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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:02 pm on 17 April 2024.

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Photo of Fay Jones Fay Jones The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales 3:02, 17 April 2024

The hon. Lady will not be surprised to know that I do not agree. I point her to the fact that at the end of 2010, a worker earning a wage of £15,000 was paying around £1,700 in taxation. Today—after 14 years of a Conservative Government—that amount is around £500. That shows that the Conservative party will deliver for working people.

Thanks to announcements made at the autumn statement and the spring Budget, we have seen national insurance cuts of about £701. Further tax cuts have been announced, included the freezing of fuel duty for yet another year, further easing cost of living pressures and saving the average car owner about £50 over a year. I believe that that is the 14th time since the Conservatives came to power in 2010 that we have frozen fuel duty. Alcohol duty has also been frozen once again to support Wales’s crucial hospitality industry. There was great news for Welsh SMEs, with the UK Government raising the VAT registration threshold to £90,000, building on last year’s autumn statement announcement that the UK Government are backing Welsh business through the British Business Bank’s £130 million investment fund for Wales.

I have listened to a lengthy list of complaints about the Conservative Government, but I remind Labour Members that while we are backing Welsh businesses, their own Government—their own colleagues in Cardiff Bay—have slashed business rates relief from 75% to 40%, meaning that hospitality businesses in Wales will pay thousands more in comparison to their colleagues in England.

The spring Budget also outlined the UK Government’s commitment to securing a diverse energy system with Wales at its heart, through the decision to purchase the Wylfa Newydd site on Ynys Môn. I welcome the shadow Minister’s rather muted celebration of that announcement. New nuclear developments have the potential to transform the north Wales economy, creating thousands of jobs while contributing to our net zero and energy security ambitions. Beyond nuclear, the renewable energy sector is also flourishing in Wales. The Government are supporting floating offshore wind by securing a long-term pipeline of projects in the Celtic sea and unlocking port infrastructure investment through the £160 million floating offshore wind manufacturing investment system. The Chancellor has also announced that the Crown Estate will bring forward an additional 12 GW of floating offshore wind in the Celtic sea in the 2030s.

The Budget was also a great moment for the creative industries—a sector that is hugely important to Wales’s economy. I am mindful of how many Members represent south Wales, so I am surprised this was not mentioned. Cardiff is now one of the UK’s largest media productions centres outside London. I was thrilled to see that the UK Government continue to back the creative sectors in Wales, with £500 million of new tax reliefs for the UK industry, as well as—a cause close to my own heart —a further £5 million for the agrifood industry in mid and north Wales, supporting research and development in our rural heartlands and helping to develop a more sustainable future for our vital agriculture sector. Again, this stands in stark contrast to the actions of the Welsh Labour Government, who have cut the rural affairs budget.