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Severn Growth Summit

Volume 637: debated on Wednesday 14 March 2018

1. What steps he is taking to expand the economic links between south Wales and the south-west of England as a result of the Severn Growth Summit. (904274)

Diolch yn fawr, Mr Llefarydd. Growth corridors are an important element of the industrial strategy for Wales. We are responding to local demand, building on the work undertaken by the great western cities and creating a great western powerhouse. We want to see the skills and expertise of this important region recognised across the UK and internationally.

Does the Minister agree that scrapping the tolls on the Severn crossing—a commitment made by this Conservative Government—will prove an economic catalyst for further investment and significantly expand the links between south Wales and the south-west?

I certainly welcome the abolition of the Severn tolls. It sends a powerful message that we are keen on this economic corridor. It will, I hope, bring about investment for the rest of south Wales, and it will save the average motorist around £1,400 per year.

My constituents want to be able to access work in the south-west, but despite it being plain that demand for rail services is going to grow and grow locally, there are still too few carriages, overcrowding and unreliable rail services. Will the Minister personally talk to Great Western about that?

We are going through a consultation at the moment, and I hope the hon. Lady’s constituents will take part in that. We recognise that investment in rail is important. That is why this Government are investing more than we have done as a country since the Victorian era. The new intercity express programme trains are an investment of more than £5.7 billion, and I hope she will welcome that positive news.

South Wales is one of the key markets for Torbay’s holiday companies and industry. Will the Minister look at improving the direct rail link between Cardiff and Paignton? In particular, will he raise issues with Great Western about the provision of refreshments on that service? At the moment, there are none throughout the whole journey.

I would say that Wales is a good place for my hon. Friend’s constituents to come and visit as a tourist destination, too. Of course we want to make sure that transport is as effective as possible, and we are in constant discussions about improving services. I will make sure we make that point about the food.

One way that we could have real economic growth and jobs prospects for the whole region would be to deliver the tidal lagoon project. It has been more than 18 months since the Hendry review. Can I ask the Minister to get on with it and encourage the Secretary of State to start defending and standing up for Wales in the Cabinet?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State always stands up for Wales in Cabinet and does so very effectively. We are looking at the tidal lagoon carefully to ensure that it is value for money for the taxpayer, too.