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Liverpool City Region Freeport

Volume 691: debated on Wednesday 17 March 2021

What discussions he has had with (a) Cabinet colleagues and (b) Ministers of the Welsh Government on maximising the potential economic benefit to north Wales of the proposed Liverpool city region freeport. (913409)

I have regular discussions with Cabinet colleagues and Welsh Government Ministers about freeports. North Wales and the Liverpool city region are interdependent, and Liverpool freeport can bring significant economic benefits for the whole region.

As my right hon. Friend has said, Liverpool freeport is potentially of huge benefit not only to the city itself, but to north Wales, which is part of the same economic region. Does he agree that there is considerable potential synergy to be found, for example, between the Deeside enterprise zone and the new freeport, and will he urge the Welsh Government to grasp the opportunity and work with Westminster to maximise that synergy?

I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend’s assessment of the situation. Local authorities and port authorities are keen on this initiative, and these schemes can produce up to 15,000 jobs each. It is therefore disappointing that the Welsh Government seem to be still dragging their feet and allowing the initiative to flourish everywhere other than Wales, which is costing jobs and livelihoods.

A freeport at Liverpool will sap and displace trade, investment and jobs from Holyhead in north Wales. Liverpool will get £26 million of investment, whereas we are only being offered £8 million for one UK freeport in either north or south Wales. How will the Secretary of State ensure that Wales gets its fair share of £26 million for its one UK freeport, and how will he prevent jobs being lost and moving from north Wales to Liverpool?

The best way of avoiding that outcome is for the Welsh Government to get behind the scheme and support a project that is endorsed by local authorities and port authorities in Wales, and to encourage jobs and livelihoods in that way. Every single day that they leave it—on the basis of the “not invented here” syndrome—will cost jobs and livelihoods. My message to the hon. Gentleman is get hold of the Welsh Government and encourage them to come to the party.