FMQs: Has Wales run out of cold storage space for food?

Brexit: Has Wales run out of cold storage space?

Plaid Cymru leader, Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E. & Dinefwr), focused on Brexit preparations – in particular, the Welsh food industry stockpiling ingredients and alike in cold storage facilities.

He told the chamber a report, which hasn’t yet been published by the Welsh Government, suggests there’s no more room:

“Can you confirm, First Minister, that there are only two companies in the sector in Wales and the one you received representation from – Wild Water Group – operates two of the three cold storage facilities for food in Wales? Can you confirm that they have asked you to urgently invest in a new storage facility?…. You’ve done this for medical supplies; given the lack of warehouse capacity in that area, why not do the same for food, given the devastating impact you yourself claim the pressure on supply chains Brexit will cause?”
– Adam Price AM

Adam suggested it would cost £3-4million to provide additional capacity.

As suggested in Adam’s statement, the First Minister expects some products to be in short supply if there’s a “No Deal Brexit”. He promised to look into whether the mentioned report can be published, but told AMs there’ll always be competing priorities in the “sober business of government”. Further discussions with the food industry will take place and while he wasn’t yet convinced by the case for investing in additional storage capacity, he wouldn’t rule it out either.

Transparency and Accountability

Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.), turned to a favourite Conservative topic – issues around support given to businesses. He said that since 2010, the Welsh Government has wasted millions of pounds on loans and grants to businesses which have since failed after minimal transparency and oversight of decisions.

The First Minister said the process always involves risk:

“I certainly don’t apologise for a single moment for the fact that successive Welsh governments have seen it as their duty to assist Welsh firms….and if you’re going to do that on an entirely risk-averse basis, where you’re never willing to take a chance on a company that might turn out to be a really important part of our economic future, then, of course, you can eliminate every possibility of something going wrong by never doing anything.”
– First Minister, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West)

The First Minister found it contradictory that Paul Davies was complaining about lack of transparency, whilst listing information that could only have been in the public domain. He wasn’t going to listen to “holier-than-thou” rhetoric over wasted money while he sat in on a UK Cabinet meeting which resulted in £80million of compensation being paid out due to cancelled contracts relating to Brexit (a Chris Grayling production).

Tidal Lagoon rises from beneath the waves again

Dr Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West) brought up the proposed-scrapped-but-not-quite-dead Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon. The world’s first test centre for tidal energy will now be built in Scotland and Wales was at risk of losing momentum. He asked whether the Welsh Government would support new proposals coming out of the Swansea City Region?

Suzy Davies AM (Con, South Wales West) raised the idea of collective buying of energy by the public sector through public procurement. David Rees AM (Lab, Aberavon) said any resurrected tidal project could be used to help the steel industry in light of an expected rejection of a Tata-ThyssenKrupp merger.

The strike price for energy remains a sticking point, but the First Minister called for the UK Government to consider the fact this will be the first of its kind:

“….the UK Government should recognise this was always to be a demonstration project, that it is inevitable in nascent technologies that the price of electricity would be higher than it otherwise would be in the marketplace, and, just as previous governments were willing to do in the fields of solar and wind, that they must find a tariff for marine energy….that allows those new technologies to be attempted and….thrive here in Wales.”
– First Minister, Mark Drakeford

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