Aberystwyth to Carmarthen Railway Reopening — [Ian Paisley in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:00 pm on 20th February 2019.

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Photo of Jonathan Edwards Jonathan Edwards Shadow PC Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Foreign Intervention), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 4:00 pm, 20th February 2019

The hon. Gentleman is perfectly right. I will go on to talk about the development of the Borders line in Scotland, which has been an incredible success. I have no doubt that a north-south railway would be a huge attraction to the tourists who come to Wales and to that sector of our economy.

The facts on rail spending in Wales are sobering. According to the Welsh Government’s Minister for Economy and Transport, Ken Skates, Wales has 11% of the British state’s rail network, but has received only 1% of the investment—that is 11% of the network and 1% of the spend. There is no such thing as a Union dividend for Wales, and it is a record that shames every single Unionist politician based in my country—I do not mean to upset my near neighbours.

The economic consequences of that imbalance should send a shiver down anyone’s spine, let alone those who aspire to see the British state as a vaguely cohesive unit. Of the British state’s 12 nations and regions, only three are in surplus. It will not come as a surprise to anyone to hear that those areas are none other than London, the south-east of England, and the east of England. The wealth per head in inner London, based on the latest figures, is an incredible 614% of the European Union average. To put that into perspective, in the communities that I represent in the industrial valleys and the west of my country, that figure is only 68%. That disgraceful record is no accident. It is the direct result of British Government policy, based on a philosophy that the role of Westminster is to throw all the resources at London, with the nations and regions left to share out the crumbs. In Wales, we are no longer dealing with crumbs, but with the dust the crumbs leave behind.

The excellent researchers at the Wales Governance Centre have calculated that, had transport infrastructure in Wales kept pace with spending in London since 1999, an extra £5.6 billion would have been invested in Welsh transport. In such a case we would not be having this debate today, because the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth rail line would already have been built. Indeed, we would have not only that line, but the Swansea Bay metro, the Cardiff Bay metro, and full electrification on both north and south main lines. Imagine the economic productivity gains for Wales and the far-reaching consequences for the wellbeing and opportunities of my fellow countrymen and women if that were the case. Wales is relatively poor because Westminster decides to keep us poor.

The British state is broken beyond repair. Brexit was largely driven by those disgraceful imbalances, and the great tragedy of this moment in history is that Brexit will more than likely exacerbate those imbalances, rather than offer a remedy. Had the British state remained in the EU, communities in its poorest parts were likely to have received £13 billion in convergence funding in the next spending round—a 22% increase from the 2014-20 spending cycle, according to the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions. West Wales and the valleys is a convergence area and therefore a direct recipient of EU regional aid. Here we are almost three years after the referendum, and only a year from the end of the current European convergence period, and the British Government have yet to provide a single detail about their shared prosperity fund.

We all know that Wales is about to be done over once again, despite the clear promises that we would not lose a single penny—promises that were made by the Secretary of State for Transport. If Brexit Britannia is not to turn out to be a 21st-century Tartarus, there must be a major rethink of policy priority, with a long-term view of economic planning based on dealing with the gross geographical wealth inequalities within the British state. Central to that will be the need to ensure an equitable share of infrastructure investment.