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UK Shared Prosperity Fund

Volume 688: debated on Wednesday 3 February 2021

What recent discussions he has had with (a) the Welsh Government and (b) Cabinet colleagues on the UK shared prosperity fund. (911546)

What recent discussions he has had with the First Minister of Wales on the UK shared prosperity fund. (911565)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has regular discussions with the First Minister and Welsh Ministers on a range of issues, including the UK shared prosperity fund. The Government will continue to engage with the Welsh Government as we develop the fund’s investment framework for publication.

From the figures that I have seen, the British Government may have conflated overrun spend from the previous convergence period for this financial year with the actual allocation of new money. Under the previous scheme, Wales would receive nearly £400 million per annum. Is not the reality that the Minister is unable to guarantee that the shared prosperity fund, when fully operational, will match that level of investment? Why will he not just admit that the communities that both the Secretary of State and I represent in Carmarthenshire are about to get fleeced?

The figures will show that on average Wales is receiving £375 million a year. What the hon. Gentleman may be referring to is the fact that over a number of years to follow there will still be some money coming to Wales from the European Union. Of course, it is absolutely right that that money should be counted towards the £375 million total, and the Government will guarantee to ensure that the amount of money to be spent in Wales in future will be exactly the same, or higher, than the amount that was spent previously.

Britain has left the European Union. The transition period has come to an end. There is no new money coming from the structural funds. Given that the Government announced the shared prosperity fund back in 2017, can the Minister at least tell us the timetable for the introduction of the new fund?

We have already made it very clear and demonstrated that the amount of money that is going to be spent in Wales when the SPF comes in will be identical to or higher than the amount of money that was spent in Wales that came from the European Union. There has been absolutely no secrecy about that. The way in which the fund will be managed is subject to discussions at this very moment, and I would expect full details to be publicised over the next few months.

Many of my constituents are very sorry to see the hundreds of millions of pounds of EU funding that Wales received in recent years come to an end. Our departure from the EU made this inevitable, and of course I accept this, but they also believe that the Welsh Government should have full autonomy over their part of the shared prosperity fund, and I agree, so can the Minister provide some evidence that this working together is taking place?

I am sure that the hon. Lady’s constituents will be delighted to know that hundreds of millions of pounds will continue to be spent in Wales, and continue to be spent where it is most needed. I am sure that her constituents would be rather disappointed that we already know from the Audit Wales report that some of the money that has gone into, for example, pillar 2 agricultural funding has not been well spent. I urge her to recommend to her constituents that they look at the dossier presented by my hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire (Craig Williams), which demonstrates that millions of pounds of European Union money that was handled by the Welsh Government was misspent. When that money becomes British taxpayers’ money, all partners in British Government, including the Welsh Government and local authorities with growth deals, will want to make sure that it is properly spent, and I am sure that her constituents will agree.