Spring Budget 2024: Welsh Economy — [Peter Dowd in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:47 pm on 17 April 2024.

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Photo of Liz Saville-Roberts Liz Saville-Roberts Shadow PC Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Women and Equalities) , Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader, Shadow PC Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Attorney General) 2:47, 17 April 2024

Diolch yn fawr, Mr Dowd. I congratulate Ruth Jones on securing this debate. The Government have tried to spin the Budget as the deliverer of long-term growth for Wales, but people’s response is at odds with the spin. The lack of faith in the Government’s rhetoric is rooted in what they experience day in, day out, and how little faith they now have in attention-seeking announcements.

The real story is one of stagnating living standards, higher taxes on poorer people, cuts to public services on top of years of austerity, and food banks providing meals to working families. The Budget’s headline announcement of a 2p cut in national insurance plays out in different ways in different places. London wage earners will benefit the most, at £621 on average, while those in Wales will get only slightly more than £1 a day —£380 on average.

This is not a matter of begrudging gains for some people in some communities, but what needs to be called out is the disregard for how the national insurance cuts, as a policy, will entrench inequality in different parts of the United Kingdom. There is nothing in the spring Budget to address the deep economic challenges facing Wales, such as flagging productivity. In Wales, gross value added per hour worked is 84% of that of the UK—the lowest productivity of any of the four UK nations, although it varies within Wales and in the English midlands. It plays out in different places in different ways.

Those indicators also reveal how little effect that worthy, familiar, perhaps misused 2019 election slogan of levelling up has actually had. I know the Tories will delight in telling us that Wales has had more than our per head of population share of levelling up since then.