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Leaving the EU: Wales — [Mr Adrian Bailey in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:10 am on 25th October 2016.

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Photo of Nick Thomas-Symonds Nick Thomas-Symonds Shadow Solicitor General 10:10 am, 25th October 2016

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bailey, and I congratulate my hon. Friend Stephen Kinnock on securing this important debate.

In my home town of Blaenavon, in the northernmost part of my constituency, are the Blaenavon ironworks, with their iconic balance arch, which are a very good example of a successful regeneration project. The houses in the ironworks, including No. 2 Stack Square, where my father was born, are each set out in the style of a different era, giving a flavour of the industrial heritage of the Eastern valley. The project has been a great success and my local authority, Torfaen, deserves great credit for it, but if someone walks out of the Blaenavon ironworks they will see outside the European flag, indicating the European structural funding drawn upon by such regeneration projects.

I totally respect the result of the referendum of 23 June, but it does not mean that the leave campaign can escape from the promises that were made in the weeks and months leading up to it. What promises were made? I have with me the letter written on 14 June, released under the headline, “Leave Ministers commit to maintain EU funding”. What did they say exactly? The letter states:

“After protecting those now in receipt of EU funding, we will still have billions more to spend on our priorities. We propose that at least £5.5 billion of that be spent on the NHS by 2020, giving it a much-needed £100 million per week cash transfusion, and to use £1.7 billion to abolish VAT on household energy bills.”

That was a specific pledge made nine days before the referendum, not for some slipping date in the future, but by a specific date—precise figures, specific pledges.

Furthermore, there is no point in the Prime Minister trying to distance herself from the promises made. I know she virtually went into hibernation for the course of the referendum campaign, but none the less, of the signatories to that letter, one is now the International Development Secretary, another is the Transport Secretary and a third is the Foreign Secretary. They are now in government, and they should honour the pledges that they made. Unfortunately, however, as my hon. Friend Wayne David alluded to in his intervention, it already looks as if those promises are slipping.

We know about the pledge on projects started before the autumn statement, but we have no idea about what will happen after that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon said. Even worse, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union said at Question Time last Thursday—I listened very carefully:

“Most EU funds will be guaranteed post-departure by the Treasury, as we said in August.”—[Official Report, 20 October 2016;
Vol. 615, c. 950.]

“Most” is simply not good enough—the pledge made on 14 June should be honoured. My constituents deserve not only a continuation of EU funding, but the extra funds promised as well. Any failure to deliver will be a gross betrayal.