Tidal Lagoon main bone of contention as Senedd criticises UK Budget

(Title Image: Wales Online)

The Issue

The UK Budget last week contained a ballpark figure of an additional £1.2billion for Wales over four years.

However, after the recent cancellation of south Wales mainline electrification between Swansea and Cardiff and stalled progress on the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon prompted Plaid Cymru to call for extra powers over infrastructure to be devolved and for the Welsh Government to take measures to reduce the negative impact of austerity.

The Motion (Amended version)

The Senedd:

  • Notes the recent UK Government budget announcement did not contain specific announcements for Wales and included downward revisions for economic growth, productivity and business investment.
  • Believes that the anticipated changes to the Welsh block grant reflect a continuation of failed austerity measures.
  • Regrets that the UK Government budget did not commit any support to the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon.
  • Calls on the UK Government to take steps to lift the public sector pay cap.
  • Urges the UK Government to devolve greater decision-making powers over infrastructure investment and the Welsh economy.

Key Points

Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E & Dinefwr)
For (the motion): We’re entering choppy economic waters.

  • “Nothing in it for Wales” has been on people’s lips in terms of UK budgets since the 1960s.
  • Wales has to be at the forefront of tidal energy to marshall skills and natural resources for our benefit – yet again that opportunity is being denied.
  • We’re entering the most troubling economic times many have faced in a generation; very pessimistic growth scenarios, we’ve only had 1% economic growth for a decade.
  • One glimmer of light is a commitment to increase research spending; the Welsh Government, however, is cutting its innovation budget by 78% – an act of “economic idiocy”.
  • The UK won’t return to pre-recession levels of debt as a proportion of GVA until the 2060s.
  • We don’t need Corbynomics, we need Carwynomics – rather than nationalise UK energy companies, why aren’t we setting up our own publicly-owned energy companies?

Nick Ramsay AM (Con, Monmouth)
Against: Look on the bright side!

  • The motion dwells too much on the negative; there’s additional money coming to Wales, the Severn crossing tolls are being scrapped, electrification is progressing to Cardiff.
  • There’s a long-term case for the Barnett Formula to be reformed.
  • Progress has been made on the North Wales growth deal.
  • The Welsh Conservatives will continue to call for progress on the Swansea Tidal Lagoon.

Sian Gwenllian AM (Plaid, Arfon)
For: It’s an austerity budget.

  • It’s a budget of austerity designed to benefit south-east England at the expense of the rest of the UK.
  • A cautious welcome should be given to the additional £1.2billion.
  • Administration of welfare should be devolved to deal with a projected increase in child poverty and problems with universal credit.
  • Mike Hedges AM (Lab, Swansea East)
    For: The status quo isn’t good enough.

  • The UK Government has come to accept slow growth, low productivity and falls in real wages.
  • We’re due another economic downturn which happens about every 10 years.
  • Labour’s pledge to lift the public sector pay cap was a UK General Election manifesto pledge, not a Welsh Labour one.

    Yes, I double-checked the video stream to make sure it wasn’t a typo. It wasn’t.

    Caroline Jones AM (UKIP, North Wales)
    Mixed views

  • Additional funding should be used to tackle widening health gaps.
  • Rising child poverty is down to failed economic policies in Wales.
  • Simon Thomas AM (Plaid, Mid & West Wales)
    For: Wales is missing out on green energy investment.

  • A UK Government Minister stressed the importance of tidal energy to the UK’s industrial strategy, but the strategy doesn’t mention tidal at all.
  • UK Government renewables investment: 2,300 MW in England, 1,000 MW in Scotland, 0.05 MW in Wales.
    Mark Reckless AM (Con, South Wales East)
    Against: Look at the positives.

  • The UK’s budget deficit is falling faster than expected, we’ve had very strong employment growth and wages should rise when employment falls – that hasn’t happened due to high immigration.
  • Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda)
    For: The Welsh Government should lift the public sector pay cap.

  • Responsibility for most areas of public sector pay is devolved, the Welsh Government could already lift the pay cap in the NHS at a cost of around £40million using money held in reserve.
  • Welsh Government Response

    Finance Secretary, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West)

  • By 2022 the Office of Budgetary Responsibility predicts the UK economy will be £41billion smaller than their previous estimate in March.
  • Average pay will not recover to pre-Great Recession levels until 2025; a deliberate suppression of wages leads to a collapse in productivity.
  • He asked the UK Government to reverse their decision to cancel Swansea-Cardiff electrification and to invest in the Swansea Tidal Lagoon and transport projects in north Wales.
  • Welcomes the commitment to the north and mid-Wales growth deals.
  • The additional £1.2billion has a set of complicated rules attached to it, it’s not like other finance.
  • Vote

    Plaid presumably abstained on their own motion because their references to the Welsh Government (i.e. the Welsh Government should lift the public sector pay cap) were amended out to include the UK Government instead.

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