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Infrastructure Investment

Volume 717: debated on Wednesday 6 July 2022

This Government are committed to levelling up across Wales. That is why we are investing over £340 million in Welsh rail and £120 million through the levelling-up fund in Wales in round one alone, and Wales will benefit from the UK-wide £5 billion Project Gigabit to connect hard-to-reach premises.

It is of the utmost importance that every part of these islands can enjoy investment from this United Kingdom Government. Can the Secretary of State update the House on what he and the rest of the Government are doing to achieve that aim in Wales and across the whole United Kingdom?

I found it quite hard to hear my hon. Friend’s comments, but I can say that we believe there are really positive steps in terms of sustainable job creation in Wales through the various different funding measures, in particular the UK’s shared prosperity fund, which is currently in lift-off. Levelling up is devolution in action. We get a lot of criticism from the Opposition Benches about the Welsh Government’s being bypassed, but we are going to 22 local authorities and stakeholders in a way that has never previously been done.

The Global Centre for Rail Excellence that is being developed in Onllwyn in Neath will become the first and only rail infrastructure testing facility in the UK. It recently secured a memorandum of understanding with an Association of American Railroads subsidiary, US venture MxV Rail, to work together to advance global rail research and technology. The Welsh Labour Government have provided £50 million. When will the UK Government provide the £30 million they promised so that this world-class rail facility can be completed by 2025?

I am delighted that the hon. Lady raises that absolutely perfect example of the Welsh and UK Governments working in tandem, creating new, innovative, sustainable jobs in her constituency and in adjacent areas. It is a £30 million investment and I am delighted that she is welcoming it in the way that we should be.

At the end of the Great Western line in my constituency is Milford Haven, the UK’s most important energy port and the largest town in my constituency. Its railway station is a disgrace. Does the Secretary of State agree that a project to upgrade Milford Haven train station would be an ideal round 2 levelling-up fund bid, and will he look favourably on any such bid from Pembrokeshire County Council?

My right hon. Friend and neighbour has raised the question of Milford Haven station a few times, and I am no stranger to it either. Although I am not allowed to express a preference for individual levelling-up bids, that is precisely the type of infrastructure improvement bid that the levelling-up fund was created for, so if he and the local authority can put together some compelling evidence, I am sure that those who are in a position to judge it will look on it favourably.

Perhaps the Secretary of State ought to tell the right hon. Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb) that he cannot put in his levelling-up bid because the Government portal has broken down. Despite Ministers’ promises on supporting infrastructure investment in Wales, we all know that the reality is very different. He will not challenge his Government’s sleight of hand in denying the consequential of £4.6 billion to Wales from HS2, nor the annual £150 million hit that that will have on the Welsh economy. Because of his Government’s spending review, the Welsh Government’s capital budget will be 11% lower by 2024-25 compared with last year—less money, less infrastructure. Instead of focusing on media appearances defending his indefensible boss, when will he focus on doing his job for the people of Wales?

It is telling that the hon. Lady did not mention the increasing levels—the record levels—of investment that the UK Government have made in Wales, which, from £16.7 billion in 2021, will reach £19.08 billion by 2024-25. Whichever areas of investment we look at, despite her claims to the contrary, they are considerably greater than they have been at any time since the devolution settlement, resulting in extra jobs, extra investment and extra reasons to celebrate what Wales has to offer. It is profoundly depressing for people who are looking to the Opposition for inspiration on investment in Wales that all we get is a litany of negativity.

Birmingham, Crewe, Derby, Doncaster, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and York: that is the shortlist of cities for the headquarters of Great British Railways. The Secretary of State failed to get a single Welsh location as a candidate. Is he not embarrassed at his dismal track record in Cabinet despite being a loyal Government spokesman?

I love it when the right hon. Lady, who is so determined to separate her country from the rest of the UK economy, lists a whole lot of stations and locations in England. There are either separatists or Unionists and I never know with her which side she is batting for. This is about our delivery in Wales, because in a sense she is asking me to choose between the Welsh Government and the UK Government. I am very proud to be part of a Government who have produced £121 million-worth of levelling-up funds, £46 million-worth of community ownership funds, £585 million-worth of shared prosperity funds, the floating offshore wind potential of the Celtic sea, the potential for nuclear at Wylfa, project Gigabit, Airbus investment at Broughton—the list goes on and on. All we get, as I said to the hon. Member for Cardiff Central (Jo Stevens), is negativity.

The Secretary of State defends an infrastructure that is extractive for Wales and brings nothing back. Time and again, the Secretary of State has been rolled out to defend the indefensible on behalf of the Prime Minister. The outgoing Children’s Minister said that he

“accepted and repeated assurances on Monday to the media which have now been found to be inaccurate.”

Two Cabinet Ministers have gone and the Secretary of State’s Parliamentary Private Secretary has gone—it is not business as usual, is it? When will he be going?

I thank the right hon. Lady for that tempting question. It is business as usual in the Wales Office, and that is why I am proud to repeat what I said just now: we are getting on with the levelling-up fund, the community renewal fund and the shared prosperity fund. We have investment across every part of Wales, and despite all her protestations, there is so much evidence that being part of the Union is part of the success of Wales in creating sustainable, long-term jobs. I dearly wish she would come and join us in the endeavour to improve the life of people in Wales, rather than using cheap political opportunities to do the opposite.