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Covid-19: Lockdown Policies

Volume 676: debated on Wednesday 3 June 2020

7. What comparative assessment he has made of the effect of covid-19 lockdown policies in Wales and England on their respective economies. (902993)

There is no doubt that covid will have an enormous and detrimental impact on the Welsh economy. The Government are doing everything they can to support business and individuals through the pandemic and to ensure that the economy recovers as quickly as possible. I am confident that our policies are the right ones to defeat this virus and to save jobs in Wales.

I thank the Minister for that response. Although our efforts are rightly focused on tackling the coronavirus pandemic, we also need to continue building on our cross-border economic activity; that is now more important than ever. What initiatives has the Department put in place to strengthen the economic links between Wales and the north-west of England?

It is heartening that the Welsh Government have adopted a number of UK-wide programmes, such as the UK-wide coronavirus testing portal. A UK-wide, Union approach is key as we move to the next phase, and it is disappointing that sometimes the Welsh Government have taken a little time to come on board with UK-wide schemes. On testing, England has tested around two and a half times per head more people than Wales. I look forward to closer co-operation in future.

I am thinking in particular, as we move into the next phase of the covid-19 crisis, about the steel industry, especially in south Wales. Of course we know how vital it is for jobs and livelihoods across the UK, but especially in Newport West, in places such as Island Steel. What discussions has the Secretary of State had with his Cabinet colleagues about the steps that the UK Government plan to take to protect the UK steel industry?

The hon. Lady makes a very important point; the steel industry is vital to the UK and to Wales, and the Secretary of State and I have had discussions with the sector. We have, as she is aware, already put in place a range of schemes, which companies such as Tata and Celsa are taking advantage of—the coronavirus large business interruption loan scheme, the VAT deferral, the covid corporate financing facility and so on—but we will be very happy to have further discussions about specific proposals that could help that industry.

This week is National Volunteer Week. Will the Secretary of State join me in thanking the hidden heroes in my constituency of Ynys Môn and all across Wales—five-year-old Alfie Pritchard making rainbows, Stayce Wheeler sewing? Can we please thank those people, who are working so hard to protect the vulnerable at this exceptional time?

I absolutely support the hidden heroes—and the not-so-hidden heroes. I have been delighted to take part in the clapping every Thursday for the NHS and for all members of the emergency services.