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

I will not.

Indeed, this Government are working hard to ensure that Wales’s sector strengths are empowered to move to the next level. That is why we confirmed at the autumn statement that there will be two investment zones in Wales: one located across Cardiff and Newport—again, a surprising omission from the speeches of the hon. Members for Newport West and for Newport East (Jessica Morden) ; and a second zone located across Wrexham and Flintshire. The Chancellor confirmed at spring Budget that the programme has been extended in Wales from five to 10 years, with each receiving £160 million in funding over this period. This will supercharge key sectors across both locations, creating jobs delivering growth and prosperity across Wales.

A determination to create new jobs has also been spearheaded by Wales’s freeports programme, and here —the hon. Member for Newport West will be surprised to hear me say this—I will praise the Welsh Government for working hand in hand with the UK Government. The freeports programme was further supported once again at this Budget by the Chancellor when he announced that there would be an extension in tax relief from five years to 10 years, providing greater certainty to businesses looking to invest, delivering growth and jobs, and levelling up the economy.

The Chancellor’s spring Budget has provided Wales with substantial additional funding, as I think was mentioned by a number of hon. Members this afternoon. Back in 2021, a record-breaking £18 billion block grant was secured at the spending review. This year’s Budget announced almost £170 million of additional funding through the Barnett formula for 2024-25. That is on top of the £820 million already provided to the Welsh Government since that record-breaking grant in 2021—blowing away Labour’s and Plaid Cymru’s argument that Wales has been underfunded. This is almost an extra £1 billion in additional funding for the Welsh Government. On top of this record funding, the Prime Minister recently announced £60 million for apprenticeships in England. That will result in yet more money for the Welsh Government.

Despite the negativity of Members opposite, there is no doubt that the Welsh Government are adequately funded to deliver on their responsibilities. It is a question of priorities. While the Conservative Government are pouring billions of pounds into Wales and turbocharging the Welsh economy, it is the decisions of the Welsh Labour Government, propped up by Plaid Cymru, that are undercutting Welsh public services.

I was disappointed by the negative and miserable tone taken by Opposition Members during the debate in relation to levelling-up funding in Wales and was surprised to see them criticise the record amounts of funding received in their own local authorities. An announcement at the Budget added to our commitment of long-term regeneration and growth in Wales. I am thrilled that Rhyl is the latest of five Welsh towns to benefit from £20 million as part of the long-term plan for towns.