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Rebalancing the Economy

Volume 613: debated on Wednesday 13 July 2016

3. What assessment he has made of the effectiveness of steps taken to rebalance the economy in Wales. (905785)

This Government are taking unprecedented steps to ensure greater and fairer prosperity right across the UK, and the UK Government’s cities and local growth agenda is revolutionising the way in which we achieve this. The signing of the Cardiff capital region city deal, alongside ongoing negotiations in Swansea and early discussions for a north Wales growth deal, is a clear demonstration of our commitment to rebalancing the economy in Wales.

Does my hon. Friend agree that, in my old home area of north Wales, good transport links are vital to rebalancing the economy? What plans does he have to achieve that in order to attract more investment?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the importance of transport links for economic growth in north Wales. Last Thursday, I was at a summit in north Wales with the Welsh Government economic Minister and local government leaders. We discussed a proposal for improving rail and road links in north Wales as part of the north Wales growth deal.

Central to rebalancing the Welsh economy are the metro projects and the city regions. Given that during the referendum campaign 13 Government Ministers signed a letter guaranteeing the continuation of EU funding, will the Minister ensure that none of those projects loses out as a result of our leaving the EU?

I think the hon. Gentleman is asking me to give a guarantee in relation to a future Government. That Government will be established by the new Prime Minister from this afternoon onwards. The key point is that the city deal was an initiative that showed the co-operation between the Westminster Government and the Welsh Government. It showed what could be done when Governments work together. The proposed investment in the south Wales metro is something that was not delivered by the previous Government during the 13-year period in which they could have made a difference.

Given the opportunities of the north Wales growth deal for my constituency and for north-east Wales, what steps is the Minister taking to follow the lead of the Treasury to ensure that women business leaders are fully engaged in the north Wales growth deal?

The meetings that we are having in north Wales have been with council leaders, further education leaders and leaders of Welsh businesses, and I am glad to say that they have involved both male and female leaders. The key point is that our approach in north Wales is inclusive and supported by all stakeholders. People realise the potential of north Wales joining the northern powerhouse for the benefit of all the residents of north Wales.

Exports are central to any rebalancing strategy. Unlike the British state, which has a gigantic trade deficit, Wales has a significant trade surplus. It is the best performing component of the UK. What assessment has the Minister made of the number of countries across the world to which Welsh companies export, and the number of trade deals that will therefore have to be renegotiated? Does he not realise that tariff-free access to the single market is vital to the Welsh economy and that—

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his passionate question. I agree with him that access to the market is important for the Welsh economy, but he should also recognise that the growth in Welsh exports has been faster to countries outside the European Union. We need a balanced approach and to ensure that we have access to markets throughout the world, so that Welsh manufacturing businesses, such as Airbus, can carry on with their recent success.