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Shared Prosperity Fund

Volume 686: debated on Wednesday 16 December 2020

With reference to the spending review 2020, what discussions he has had with the Welsh Government on the UK shared prosperity fund. (910246)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has been in regular discussions with Welsh Ministers about the UK shared prosperity fund before and after the announcement of the spending review. Further engagement will take place as further details of the fund are announced.

I thank the Minister for that response. It has been suggested in the other place that the management of the UK shared prosperity fund will involve advisers jointly appointed by the UK and devolved Governments, yet the past few months have shown that this Government do not see themselves as an equal partner to the devolved nations and that they are instead wrongly centralising power to Westminster at the expense of devolution. What guarantees can he give to the devolved nations that they will have a cast-iron equal say on the governance of the UK shared prosperity fund? This is particularly pertinent, given the shocking contempt shown by the Government in trying to railroad through the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill.

The Prime Minister is showing his commitment to the importance of powers for the Scottish and Welsh Governments at this very moment in Brussels, where he is standing up against those bureaucrats who are trying to take powers away from the Welsh Government and the Scottish Government. It is this Conservative party and this Government who are standing up for the devolved settlement, and of course the UK Government will be looking forward to working in partnership with the devolved Administrations around the United Kingdom to ensure that the shared prosperity fund is properly spent.

As well as providing no certainty on the trading arrangements in just three weeks’ time, the Government have also ducked and dived on questions about the funding that Wales will receive in future years. Despite the Tory promise that Wales will not lose a single penny, the actual figures tell a different story. Wales alone was due some £350 million of new money for projects next year, but the Treasury is providing only £220 million for the whole UK. With Wales losing not just pennies but millions of pounds, how can the Government say they have kept their promise?

The Government have kept their promise, because, of course, some of the funding that goes to Wales will still be coming from the European Union after we have left the transition period. If we take the total amount of money that is going to be spent, we will find it is the same. The Government have met their commitment to ensure that the same level of funding is spent in Wales, and we will meet our commitment to ensure that the money is better spent and not wasted, as the Wales Audit Office recently reported on agricultural spending, and is used to level up communities across the whole of Wales.

I am not sure whether that is a conclusive answer, but we are now nearly four and a half years on from the referendum and the Government still cannot provide clear answers on funding, so let me ask the Minister about the criteria on which the funding will be allocated. As he knows, the Welsh Government and local councils have agreed a framework for regional investment in Wales, so can he confirm that his Government will support that framework and not ride roughshod over devolved agreements or make up the spending criteria as they go along?

We are certainly not going to make it up as we go along. Of course, the UK Government have been heavily involved in regional partnerships through the growth deals, which have been working very successfully in Wales as a result of funding from the UK Government. We have already demonstrated our commitment to working in partnership not just with the Welsh Government but with local authorities, because we are absolutely determined that the money that replaces European funding is not wasted, as it has been previously, but is spent on the most needy communities in Wales.