Senedd Bites #33: Airbus jobs “bombshell”, the Lagoon & more

(Title Image: Wales Online)

Airbus “could leave the UK” in a no-deal Brexit

The pan-European aerospace conglomerate, Airbus, said they could withdraw from the UK if there’s a failure to agree on a trade deal with the EU before the post-Brexit transition period ends in December 2020., with production possible moving to China.

Airbus currently employs 6,000 at its wing-making plant in Flintshire and has other sites around the UK, including Newport (employing 900 people) and Filton in Bristol.

The Welsh Government described the announcement as “extremely worrying” and repeated calls for the UK to retain access to the single market and remain in the customs union to provide frictionless trade.

The UK Government said progress had been made in negotiations with the EU to develop “as frictionless trade as possible”.

Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central), said the concerns were “hyperbole” and added that casual talk of moving production to China was “doing workers a disservice” – earning himself a rebuke from Wales Office Minister, Guto Bebb MP (Con, Aberconwy).

Swansea Tidal Lagoon officially dead

On June 25th, the UK Government officially pulled the plug on the Swansea Tidal Lagoon project after refusing to sanction public subsidy for the £1.3billion tidal energy scheme. Ministers said the project wasn’t value for money despite alternative funding proposals including an offer of Welsh Government and local government pension investment. £2.5million in Welsh Government loans had already been granted to the company behind the project.

The project – a 2015 manifesto commitment, omitted in 2017 – is the latest in a series of negative Conservative interventions in Wales including the cancellation of Swansea-Cardiff rail electrification, a refusal to devolve air passenger duty, the publicly-unpopular renaming of the Second Severn Crossing and a contested agreement between the Welsh and UK governments on devolved powers in order to see the Brexit Bill pass.

Plaid Cymru tabled a symbolic motion calling for a vote of no confidence in the Welsh Secretary, Alun Cairns MP, and a number of MPs in Wales called for his resignation.

The Welsh Conservatives, via Suzy Davies AM (Con, South Wales West), said it was “desperately depressing” and the scheme “had great promise”.

Leading the Welsh Government’s response to the announcement, Economy & Infrastructure Secretary, Ken Skates (Lab, Clwyd South) said the proposed £200million Welsh Government investment could be spent on other renewable projects, but he called for more support for the sector from the UK Government.

Report: Age-related tax to fund social care

An independent report by economist Prof. Gerald Holtham has recommended that a ring-fenced income tax increase is used to pay for social care, but also that the rate a person pays increases with their age.

The cost of social care in Wales is currently around £1.3billion a year but is expected to increase to around £2.3billion by 2030 due to demographic changes caused by increased life expectancies, a low birth rate, increased in-migration of retirees from England and young people leaving Wales.

The report also recommends that the tax is a contributory fund similar to state pensions, meaning retirees that move from England or elsewhere into Wales would be ineligible to receive financial assistance unless they contributed.

Free childcare scheme “unworkable”

The Welsh Government’s free childcare scheme – which will guarantee 30 hours of free childcare per week for the three and four-year-olds of eligible working parents – has been called “unworkable” by working mothers speaking to BBC Wales last week.

Some of the complaints raised include awkwardness around “splitting” childcare between nursery school and private providers, as well as the lack of free childcare for children younger than 3 years old – which often prevents mothers returning to work immediately after giving birth.

Train testing facility proposed for Neath Valley

The Welsh Government announced that a £100million testing facility for the rail industry could be built at a former opencast mine near Aberdulais. The facility would include test track loops, tunnels and mock platforms. It’s understood that the facility would also help in the development of hydrogen and battery-powered trains

The Economy & Infrastructure Secretary said, “I want our country recognised across the UK and Europe as a major (rail industry) hub. Our Economic Action Plan signalled a new approach to creating opportunities for developing our economy. I’m now signalling the next chapter of implementation of that plan.”

Qatar Airways marketing deal “kept secret”

The Welsh Government blocked a BBC Wales Freedom of Information request from obtaining details of a 2-year tourist marketing deal between the government and Qatar Airways.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said, “we have a duty to the companies we work with to protect the confidential nature of any business agreements”.

Opposition AMs said the Welsh Government were hiding behind commercial confidentiality clauses to excuse them from releasing the information, while some made unflattering comparisons with a recent scathing report on a deal to bring Pinewood Studios to Wales.