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Infrastructure Developments

Volume 620: debated on Wednesday 25 January 2017

1. What recent discussions he has had with (a) Cabinet colleagues and (b) external stakeholders on infrastructure developments in Wales. (908303)

This Government recognise that delivering world-class infrastructure in our transport and digital sectors is vital to improving productivity and driving economic growth. I hold regular meetings with ministerial colleagues and local partners on issues relating to Wales. Earlier this month I convened a mobile summit which brought together key stakeholders from the mobile network operators and the UK and Welsh Governments to explore ways in which we can work in partnership to improve mobile reception for people and businesses throughout Wales.

I notice that the Minister failed to mention the Swansea bay tidal lagoon report. That six-month independent review conducted by ex-Energy Minister Charles Hendry could not have been more conclusive in saying that moving ahead with a pathfinder lagoon at Swansea bay

“as soon as is reasonably practicable”

is a “no regrets policy”. There may be much to digest in the review’s detailed road map for a new industry, but there are no grounds for further delaying the start of that industry. When will the Government give the green light to this crucial infrastructure project?

I am delighted to state that Charles Hendry is in Cardiff Bay today providing more information about his report to the Assembly, and he is being supported there by my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Byron Davies). The report was comprehensive and detailed on the issues relating to a tidal lagoon. I am sure the hon. Gentleman would agree, however, that any decision must also be good for the taxpayer and good for the electricity end user.

The Minister will be aware of the campaign by the Daily Post newspaper to improve mobile phone notspots. What is he doing to help to improve mobile phone services for voice and data in north Wales?

I pay tribute to the Daily Post’s campaign in north Wales, which has highlighted this issue. That is partly why I was very keen to convene a summit of mobile providers to look very carefully at ways in which we could give them practical support in helping to deal with notspots in Wales. One of the key issues is the planning regime in Wales, which can be much more flexible in ensuring that the money being invested in Wales goes much further and deals with the notspots in all parts of Wales, whether rural or city.

11. EU structural funding has really helped to improve key road routes across Wales. Can the Minister confirm that once we have left the European Union, equivalent funding for projects like renewing the Heads of the Valleys road will continue? (908314)

EU funding has had a clear impact in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency in terms of the Heads of the Valleys road, and indeed investment in the railway infrastructure. The south Wales metro scheme will generate £106 million of support from European funds, although it should be remembered that it is also receiving £500 million of funding from the UK Government. This Government have delivered a fiscal framework to Wales that has been described as both fair and sustainable, and I can assure him that Wales will be protected when we come to the negotiations to leave the European Union.

Happy St Dwynwen’s day, Mr Speaker.

Eighty-four per cent. of Conservative councillors, 83% of Conservative MPs, a former Conservative Energy Minister, both Wales Office Ministers and the Conservative party manifesto all support the Swansea bay tidal lagoon project. The Minister failed to answer the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Chris Elmore), so I will give him another opportunity: when will his Government kick-start the tidal lagoon project?

I restate that this decision will have to be made across Government: other Departments will have to look at the issue. I am sure the hon. Lady would agree that in an age where we are seeing industry in Wales worried about the cost of energy, any deal for the Swansea bay tidal lagoon must not only be good in terms of the tidal lagoon but right for the taxpayer and the energy user in Wales.

Last week in Westminster Hall, the Minister said that

“it is difficult to offer guarantees that”

European Investment Bank

“loans would be supported”.—[Official Report, 17 January 2017; Vol. 619, c. 264WH.]

By that, he meant supported by a guarantee from the Treasury when we leave the EU. What benefits has the European Investment Bank brought to Wales, and how much has it invested in Wales over the past 10 years?

I am sure that the hon. Lady will join me in highlighting the success of the Swansea campus development as an example of European Investment Bank investment in a Welsh context. I am sure that she will also join me in paying tribute to the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer for securing and guaranteeing EU funding up to the point of departure from the European Union. The key point that she must be aware of is that thus far, this Government have delivered a degree of protection for EU funding in Wales, and in due course further announcements will be made about further funding support in a Welsh context.