Skip to main content

Support for Businesses

Volume 706: debated on Wednesday 5 January 2022

4. What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on support for businesses in Wales. (904898)

I am pleased that the Welsh Government have followed the lead of the UK Government in offering business rate relief to support the hospitality sector. The UK Government have supported Welsh businesses through £2.4 billion of coronavirus-related loans, £3.5 billion to the self-employment income support scheme and other measures.

The Federation of Small Businesses has warned that only a quarter of its members are ready for the new Brexit import controls, and that many will simply abandon trading with the EU if they are unable to receive support. What plans do this Government have to support businesses in Wales and the other countries of the United Kingdom in bearing the costs of their failed Brexit policies?

The hon. Gentleman’s comments are not reflected by the businesses that I speak to in Wales. They are looking forward in an optimistic and positive way as we climb our way out of covid. They accept the decision in Wales where, unlike his, nearly 55% of our nation voted in favour of leaving the European Union, so they are simply reflecting the views of the majority. They are confident that there is a healthy future to be had, and what is more, there are more people in work now than there were before the pandemic.

With the Prime Minister promising to take advantage of the freedoms of Brexit, further divergence from EU standards and rules appears to be likely. That will amplify trade disruption and increase costs for businesses, so can the Minister explain exactly how trade disruptions and barriers will be advantageous to businesses and whether the UK Government will provide any support to ameliorate the cost of these benefits?

The UK Government have been doing everything they can, including providing substantial investments in Wales under my jurisdiction, to address a number of the challenges that have been presented. As I said before, there is no appetite whatsoever in Welsh businesses and communities to keep trying to go back four or five years and pretend that the referendum result did not happen. It did happen, it happened in Wales and it got a resounding majority. Those businesses are reflecting that position.

Having spent Boxing day and new year’s in Wales, the home of my beloved mother, I met a number of business people in the evening who said that Mark Drakeford’s plans for covid restrictions were nothing but political posturing and that they were damaging their economy. Have they got it wrong?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. There has been a huge effort on the part of the UK Government and the Welsh Government to maintain public confidence through what has been an incredibly trying period, and a number of people in Wales were happy to give the First Minister the benefit of the doubt. However, the recent raft of announcements, including the confusing examples that I gave the House a moment ago, have got even the most loyal people doubting whether he is still making the right decisions.