collaboratively. My right hon. Friend the Business Secretary gave evidence to the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee in April, and he has also hosted a roundtable with the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, so a lot is going on.