Williams engineering arm potentially interested in Ebbw Vale base

(Title Image: Morio under Creative Commons Licence BY-SA-4.0)

Here’s a round-up of this afternoon’s questions to the Economy & Transport Minister, Ken Skates (Lab, Clwyd South).

Welsh Government “not balancing risks and benefits” with business investments

Shadow Economy Minister, Russell George AM (Con, Montgomery), quoted figures from PricewaterhouseCoopers that the Welsh economy will grow by just 1% this year and fall back to 0.8% in 2020.

He accused the Welsh Government of failing to create the right conditions to attract inward investment and, while it’s right the government takes risks from time to time, has “thrown money” at poor investments. How could Wales be confident the government will take responsible decisions when the Auditor General has said the government hasn’t come up with a way to balance risks with benefits?

As you might expect, the Minister blamed Brexit for causing economic uncertainty, but argued that there were often more positives resulting from government investment than negatives:

“For every list of so-called poor investments, we can produce a list of successful investments, investments in businesses like Aston Martin, who are choosing to make Wales their home of electrification, of businesses like INEOS, who we’ve secured very recently in the face of fierce competition from around the world, businesses like Airbus, who we are helping to secure the future of ‘The Wing of Tomorrow’ programme for. I think it’s important to say that we’re often accused of being risk-averse in Welsh Government. We are equally accused of having too high a risk appetite.”
– Economy & Transport Minister, Ken Skates

Unequal rail fare cuts?

Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn) returned to the issue of rail overcrowding, citing many examples and repeating recently-raised concerns about seating and standing capacity on new trains set to be introduced from 2023. He suggested Transport for Wales based capacity figures on a much smaller per-person area than the industry standard – which the Minister rejected.

Rhun then moved on to rail fare reductions from January:

“Treherbert to Cardiff is 25 miles, and a train ticket costs £6.10. That sounds about right to me. With a third off, that’s down to £4. Holyhead to Bangor is 25 miles again. That’s over £10 a journey. With 10% off, that brings it down to £9. How come you can pay £4 for a journey in one part of Wales, and over £9 – more than double – in another part of Wales?”
– Rhun ap Iorwerth AM

The Minister explained that some fares are within TfW’s control, while others are regulated by the UK Government. Broadly-speaking there’ll be significant cuts for some journeys across all of Wales introducing what he described as “a strong degree of social justice to the public transport fare regime”.

Williams F1 engineering arm “potentially interested in Ebbw Vale”

David Rowlands AM (BXP, South Wales East) asked for an update on TVR’s factory in Ebbw Vale and when cars could be expected to be produced there? He also asked for confirmation on whether Williams Advanced Engineering – the engineering arm of the Williams Group (which includes the Formula 1 team) – were interested in establishing a presence in Ebbw Vale?

The Minister confirmed he’ll be meeting representatives of Williams tomorrow at an automotive summit. The Welsh Government would be “fully supportive” of any efforts to attract such a prestigious company.

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