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Future Relationship with EU

Volume 680: debated on Wednesday 16 September 2020

What recent discussions he has had with the First Minister of Wales on the effect on the Welsh economy in the event that the UK does not reach an agreement with the EU on the future relationship by the end of the transition period. (905958)

The Secretary of State and I have had regular discussions with Welsh Ministers, including the First Minister, on a wide range of matters, including preparations for the end of the transition period. Preparations for the end of the year are well advanced, and build on the plans that we had in place for a no-deal scenario in 2019.

When he has had those discussions with the First Minister, has the Minister discussed how the so-called shared prosperity fund will be spent in Wales? I do not know whether he has seen any opinion polls recently, but far from people in Wales regarding the Welsh Government as a “cosy clique in Cardiff”, as the Secretary of State puts it, they much prefer the Welsh Government running their affairs to a swivel-eyed bunch of incompetents in Westminster doing so. Will the Minister commit to the House, now, that every penny of that money will be allowed to be spent by the democratically elected Government in Cardiff?

There are no swivel-eyes on this side of the Chamber. The hon. Gentleman ought to restrain himself a little; I do not think anyone would want to be looking at his eyes at the moment. The reality is that far more people voted for Members of Parliament in Wales than voted for Members of the Welsh Assembly—the turnout is always high, which rather rebuts the hon. Gentleman’s point. We have already said that the shared prosperity fund will match the amount of money that came from the European Union, and that will of course be spent in Wales after discussions with Ministers in both the Senedd and Parliament.

The Minister will be aware of the news overnight that Hitachi has decided to pull out of the project to build the Wylfa Newydd nuclear power station on Anglesey—a project that is not only of strategic importance to the Welsh economy but will help the UK to meet its net zero target by 2050. Will my hon. Friend leave no stone unturned in the quest to see whether there is a way forward for the project? In particular, will he continue his discussions with ministerial colleagues here and in Cardiff Bay and continue to work with my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Virginia Crosbie), who has worked so hard to get the project moving?

I am happy to confirm that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already had discussions with Horizon about this matter. The announcement was deeply disappointing for us all and came on the back of Hitachi’s concerns, so I am told, about the covid situation and the Japanese economy. None the less, Wylfa is one of the best sites in the world at which to build a nuclear power station, and I understand that Horizon has already been sounding out the possibility of the project going ahead with other developers.