Last week I met Ken Skates, the Minister for Economy and Transport, to discuss how we can work together on infrastructure in Wales. I look forward to a productive and collaborative relationship with Welsh Government, and with Members in all parts of this House. In particular, I reaffirm this Government’s commitment to rebuilding the M4 relief road.
The Secretary of State’s predecessor long dodged giving answers to questions about the lack of electrification further west than Cardiff. Will the Secretary of State, and the Minister, do better, and get Swansea and west Wales the investment that they deserve by funding a more integrated system, such as a Swansea Bay metro?
My predecessors felt—and I share their view—that it would have been difficult to justify spending hundreds of millions of pounds on electrifying the line from Swansea to Cardiff, which would not have delivered any decreases in journey times. So we put £5.7 billion into the Great Western main line, £2.8 billion into the Great Western main line modernisation, over £1.5 billion into the Wales and borders route—all investments that have benefited Welsh travellers. We look to continue to do that, and I would be delighted to work with the hon. Lady to develop plans for further rail improvements in west Wales.
Diolch yn fawr, Lefarydd. Dw innau hefyd yn croesawu’r Ysgrifennydd Gwladol newydd a’i Weinidog i’w seddi ac yn gobeithio y cawn ni gydweithio efo nhw. [Translation: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I also welcome the new Secretary of State and his Minister to their seats, and look forward to working together.]
Wales currently benefits from EU funding to the tune of £680 million a year, including many infrastructure projects—£4.4 million for Blaenau Ffestiniog, £3.4 million for Tywyn, and £7.5 million for Llanbedr airfield, to mention just a few in my constituency. But as we leave the EU, we sadly leave behind the principles that underpin such funding—principles whose objectives were to tackle deprivation, poverty and inequality. The old political adage says follow the money. Can the Minister and the new Secretary of State allay my fears that, after this Tory Brexit, the money will not mainly find its way into the constituencies presently coloured blue on the political map of Wales?
I ddechrau, a gaf I ddweud diolch yn fawr iawn am y croeso? [Translation: First of all, may I say thank you very much for the welcome?] Can I assure the right hon. Lady that this Government are absolutely committed to ensuring that Wales does not lose out by one penny as a result of Brexit. Indeed, as a result of the growth deals that will now be taking place in all parts of Wales, we are going to see hundreds of millions of pounds invested in the economy of Wales, levelling up communities.
I am delighted to hear the Minister’s commitment that Wales will not lose a single penny. We should be building the whole of our nation. One idea is a railway from north to south, so that we no longer have to travel to the neighbouring nation to go from one end to the other of our country.
I hope that the Minister has had a chance to look at the iTunes charts, where Dafydd Iwan’s protest song “Yma o Hyd”—“We’re Still Here”—has been going up the charts. It has reached No. 1 this week. It was originally, of course, released in the midst of Thatcher’s relentless attacks on Wales, and it might be time to update the lyrics:
“er gwaetha’r hen Foris a’i griw;
ry’n ni yma o hyd.”
[Translation: Despite Boris and his crew, we are still here.]
I thank the right hon. Lady. The north-south link has been talked about for years, and I look forward to seeing some costs on that. East-west links in both north and south Wales have finance available to them, and I very much hope that the Welsh Labour Government will again consider the commitment to the M4 relief road. I congratulate Dafydd Iwan on that fantastic song. As far as the Conservative party and this Conservative Government are concerned, with hundreds of millions of pounds going into growth deals for Wales, his other song, “I’r Gad”, springs to mind.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. My predecessor, who managed to get tolls on the Severn bridge scrapped, has done wonders for the south Wales economy. The Welsh Government must now match the commitment shown by the UK Government, by getting the M4 relief road built and continuing to support the south Wales economy through a good transport link.