Skip to main content

Industrial Strategy

Volume 660: debated on Wednesday 15 May 2019

4. What discussions he has had with (a) Cabinet colleagues and (b) Welsh Government Ministers on the effect of the industrial strategy on the Welsh economy. (910819)

9. What discussions he has had with (a) Cabinet colleagues and (b) Welsh Government Ministers on the effect of the industrial strategy on the Welsh economy. (910825)

I have been working closely both with Cabinet colleagues and with the Welsh Government to ensure that Wales benefits from the industrial strategy. We have already delivered a number of projects in Wales, with Wales receiving £90 million from the industrial strategy challenge fund.

What is the Secretary of State’s Department doing to ensure that the north Wales growth deal actually happens, that the Heathrow logistics hub goes to Shotton and that more Welsh small and medium-sized enterprises work with our defence companies, such as Raytheon? He needs to get a grip on his Department—we have had more junior Wales Ministers than you could wave a stick at.

There have been countless engagements with local authority leaders across north Wales, and the growth deal is an important project. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that, at the last Budget, we committed to funding for that scheme. It is a great example of where the Welsh Government, the UK Government and local authorities are working together. We are optimistic about signing and supporting a number of projects in the near future, but this is of course locally driven, and we are responsive to the demands and the drive of local authorities.

The Secretary of State will be aware of the negative impact that proposed factory closures and the suspension of major projects has had on my constituency and on north-west Wales. Unemployment is already rising in my constituency, so we need an action plan. What positive steps can the industrial strategy put in place now, and what is the role of the Wales Office in delivering that action plan?

The hon. Gentleman points to unemployment data, but I would also point to employment rates. Identifying individual months will clearly offer one picture, but I think he would recognise the record numbers of people in work and the trend in falling unemployment, irrespective of what happened last month.

On the industrial strategy, I would point to the thermal hydraulics facility in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, which will be world leading. That is just one tangible example, in addition to the active investments we are pursuing elsewhere in the marine environment.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the excellent work he is doing in supporting the mid Wales growth deal. The leader of Powys council was in Westminster last week, and I know she has met my hon. Friend. They have been key in co-ordinating and driving some of the themes that are developing from the deal. It is an exciting prospect, and they are working with Ceredigion council and the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Ben Lake), who has shown similar enthusiasm.

A number of my constituents have set up companies in Cheshire that actually operate in Wales. What research and development grants have there been that benefit companies operating in Wales?

My hon. Friend raises an important question. I highlighted earlier the £90 million from the strength in places fund that had been made available to the UK’s industrial strategy, making Wales fourth in the UK for the value of grants it receives. That works, absolutely as my hon. Friend highlights, on a cross-border basis, and the industrial strategy deliberately talks about cross-border growth corridors.

12. Steel is of course the foundation of any successful industrial strategy, so can the Secretary of State explain what he has done to offset the lost opportunities for Welsh steel producers such as Celsa in my constituency as a result of the loss of the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon and the electrification to Swansea? What projects has he actually secured to provide procurement opportunities to Welsh steel producers? (910828)

The hon. Gentleman points to prospects that the tidal lagoon may have provided, but when we analyse the data, it shows that demand from the tidal lagoon would lead to less than a month’s output of steel, so I would suggest that he really look closely at the numbers. Was he advocating supporting a project that is three times more expensive than an alternative? The steel producers in his constituency would be extremely excited to get the go-ahead for the M4 relief road around Wales. The money is available and the planning recommendations are in favour—all we need is a decision from the Welsh Government.

The UK steel industry is undoubtedly a key part of the industrial strategy, but what benefit will the strategy bring specifically for Welsh steel making, which is important for my constituency, given that coil from Port Talbot is fundamental to tube production?

My hon. Friend is a strong champion of the steel industry. He recognises how the investments in his constituency will also be important to the investments taking place in south Wales. There has been renewal of the blast furnaces in south Wales, and we are working hard to secure a steel sector deal. Those things will support the industry in north Wales and south Wales, as well as in Corby and elsewhere across the UK.

Wales is ideally placed to develop pioneering renewable energy projects, especially in wave, tidal and hydro, and that could make an invaluable contribution to achieving net-zero carbon emissions. Will the Secretary of State assure us that Wales will receive sufficient support from the industrial strategy, and in particular the £2.5 billion clean growth fund, to realise its potential, and that Wales will not be left to rue missed opportunities yet again?

I have already pointed out that Wales is fourth out of any UK nation or region in terms of being successful in gaining grants from the industrial strategy challenge fund. Swansea University’s project for the active home is world-leading, using the latest materials to develop energy-positive properties, and just down the road from the hon. Gentleman’s constituency is Pembroke Dock marina. These are exciting areas of policy from which his constituency can develop and take opportunities.