16/03/2016 The Wales Report


16/03/2016

Huw Edwards discusses the Budget and its impact on Wales.


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Transcript


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Tonight on the Wales Report, we're at Westminster for a special

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We'll be looking at the chancellor's measures and considering

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what they mean for the people of Wales.

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And we'll be asking how today's announcements affect the debate

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ahead of the elections to the National Assembly in May.

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Welcome to The Wales Report from Westminster after a busy

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Budget Day, with just seven weeks to go until Welsh voters go

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to the polls to elect a new National Assembly.

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So we'll be considering the chancellor's measures

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and the latest economic forecasts, and setting them in a Welsh context.

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And remember, you can join in the discussion on social media.

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The hashtag is thewalesreport. With me tonight, Alun Cairns,

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the Wales Office Minister and Conservative MP

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Nia Griffith, Shadow Secretary of State for Wales and Labour

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For the Liberal Democrats we have Baroness Jenny Randerson.

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For Plaid Cymru, Liz Saville Roberts, MP for Dwyfor Meirionydd

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and for UKIP we have the former MP for Rochester and Strood,

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Mark Reckless, who'll be standing in the May's elections in Wales.

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Many thanks to you all for being here this evening.

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The big challenge this evening is to cover quite a lot of this densely

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packed budget. I start with a headline that is relevant to Welsh

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people, the battle against childhood obesity. It is the eye-catching

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initiative on this sugar levy. In October the Prime Minister told us

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clearly this was not the most effective way of tackling obesity,

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what has changed? There is a whole package of

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policies. What I like about the way the Chancellor went about

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introducing it is that it is a levy on industry, not a tax on

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individuals. He will work with the industries so they can adapt their

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policies, that will respond to the demands both governments, and also

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the consumer. That money will go into sports and schools, encouraging

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people to live a healthy lifestyle. It is a win-win for the industry and

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the public. You are assuming that the cost will

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be passed on in some way. I assume that the industry itself

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will work with the policy, within the framework and use new

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innovations. There are lots of alternatives that can be used as

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well as reducing the taste of sugar as well.

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Some fizzy drinks manufacturers say that the diet version is far more

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popular than the sugar division. There are things that can be done

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now that couldn't be done a short time ago.

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When I spoke to a representative of the industry he wasn't very happy,

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as we may foresee. But he did make what was probably a reasonable

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point, lots of things contain sugar, they are not being locked in this

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way, this is far too narrow a focus. Is that fair? I don't think it is.

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In our childhood we used to drink water. It is a norm now for

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children, I'd really like to see this policy actually get the

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manufacturers to promote the ones that have less sugar. That's what we

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really want. It's not about trying to raise money from it, I don't

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think, as about changing the type of product that is there, drizzly

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available. Change people's habits. The industry

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says, Jenny, they have already made significant changes. They have

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reduced sugar locals and feel they are not getting the credit for that

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and this is some form of punishment. What do the Lib Dems say? I think it

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is an important first step. I'm pleased that the Chancellor 's and

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to a long campaign, and a very effective campaign, one which the

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Liberal Democrats in government were very much engaged in. It's the first

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step, you know, to taking access sugar out of a lot of our foods.

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The logic, I suppose, is if you do this to sugary drinks you could look

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at sweets, and all the rest of it. Would Plaid Cymru be in the business

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of looking at widening the kind of area the levy should be applied in?

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I'd like to say that this was a Plaid policy many years ago when

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others refused to countenance it. We are delighted the Treasury has

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adopted it as a policy. Some aspects need to come out of the wash, such

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as what the details are. There was talk about exempting fruit juices

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and milk drinks, we'll need to know exactly more about what that means.

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I think it's already been mentioned that this is the first step in

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considering what is the content of our food in terms of sugar, and

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fats. One of your colleagues today said,

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look, this is all about thing you will not drink sugary drinks and you

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will do more exercise, a budget she characterised as a bit of a nanny

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state kind of thing. Is that fair? Do you think this sugar levy, at the

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end of the day, does make sense not? We are opposed to this in Ukip. It

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is yet another new tax. Or the other parties are falling over each other

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to say how much they support it... It's not a tax. They call it a levy

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but it is a tax. Either it will raise money to help schools boards

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or it won't. In the long term we hope it will change behaviour. Alan

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said he hopes it will bring in extra money for schools boards, not that

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bad Wales. Can I just clarify what I said. I

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said that we are trying to influence and change lifestyle, it is about

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influencing behaviour. If they will be the extreme... It will raise half

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?1 billion, wanted? They will be the extreme view of

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those who don't want to see any influence on that basis, but this is

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a balance. It is a levy on companies calling on them to change their

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habits. They won't be much raised from last levy. Clearly, we are

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trying to take the industry there, carrot and stick. We have no doubt

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consumers will respond. But it hits the Brewer hardest. The

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reason it is necessary is that we have not made any headway. The

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problem is getting worse. The options are quite limited, it may be

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considered a extreme measure but is justified by the problem.

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It's yet another tax. Already taxes are far too high. Cardiff Bay and

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Westminster keep putting them up. We think taxes should come down. So

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how do you get children and families to realise that the fizzy drink

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culture is not good news? Party education. We believe people

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should take decisions for themselves. Families and parents are

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better making decisions for the young kids than the Chancellor.

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Because it's children we are talking about it is unrealistic to think

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that children are going to make decisions... Guided by parents or

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guardians? They can be guided by parents but

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they are not there all the time. They are not there in the school day

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when they pop into the shop on the way home and buy these sugary

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drinks. They don't look at the contents, do they? It's unrealistic

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to think that they are going to start reading the small print.

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To bring this to an end, if this is such a good idea for fizzy drinks,

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surely the Chancellor would be considering options with biscuits,

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cakes and other similar foods? One step at a time. We expect all

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industries to respond. You mentioned earlier that they were surprised,

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that is because they didn't see this coming. We want to influence people

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positively. Very importantly, at this point, I

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want us to consider how today's budget will affect Wales.

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Yesterday a new ?1.2 billion pound deal for the Cardiff Capital Region,

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Wales' first city deal, was announced by the Chancellor

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with the aim of strengthening the economy of the entire region.

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The deal, which includes plans to build a South Wales Metro,

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is to improve public transport links for nearly half of Wales' population

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and make the area more attractive to businesses.

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Professor Brian Morgan, a member of the Cardiff Capital

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Region Advisory Board, gives his assessment of the state

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of the Welsh economy, and asks if city deals

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There is quite a big prosperity gap, at the moment there is a 30%

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prosperity gap with the rest of the British Isles. These companies are,

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and have been, powering ahead for the last 20 years. That is the same

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across Europe. We are quite low in relation to the UK and the European

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average. All decisions are taken within

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Wales, and what that means in practice, is that decisions are

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delayed, politicised, we have a plethora of pro bono organisations.

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They are talking shops. They have no resources and no powers. We never

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seem to get the delivery of these economic strategy is right. In

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Scotland, for example, they are very similar to Wales, but they have

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agencies like Scottish enterprise, the Scottish futures trust that

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actually deliver economic development, but also, you have a

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strategic vision which is not so politicised as inside the

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Government. They take a longer term vision. That's far better than just

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holding everything inside the Government. We are inherently risk

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adverse truck should do the job, it's never going to work that way.

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It is about time the Welsh government learnt that lesson. One

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of the answers is to create three development corporations across

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Wales, a city region Corporation in Cardiff, Swansea and North Wales.

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Organisations are one step removed from government, but they need

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powers to deliver over longer term. The city deal offers a great

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opportunity. ?1.3 billion that could change the way economic development

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is delivered in Cardiff City. However, it is wrong to hand over

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1.3 billion and deliver ten projects across ten local authorities. We

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need a proper structure for the city region that will look carefully over

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the longer term at which of these projects will make a real difference

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in closing that prosperity gap with the rest of the UK. If we don't do

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that, we will have missed an opportunity.

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Plenty of interesting thoughts there. Our thanks to Professor Brian

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Morgan. Meow, let's talk about city deals. This will be a big change

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from Cardiff, do you welcome it? Certainly. We want to see that sort

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of investment go ahead. I want to set the record straight

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that we have had record investment in Wales and the economy doing

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better in terms of anywhere outside London. Those are not my words.

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Wales has been doing well. What we really want now is a lot more. We

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want concrete puzzles for Swansea and North Wales, particularly

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disappointing is the fact that we don't have a decision on the tidal

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lagoon in Swansea. That would give a huge boost to the economy. I'd like

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to see that decision sooner, rather than later.

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So two important things there, the Cardiff deal which we will come to,

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and I want to ask about Swansea and North Wales, but the tidal lagoon,

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what is going on there? The Government has announced a

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review into how it assesses innovative projects which allows the

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company to respond because it's got more than one. The date has only

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been shed on one in detail and then we need to look at how we assess

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them and allow the company to bring forward its case. This allows the

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company to make the case in a much more coherent way, and hopefully the

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Government to respond. There was suggestion that as a

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government you had cooled off on this idea, looked at it and thought,

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does this really make sense? At cooled off? Absolutely not. The

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Prime Minister was asked a question earlier today, and he responded in a

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very positive way. This review must be seen in a positive light. It is

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an opportunity for the company to make its case but for the Government

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to look at how it assesses innovative schemes. It's got to be

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value for money because those people who are calling this innovation are

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also complaining about high energy costs for industry. You can't have

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it both ways. You got to make sure it fits the demands of energy needs

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as well as meeting expectations. City deals, are we likely to see

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something similar for Swansea and North Wales? We can talk about it

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until the cows come home. The Chancellor is keen to open

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negotiations for both. Let's recognise the success of the Cardiff

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city deal and the negotiations that face because this is ?500 million of

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UK taxpayer money over and above the Barnett block. This is a delivery of

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a major project for over the previous decade leading up to 2010

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we did not see any major infrastructure schemes coming

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forward. We add that to the Swansea City deal potential and the North

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Wales growth year we would like to see with that will plug North Wales

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into the northern powerhouse, on top of the Severn Bridge tolls that was

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announced today which really says Wales is open for business and that

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is sending the right message and encouraging more cross-border deals

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that we want to see. When you look at this city deal for Cardiff, which

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is worth a lot of money, potentially Swansea and Northway, are you then

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happy to say it is a good example of partnership work between the Welsh

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Government and Westminster? I welcome what has happened in

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relation to Cardiff but there is no certainty about what has been

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proposed for Swansea and it is a matter of opening the door to

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discussions on North Wales. We need more concrete proposals than this.

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We're talking about infrastructure proposals, we really need to be much

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more ambitious. By Cymru is talking about enough cash to national

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infrastructure commission. We need to look at how this could be put

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into effect much better. If we compared what is being mentioned

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with what is being offered in far greater detail in England, there is

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really no comparison. Wales gets its money through the Barnett formula.

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All of these initiatives are over and above the normal allocation we

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have seen over the previous 17 years of Labour administration in Cardiff

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Bay. There is the city deal for Cardiff, the commitment to a city

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deal in Swansea and the development of the potential of a growth dealer

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North Wales on top of the other schemes that have been announced

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such as the support for veterans in Swansea, on top of the seven tolls,

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these are in addition to what Wales will have had over 13 years in

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Westminster with Labour and 17 years in Cardiff Bay. There was not one

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major scheme that was driven by the seven -- Westminster government that

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delivered anything in Wales. Look at the M4 around Newport. We are still

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waiting for any movement around that in spite of the Chancellor making

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?500 million available three years ago. The Welsh Government could

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invest far better throughout Wales but not everything has been devolved

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to Wales and there are considerable responsibilities for the Westminster

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government that I would input -- expect greater investment. ?2.8

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billion worth of investment... We are still waiting for it. It has

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been buzz bomb. It is taking place as we speak. Pylons are going down,

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cables are being fitted. We are still waiting for the plans for that

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as well. Just on electrification of rail lines, when will that be done?

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The line to Swansea, when will that be completed? It will be open and up

:17:16.:17:21.

and running to Cardiff by 2019 and work will have started before the

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Cardiff route is opened, the pylons will be in the process of being

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fitted but even if we threw more money at the link between Cardiff

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and Swansea, we could not get it quicker. It is about the engineering

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challenges that exist. It will come early after the 2019 opening of the

:17:39.:17:45.

line to Cardiff. I am foreign tiering to work on that section of

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line myself by the way. But seriously, there is a reluctance may

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be is there? Do you feel a reluctance to give credit where

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these big projects are all we get bogged down in arguments between

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Cardiff Bay and Westminster? I do think that the electrification is...

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Will be a huge benefit to. I welcome strongly the Cardiff City deal,

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although it has taken rather a long time. I want to see something more

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on Swansea. I certainly want to see more than one sentence in the budget

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about North Wales. But the thing that I think that the Chancellor has

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really missed a trick on of huge importance to Wales is he could

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announce the abolition of the Severn Bridge tolls. That takes no time.

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The end of the concession period in a couple of years' time. Wales could

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be toll-free. That is a tax on jobs in Wales, a tax on people doing

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business in Wales and on Monday, I asked the Minister in the Lords a

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question on this, his answer was, well, it is ?63 million that needs

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to be paid back to the UK taxpayer. We are talking about a piece of

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motorway. Who else has to pay a toll on their motorway? Fair point? I do

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not accept it. There was no pressure when the Lib Dems were in government

:19:20.:19:24.

on this policy. We are committed to having the tolls from 2018, as soon

:19:25.:19:28.

as it comes back into public ownership. There will still be a

:19:29.:19:32.

debt of ?64 million on it. As soon as it comes into public ownership,

:19:33.:19:37.

we will have it. The hauliers and the Federation of Small Businesses

:19:38.:19:39.

have responded fantastically well today. We are delighted. But there

:19:40.:19:43.

will still be an obligation to maintenance and there is a long

:19:44.:19:46.

history across the UK where there are bridges or links over estuaries

:19:47.:19:51.

and similar infrastructure such as the Humber and the Dartford

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Crossing, there is a small toll but that must be reasonable and that is

:19:56.:19:58.

exactly what we are committing too. There is a long history across the

:19:59.:20:02.

UK Government 's building bridges, tolling them, and saying those tolls

:20:03.:20:06.

would go when they are paid for and then breaking their word, as the

:20:07.:20:09.

government has done today on the Severn Bridge tolls. That is going

:20:10.:20:14.

to run out in terms of paying for those constructions... The debt even

:20:15.:20:23.

remains in 2018. This debt has been made up by the Treasury. I am very

:20:24.:20:27.

sceptical. It is half the amount that was written off on the Humber

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Bridge and it is half... You have the windfall gain in VAT. I think

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Mark is demonstrating his ignorance of the policy and religion to Wales.

:20:37.:20:41.

Clearly this has been in place and it has been increasing by inflation

:20:42.:20:46.

ever since its inception. Even if you go back pre-1997 when the bridge

:20:47.:20:50.

was instructed Labour did nothing over their period in government that

:20:51.:20:53.

could well have brought some changes about it. The moment we do, we will

:20:54.:20:59.

be introducing changes, we have committed today to cutting it by

:21:00.:21:03.

50%. The policy has been welcomed far and wide. There's Labour

:21:04.:21:08.

accepted share of responsible is he? We had to finish off paying the

:21:09.:21:14.

bridge. When that concession comes to an end, we absolutely 100% expect

:21:15.:21:18.

the price to come down, which is obviously what is good to happen in

:21:19.:21:22.

2018 because for a start, the VAT comes off. But as the Welsh affairs

:21:23.:21:27.

committee has shown, the Treasury has done very well out of the VAT

:21:28.:21:32.

having been imposed. The Welsh Government wanted evolution of the

:21:33.:21:36.

toll. We knew that it would be a cash cow. There is a maintenance

:21:37.:21:43.

obligation on it and a debt that remains will stop I wish people

:21:44.:21:47.

would write welcome a 50% cut in terms of the toll that was being

:21:48.:21:52.

introduced. We need to see the money coming back to Wales to help

:21:53.:22:00.

businesses in Wales. About... A big slice of the many people will be

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paying in tolls will be for the cost of collecting the tolls. Just accept

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that the taxpayer does not have to pay the taxpayer back, which is

:22:09.:22:13.

essentially what Alun Cairns is arguing for and you let that

:22:14.:22:17.

relatively small debt, so-called debt, life. Ukip would scrap the

:22:18.:22:22.

tolls and we would pay for the maintenance which would be

:22:23.:22:26.

physically a pound a car, we would pay for that, 10 million a year by

:22:27.:22:31.

scrapping the ?73 million the Welsh Government is planning to spend next

:22:32.:22:36.

year on climate change projects. Up 50% in just a year. We need to get

:22:37.:22:40.

rid of those tolls. They are attacks on doing business with Wales. That

:22:41.:22:47.

is what Ukip would do. Just focus again, the all-important subject,

:22:48.:22:52.

lots of our viewers want to talk about, how we regenerate the Welsh

:22:53.:22:55.

economy. We have talked about Cardiff and the city deal. I am not

:22:56.:23:01.

sure whether Mark think that is a good package of measures? Devolution

:23:02.:23:12.

should not end at Cardiff Bay. When for example we talk about an

:23:13.:23:16.

enterprise zone in Port Talbot, we know there are issues, employment

:23:17.:23:19.

concerns, it is just one of several areas in Wales where money could go

:23:20.:23:25.

in and be spent in more imaginative ways, again, what are the prospects

:23:26.:23:28.

for a fully funded properly constituted enterprise zone in

:23:29.:23:34.

places like Port Talbot? We are working closely with the Welsh

:23:35.:23:38.

Government and we have been in negotiations and we hope to see some

:23:39.:23:41.

movement on this very soon. I would say that under the city deals that

:23:42.:23:45.

have taken place in England there has generally been a greater

:23:46.:23:48.

devolution process and that is to the community itself and the local

:23:49.:23:53.

authorities around it. In Wales, as Professor Brian Morgan rightly said,

:23:54.:23:57.

there is a centralisation of power in Cardiff. If you are in North

:23:58.:24:00.

Wales come you are just as far away from that centralisation of power as

:24:01.:24:04.

you were in the old days when it was in Westminster. We want to see

:24:05.:24:08.

further devolution to the authorities to come up with the

:24:09.:24:11.

innovation we are seeing in Manchester and Newcastle, Sheffield

:24:12.:24:14.

and Ipswich. We want to see that same sort of innovation. What is

:24:15.:24:20.

stopping you? That is the Welsh Government structure. Absolutely.

:24:21.:24:26.

They are not allowing that greater devolution in the same way that the

:24:27.:24:29.

UK command is encouraging in England. It is already happening in

:24:30.:24:35.

Swansea. Port Talbot is part of the Swansea City region. We are seeing

:24:36.:24:41.

centralisation to Cardiff. To be fair to the Swansea City Bay region,

:24:42.:24:45.

they have done a huge amount of working drawing in the private

:24:46.:24:48.

sector and it would be great now with the Westminster government

:24:49.:24:51.

could respond to that and see that they have some very exciting plans

:24:52.:24:54.

and they are really trying to make this region work and bring in a lot

:24:55.:25:00.

of private sector money. I think Westminster should be responding. We

:25:01.:25:05.

really do need a change of culture amongst those officers in charge of

:25:06.:25:09.

developing the economy because they are so risk-averse and again what we

:25:10.:25:13.

have been discussing here today's do with cities and the north-east.

:25:14.:25:20.

Where does that leave rural Wales got our tourism is a fantastic

:25:21.:25:23.

industry but we need more than that. The average salaries are dropping

:25:24.:25:29.

year-on-year in those areas. What is the answer? We need an organisation

:25:30.:25:34.

with the same now sound business sense and ambition as we had the

:25:35.:25:39.

WDA. You called for the winding up of the WDA. We are calling for some

:25:40.:25:46.

thing else in its place. I think I was one of the only people who

:25:47.:25:51.

defended the WDA. In the area that I represent, simply nothing is coming

:25:52.:25:55.

back to us except proposals for tourism and cuts to farming incomes.

:25:56.:26:00.

People will say the answer to that is to create another public body and

:26:01.:26:05.

they will think, come on, is that really the answer? We're not

:26:06.:26:09.

pretending that the problems of rural Wales are easy to solve but is

:26:10.:26:14.

a new body likely to be the way to fashion something? We need a culture

:26:15.:26:19.

that is aimed at getting money out of businesses. We need to see money

:26:20.:26:23.

going out and resulting in real jobs. Businesses in North will have

:26:24.:26:30.

got together and are making a real go of it. We have nearly been

:26:31.:26:35.

defeated by the clock. There are five of you here today. I would like

:26:36.:26:39.

to ask each of you for a kind of one sentence summary of where the budget

:26:40.:26:47.

leaves Wales and what you think the challenges are? I really do mean one

:26:48.:26:56.

sentence. The Cardiff City deal is good. We would like to go further

:26:57.:26:59.

and evolve economic development from the civil servants in Cardiff to the

:27:00.:27:07.

local councils. The Chancellor talked about a devolution revolution

:27:08.:27:10.

and yet cities like Manchester will have powers such as criminal Justice

:27:11.:27:13.

and policing, Wales does not. Why not? There are steps in the right

:27:14.:27:19.

direction but we see yet again Wales limping along behind where other

:27:20.:27:25.

cities in England have led and we will not catch up in terms of our

:27:26.:27:30.

wealth, in terms of wages within Wales until we are taking the

:27:31.:27:35.

initiative and the initiative here, I believe, starts with simplifying

:27:36.:27:41.

things, trusting local people more and above all, getting rid of the

:27:42.:27:45.

Severn Bridge tolls. I am very disappointed that we do not have

:27:46.:27:48.

more for Swansea and North Wales and I would like to have seen a lot more

:27:49.:27:51.

there because growth in the economy is what we really need and the other

:27:52.:27:54.

worrying factor is the way that disabled people are being hit very

:27:55.:27:58.

hard in this budget and I do not think that the Chancellor is being

:27:59.:28:02.

at all fed to the most vulnerable in our society. The Chancellor has

:28:03.:28:06.

given Wales a transformation opportunity. There is the seven

:28:07.:28:09.

tolls cut, the city deal for Cardiff already arranged, commit and is for

:28:10.:28:13.

Swansea and a North Wales growth deal, it is now up to the Welsh

:28:14.:28:17.

government to start delivering for Wales and overcome issues such as

:28:18.:28:21.

the M4 round report which has been called for the many years. Why do I

:28:22.:28:25.

think this debate is gone to be rain for the next few weeks Castle Market

:28:26.:28:26.

as good as sea wall. That's it for tonight,

:28:27.:28:29.

we'll be back during the election campaign with a number

:28:30.:28:31.

of special debates. If you'd like to have your say

:28:32.:28:33.

on how Wales' health service and Education system are run,

:28:34.:28:36.

or you want to be part of the audience for a special debate

:28:37.:28:39.

with the party leaders then do Email us at [email protected]

:28:40.:28:42.

and we're on social media Diolch am eich cwmni,

:28:43.:28:47.

nos da, good night.

:28:48.:28:52.

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