Inward investment is central to the UK Government’s mission to level up the UK economy. Last year, Wales attracted 5% of all inward investment projects into the UK, creating over 1,500 new jobs and safeguarding almost 7,000. This strong performance will be boosted by the Welsh trade and investment hub, based in Tŷ William Morgan, which I was pleased to be able to visit last week.
I thank my hon. Friend for his answer. Visitor destinations in Wales are, like Eastbourne, set for an unprecedented staycation summer this year, but to secure the long-term recovery of the sector, to remain internationally competitive and to fully realise the power of the visitor economy, the 5% VAT cut is key. Will he make representations to the Treasury to that effect?
The 5% cut in VAT for the hospitality industry has been a boost to tourism businesses across the whole of the United Kingdom, including in Eastbourne, and it has certainly benefited many businesses that I have had the pleasure of visiting in Wales, such as the National Slate Museum at Llanberis, the zip wire at Penrhyn and Surf Snowdonia at Dolgarrog. There are fantastic opportunities to go on holiday to north Wales, to south Wales and even to Eastbourne as a result of the cut in VAT, and I hope hon. Members will take advantage of it this summer.
The Welsh Labour Government’s business support funding has been a lifeline to many Welsh companies throughout the pandemic. Indeed, there are businesses that have been able to stay afloat solely because of the emergency grants and loans that they have received, but this business support is under threat due to this Conservative Government’s determination to make decisions about post-EU funding here in Whitehall instead of working with the newly elected Welsh Government. Will the Minister urgently reconsider this approach to the ending of 20 years of Welsh decision making on these issues, in order that businesses can have confidence that these vital Welsh Government programmes will have the funding to continue in the future?
I welcome the point made by the hon. Gentleman, because it is absolutely true that the £3 billion that the UK Government gave in support to businesses in Wales has been hugely beneficial in ensuring that those businesses survived, along with the £8.6 billion extra that the UK Government delivered to the Welsh Assembly Government. That commitment of those billions of pounds demonstrates the enormous commitment of the UK Government towards Wales. I can assure him that the new shared prosperity fund and the levelling-up funds will continue to support Welsh businesses, and of course we look forward to working with the Welsh Government to ensure that those funds are well spent.
The Minister will be aware that last week the Lloyds Banking Group announced the closure of 44 branches across England and Wales. For communities such as mine in Pontypridd and Taff Ely, these banks provide a vital service for residents and are important local employers. Can the Minister therefore confirm exactly what conversations he has had with the Chancellor about encouraging banks to remain open in Wales to protect these vital local jobs and services?
I have certainly had discussions about closures with Lloyds bank in my capacity as a constituency MP. We do not, of course, have the power to prevent independent commercial organisations from making such decisions, but it is regrettable that banks have closed down. Obviously, I would be happy to work with the hon. Lady, as I did last week when we visited the excellent Royal Mint in her constituency and met some of the kickstart workers who have benefited as a result of UK Government funding.
With its world heritage site, the Llangollen canal and the steam railway, tourism is vital for jobs and investment in Clwyd South. Does the Minister agree that the Labour Welsh Government’s plans for a tourism tax would be disastrous for the hospitality industry in Wales, particularly as we have just come out of the covid pandemic?
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend and I look forward, I hope, to an invitation to visit his constituency at some point in the future to see some of the superb tourist attractions there. The UK Government have shown their commitment to the tourism industry by cutting VAT to 5%, whereas the Welsh Labour Government want to implement a tax on the tourism industry at a time when it is at its most fragile. The UK Government will always want to level up the economy, whereas Welsh Labour will always want to levy taxes.