Areas in Wales north of the Brecon Beacons have been “starved of investment” and are resentful of the Welsh Labour Government, ministers have been told.
Conservative MP for Clwyd South Simon Baynes welcomed the UK Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund as part of a “renewed vigour” of investment in North and Mid Wales, as MPs took part in a general debate on Welsh affairs.
During the debate, usually held each year to coincide with St David’s Day on March 1, there were also concerns from Labour MP Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) that the fund could be used to “dismantle devolution”.
Mr Baynes told MPs: “In Clwyd South we have historically been starved of investment by the Welsh Labour Government in Cardiff Bay, but we have seen renewed vigour by the UK Conservative Government to correct this injustice with unprecedented levels of funding coming into the region.”
Intervening, Labour MP Anna McMorrin (Cardiff North) said: “He makes the point of being starved by Government, however that is not what the Welsh people say, that is not what the Welsh people said at the ballot box in May last year.”
Mr Baynes replied: “I think part of the issue that we are dealing here with is the fact that Labour is almost entirely representing South Wales and has only one seat north of the Valleys in Alyn and Deeside, and therefore it doesn’t surprise me that members opposite really do not understand how much people in North Wales feel left behind and uncared for by the Welsh Government.
“I am afraid to say that the remark by her bears out exactly what I am saying.”
There is a palpable feeling of neglect from the 'South Wales Labour Party' as we see itCraig Williams MP
Conservative MP for Montgomeryshire Craig Williams agreed with Mr Baynes, adding: “If you look at the political map of those places, above the Brecon Beacons there is beginning to get a political discourse of two countries… where there is a palpable feeling of neglect from the ‘South Wales Labour Party’ as we see it.”
Labour former Wales Office minister Wayne David earlier called on the Government to sweep to one side the “fog” over the replacement for European funding.
The Caerphilly MP said: “On the Shared Prosperity Fund I think it’s very important we do have clarification today from the Secretary of State so that he sweeps to one side the fog that has come down over the replacement to European funding and we have some clarity about what is going to happen in the very near future.”
He said Wales “derived tremendous benefit over many, many years on the European structural funds” and “we’ve been waiting with bated breath for some time about the details” of its replacement.
He said Wales was initially promised further detail last year and then again in the White Paper on “levelling up”, and he said there is a “great deal of concern” about the lack of available detail.
Labour MP Mr Kinnock intervened, adding: “The mess that he’s talking about in terms of the Community Renewal Fund, the lack of information, the governance issues that were mentioned… this is symptomatic of a strategy which is to cut the Welsh Government out of the Shared Prosperity Fund, and that is symptomatic of a broader strategy which is to completely dismantle devolution in our country.”
Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams (Arfon) said: “The lack of detail is extremely corrosive, particularly to small community organisations and small businesses who try to plan ahead but they are clearly impeded by the Government’s delay and I’m afraid probably their incompetence.”
The Shared Prosperity Fund is designed to be a successor to structural funding that the European Union gave to deprived areas with the aim of regenerating them.
Before Brexit, areas of Wales received more EU structural funding than almost anywhere else in the UK.