(Title Image: Northern Powerhouse Developments)
Here’s a summary of this afternoon’s questions to the Economy& Transport Minister, Ken Skates (Lab, Clwyd South).
No public money was given to defunct development company
Following the placing into administration of Northern Powerhouse Developments – a company proposing a leisure park in the Afan Valley, recently thrown into turmoil by a Guardian-ITV investigation – Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn) wanted assurances that other developments the company were involved in, such as Caer Rhyn hotel in Conwy, didn’t receive government money (said to be £500,000).
The Minister said no funding had been released as the project didn’t meet the attached conditions. Nevertheless, the Minister has been closely involved with the company:
“In the case of the Afan Valley project there may not have been an exchange of funds in any way, but there was certainly support from Welsh Government in the form of your appearance in a video (still image above) promoting Northern Powerhouse Developments plans, which gave the very public impression that the Welsh Government was backing the company. That’s exactly what the developer wanted, of course, and, no doubt, it helped attract investors. In hindsight, do you think that your appearance in that video was a good idea?”
– Rhun ap Iorwerth AM
The Minister was honest, saying he would like to see the video taken down – but he stressed the importance of separating the plans from the people developing and finance them. There were, however, no promises made on money or anything else.
Shadow Economy Minister, Russell George AM (Con, Montgomery), continued to use Lee Waters’ recent comments as a stick to beat the government with.
“We have had three major economic strategies since devolution, but these efforts to improve the economy have not worked and have not raised the economic fortunes of Wales. Now, the economic action plan covers a large number of different themes but contains no targets for measuring progress, so it is, I think, also contradicted and undermined by the Welsh Government’s 2018 budget, which provides no new funding to support any of the action plan’s key priority sectors.”
– Shadow Economy Minister, Russell George AM
The Minister, echoing recent comments from the First Minister, said there were plenty of things to be pleased about: the creation of 300,000 jobs since devolution, employment at record high levels and a rapid increase in the number of qualified individuals.
However, the “fruits of growth” haven’t been felt evenly across all parts of Wales and regional inequality was one particular area where more work was needed.
Minister “excited” about small modular nuclear reactors
David Rowlands AM (BXP, South Wales East) asked whether the Welsh Government have given any further consideration to the development of small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) at the former Trawsfynydd nuclear power station in Gwynedd?
Yes, the Minister had:
“I’m really excited about the potential of Trawsfynydd as an area that could be used to develop and support small modular reactors. I’m not alone in this….
“….I’ve met with Rolls-Royce (a developer of SMRs) to discuss this very issue directly in relation to Trawsfynydd and so too have members of the North Wales Economic Ambition Board, and I think it’s worth telling Members today that energy features as one of three primary strengths of the north Wales regional economy within the economic ambition board’s vision for the region.”
– Economy & Transport Minister, Ken Skates