Economic Development

1. Questions to the First Minister – in the Senedd at on 4 June 2024.

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Photo of John Griffiths John Griffiths Labour

(Translated)

1. What steps is the Welsh Government taking to boost economic development in south-east Wales? OQ61219

Photo of Vaughan Gething Vaughan Gething Labour 1:30, 4 June 2024

Thank you for the question. We work with local authorities across the Cardiff capital region to increase economic prosperity. Our regional economic framework for south-east Wales has identified the development of key growth clusters as a priority, alongside our investment in infrastructure supporting the economic mission.

Photo of John Griffiths John Griffiths Labour

We're in the midst of a crucial general election for the future of Wales and the UK as a whole. An incoming UK Labour Government would have Gordon Brown's report available to it, recognising the regional inequalities of the UK, and providing major investment for Wales in infrastructure, renewables and clusters in south-east Wales, such as cyber security and the semiconductor industry, as well as easing the transition to green steel. What a contrast to the Tories short-changing Wales by several million pounds in not fulfilling their pledge to replace EU economic aid to Wales pound for pound, and now committing to introduce an outdated national service for our young people, which the Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates would leave Wales £275 million worse off, in taking money from the £1.5 billion so-called shared prosperity scheme, which, of course, was originally earmarked to replace EU economic aid. Do you agree, First Minister, what a stark contrast this is between that regressive policy of the UK Tories and the Welsh Government's young person's guarantee for 16 to 24-year-olds, providing support for a place in education, training, work or self-employment?

Photo of Elin Jones Elin Jones Plaid Cymru 1:32, 4 June 2024

Okay, this is now a minute and a half into this party political broadcast. I'm sure you won't be the only one that tries this over the next few weeks, and it will come from all directions, I'm sure. But if we can allow the First Minister to find the question in there and to answer. 

Photo of Vaughan Gething Vaughan Gething Labour

Thank you for the question. I agree that the national service model proposed as a shock by Rishi Sunak was not just a shock to young people, but a shock to many Conservative MPs and indeed, Ministers—a desperate gimmick at the start of a crucial general election for Wales and Britain. And the Member's right to draw a contrast between that and what we have chosen to do with the young person's guarantee—long-term investment in the future of young people and the skills they need to survive and thrive in the world that we are seeking to create. It's a direct contrast to the Tories taking away money and powers from Wales—£275 million as a minimum every year is lost to Wales because of the shared prosperity fund that now the Tories propose to put into a national service model that no-one thinks is going to work or actually provide a future for young people. That is the Tory record. I believe people will make a definitive choice on 4 July. Look at what they have done to Wales. Look at what we offer. Who on earth would want to stand with the Tories when it comes to 4 or 5 July? I look forward to the verdict of the people of Wales.

Photo of Natasha Asghar Natasha Asghar Conservative 1:33, 4 June 2024

First Minister, let's bring it back to Wales now. We're in the Welsh Parliament; let the UK Government focus on their own things. Now, First Minister, businesses in Wales are finding it increasingly difficult to stay afloat following the Welsh Government's decision to cut business rate relief. Labour Ministers' move to slash the relief from 75 per cent to 40 per cent now means that businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 will be left with a rates bill of nearly £8,500. This isn't just a couple of pennies or pounds, First Minister; we're talking about businesses being expected to find thousands of pounds. UK Labour's shadow Chancellor, Rachel Reeves, recently described your party as the natural party of British businesses and said that you are pro worker and pro business. That's simply not true, is it, First Minister, under Labour, because here in Wales we have the highest business rates in Great Britain, extremely low business survival rates, the second lowest gross value added growth since 1999 out of the UK nations, and the highest economic inactivity levels out of the four nations. So, do you think the Welsh Government should finally stop punishing hardworking businesses and start helping them thrive? And do you not think a good place to start would be reintroducing the 75 per cent rate relief support? Thank you.

Photo of Vaughan Gething Vaughan Gething Labour 1:35, 4 June 2024

I agree we're not talking about mere pennies or pounds; we're talking about over £1 billion lost to Wales because the Tories broke their manifesto pledge to replace EU funds in full. I remember Andrew R.T. Davies saying repeatedly that Wales would not lose a single penny. We've actually lost more than £1 billion, and, on top of that, our budget is worth £700 million less in real terms than just three years ago. That is the Tory record. That is what the Tories have done to Wales. I'm proud that we are pro worker and pro business. [Interruption.] I look forward to carrying our message into communities and doorsteps across the country. [Interruption.] I want a new start for Wales—

Photo of Elin Jones Elin Jones Plaid Cymru

I can't hear the First Minister. Can we have some silence, please?

Photo of Vaughan Gething Vaughan Gething Labour

—to turn the page on 14 desperate Tory years.