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Welsh Government Funding

Volume 597: debated on Wednesday 17 June 2015

3. What recent discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the level of funding received by the Welsh Government. (900272)

5. What recent discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the level of funding received by the Welsh Government. (900274)

11. What recent discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the level of funding received by the Welsh Government. (900280)

I have regular discussions with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Treasury Ministers, the First Minister and the Welsh Finance Minister on the level of funding received by the Welsh Government.

The Secretary of State may be aware that my constituency had the terrible news yesterday that Dobson & Crowther in Llangollen had gone into administration. Will he assure me that he will work with the Welsh Government on that? Does he agree that the £50 million of in-year cuts to the Welsh Government’s budget that the Chancellor has brought in are a very bad thing and that we cannot have the same thing again, because we need to be working together for the people of Wales?

We are aware of the situation in the hon. Lady’s constituency. We stay in close touch with Jobcentre Plus and the Welsh Government to find ways to support those who face uncertainty over their jobs. We have just been through an election campaign in which responsibility over finances was at the heart of the debate. The fact that she is standing here today, saying that the Welsh Government should somehow be immune from shouldering any of the responsibility for getting on top of our national finances, shows that she has learned nothing from the past five years.

Wales did not benefit from Barnett consequentials from the Olympics. Will the Secretary of State tell the House whether south Wales will benefit from HS2? If it will not, will there be a Barnett consequential?

I welcome the hon. Lady to the House. HS2 is a strategic project that will benefit the whole United Kingdom. It will benefit Wales, not least through the new hub station at Crewe, which will increase the potential for electrification in north Wales. On that basis, there is no argument for a Barnett consequential.

Does the Government’s failure to eliminate the deficit in the last Parliament not mean that Wales faces further significant cuts, which will be deeper than those we have had so far? Why should the people of Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney pay for the Chancellor’s broken promises?

The hon. Gentleman risks repeating the mistakes that his colleagues made throughout the five years of the last Parliament, when they set their face against responsibility and failed to support any of the measures that we took to get on top of the national deficit. Something that they might want to learn as they review their election defeat is that people up and down the United Kingdom support financial responsibility.

12. Does the Secretary of State agree that the Welsh Government should be held more financially accountable to the Welsh taxpayer for the money they spend? Will he consider including in the anticipated Wales Bill the devolution of income tax without the unnecessary block of a referendum? (900281)

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend about the need for the Welsh Government to assume greater responsibility for raising money, as well as just spending it. I hear his argument about the referendum, and other people are making similar arguments. However, if the Welsh Government are not up for the challenge of greater financial responsibility, any discussion about whether there should be a referendum is academic.

If money is so tight, how have the Welsh Government found millions of pounds to spend on refurbishing their offices and expanding the ministerial car fleet?

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. There are many mysteries about the way in which the Welsh Government operate their finances—we could point to others. The important thing to remember is that at the general election the people of this country gave a strong mandate to this Government to get on top of our deficit and fix our national finances. It is beholden on every Department, where taxpayers’ money is spent, to play its part.

The historic underfunding of Wales is not in doubt. Has the Secretary of State given any further attention to commissioning an urgent report, by someone such as Gerald Holtham, into the precise figure of that underfunding, so that we can act accordingly?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that question. One of my first conversations after being reappointed as Secretary of State was to meet Gerry Holtham to talk about his analysis of Welsh funding. He agrees with me that we do not need to commission any independent new evidence. The work has been done and we need to crack on with introducing the fair funding floor. We are committed to doing that.

Both Labour and Conservative parties have cynically sought to redefine what constitutes fair funding for Wales, with both parties seeing it as a funding floor rather than putting us on an equal footing with Scotland. Will the Government join the people of Wales, 78% of whom believe that Wales should be funded to the same level per head as Scotland?

Plaid Cymru had one single theme and policy during the general election campaign: funding and seeking parity with Scotland. [Interruption.] A voice behind her asks what about the north-east of England. The trouble with seeking parity with Scotland is that one would have to start dividing up the whole pie. The important thing is that we are delivering on a fair funding floor for Wales that will correct the way the Barnett formula operates for Wales, and she should be supporting that.