16/03/2016 The Wales Report


Huw Edwards discusses the Budget and its impact on Wales.

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


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


what they mean for the people of Wales.


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


ahead of the elections to the National Assembly in May.


Welcome to The Wales Report from Westminster after a busy


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


to the polls to elect a new National Assembly.


So we'll be considering the chancellor's measures


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


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


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


the Wales Office Minister and Conservative MP


Nia Griffith, Shadow Secretary of State for Wales and Labour


For the Liberal Democrats we have Baroness Jenny Randerson.


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


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


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


Many thanks to you all for being here this evening.


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


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


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


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


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


what has changed? There is a whole package of


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


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


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


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


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


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


the public. You are assuming that the cost will


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


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


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


well as reducing the taste of sugar as well.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


available. Change people's habits. The industry


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


fats. One of your colleagues today said,


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


considered a extreme measure but is justified by the problem.


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


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


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


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


should take decisions for themselves. Families and parents are


better making decisions for the young kids than the Chancellor.


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


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


guardians? They can be guided by parents but


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


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


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


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


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


surely the Chancellor would be considering options with biscuits,


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


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


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


positively. Very importantly, at this point, I


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


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


Wales' first city deal, was announced by the Chancellor


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


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


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


and make the area more attractive to businesses.


Professor Brian Morgan, a member of the Cardiff Capital


Region Advisory Board, gives his assessment of the state


of the Welsh economy, and asks if city deals


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


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


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


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


average. All decisions are taken within


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


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


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


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


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


agencies like Scottish enterprise, the Scottish futures trust that


actually deliver economic development, but also, you have a


strategic vision which is not so politicised as inside the


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


holding everything inside the Government. We are inherently risk


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


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


of the answers is to create three development corporations across


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


Organisations are one step removed from government, but they need


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


that, we will have missed an opportunity.


Plenty of interesting thoughts there. Our thanks to Professor Brian


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


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


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


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


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


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


want concrete puzzles for Swansea and North Wales, particularly


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


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


to see that decision sooner, rather than later.


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


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


what is going on there? The Government has announced a


review into how it assesses innovative projects which allows the


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


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


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


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


Government to respond. There was suggestion that as a


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


we did not see any major infrastructure schemes coming


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Government and Westminster? I welcome what has happened in


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


invest far better throughout Wales but not everything has been devolved


to Wales and there are considerable responsibilities for the Westminster


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


and similar infrastructure such as the Humber and the Dartford


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


was instructed Labour did nothing over their period in government that


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


having been imposed. The Welsh Government wanted evolution of the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


essentially what Alun Cairns is arguing for and you let that


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


tolls and we would pay for the maintenance which would be


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


for a fully funded properly constituted enterprise zone in


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


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


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


have taken place in England there has generally been a greater


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


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


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


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


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


further devolution to the authorities to come up with the


innovation we are seeing in Manchester and Newcastle, Sheffield


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


sector and it would be great now with the Westminster government


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


local councils. The Chancellor talked about a devolution revolution


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


given Wales a transformation opportunity. There is the seven


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


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


government to start delivering for Wales and overcome issues such as


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


nos da, good night.


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