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Infrastructure Investment

Volume 615: debated on Wednesday 19 October 2016

1. What recent discussions he has had with the Welsh Government on future infrastructure investment in Wales. (906612)

I am sure the whole House will join me in marking the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan tragedy this Friday. That event shocked not just Wales but the whole of the country and the wider world. I am sure colleagues across the House will pay tribute to the bravery and strong community ties that pulled the people of Aberfan through the immediate aftermath and provided so much support in the months and years that followed.

Wales is benefiting from millions of pounds of UK investment across the country. We are modernising our rail infrastructure, investing in the North Wales prison, and providing significant funding and support to improve internet speeds. This is a clear demonstration of the Government’s commitment to delivering improvements in infrastructure in all corners of Wales.

Wales receives its funding from the Barnett bloc, but does my right hon. Friend recognise that the UK Government have a part to play in UK infrastructure so that it meets the strategic need in the UK as well as in Wales?

My hon. Friend raises an important point. He rightly underlines the Barnett arrangements, and we were pleased to introduce a funding floor that provides Wales with £115 for every £100 that is spent in England. In addition, we have the electrification of the Great Western main line, North Wales prison is a significant project, and we have broadband roll-out. After all, we are interconnected economies, and the Government are determined to do the best for the whole of the UK.

15. May I first associate myself with the right hon. Gentleman’s appropriate remarks concerning Aberfan? I am pleased to hear the emphasis on infrastructure interconnectivity. The Minister will know that the excellent north Wales growth bid—supported by business, cross-party politicians and local authorities in north Wales—needs financial support from the UK Government. Will the UK Government give financial support to the growth bid? (906626)

I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for the work he is doing cross-border with the Mersey Dee Alliance and the all-party group on Mersey Dee North Wales. That resonates with our policy to develop a growth deal that works on a cross-border basis. We are working with those who are developing the north Wales growth deal. We are in negotiations on that. We have recently received the Growth Track 360 bid, and we will analyse that in due course. We are keen to work together, and with the Welsh Government.

10. As my right hon. Friend knows, train passengers from and to my constituency use part of the Great Western railway line. When will the new intercity express trains for the Great Western rail line be operational? (906621)

My hon. Friend highlights the investment in the Great Western main line, and much attention is rightly drawn to the infrastructure of the electrification itself. However, it is fair to say that, as soon as we have electrified as far as Didcot or Swindon, the new trains will be operational, so his constituents, my constituents and those in Wales and the south-west in general will benefit from modern trains well before the infrastructure has been completed.

Roads are critical in infrastructural investment—roads on both sides of the border. What conversations has the right hon. Gentleman had with the Welsh Government about the A5/A483, which goes from Oswestry towards the Wrexham area, given the particular road safety problems in the community of Chirk?

The hon. Lady raises an important point. It is something that has crossed the discussions over the north Wales growth deal, and it underlines the interconnectivity of the region she mentions with Manchester, Merseyside and north Wales. We are working closely with the Welsh Government on their infrastructure plan and the national infrastructure plans for the whole of the United Kingdom. It is important that they dovetail appropriately.

12. The Minister will be aware of a range of infrastructure improvement proposals in the north Wales and Mersey Dee taskforce’s Growth Track 360 plan. Could he advise on the merits of seeking funding via a north Wales growth bid supported by cross-border partners to accelerate the delivery of those elements of the plan that are priorities in the short term, and would he help facilitate that? (906623)

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work he has done on this important issue. I think he drew attention to it at one of the first meetings immediately after the general election, and that started the discussions that have led to the Growth Track 360 proposal. There are growth elements and transport infrastructure elements, and it is important that we ensure that those come together for the benefit of the whole region. I am happy to work with him and with the Department for Transport as we approach the control period 6 considerations that will take place in due course.

I, too, associate my party and myself with the Secretary of State’s comments on the Aberfan disaster.

The Treasury aims to pool local government pension schemes in Wales and England to create wealth funds to invest in infrastructure, with each fund containing accumulated assets of £25 billion. Combined Welsh assets amount to £13 billion, meaning that if the Treasury has its way, Welsh funds will be swallowed up by a cross-border pool. Will the Secretary of State demand a specific Welsh wealth fund so that the contributions of Welsh local government workers are used to invest in infrastructure projects in Wales?

The hon. Gentleman raises a fairly technical area of policy. Appropriate economies of scale are involved in this. I am happy to discuss the details with him. The Welsh Government have made their views clear. However, it is not only about “Welsh money for Wales”—which, on the face of it, would sound good—but about having the economies of scale such that we can access funding elsewhere as well. Therefore, it is not necessarily the right thing, but I am certainly not closed to the idea.