Simon Hart says he will overrule Welsh government on tax-free port in Wales ‘come what may’
The Welsh Secretary has said that he will overrule the Welsh Government if they attempt to block plans for a tax-free free port in Wales.
Some of the tax exemptions freeports use, such as stamp duty, are controlled by the Welsh rather than the UK Government.
But Simon Hart said that the UK Government planned to go ahead with the plan whether the Welsh Government resisted or not.
He said that it was a “source of some frustration that we have yet to get it over the line”.
“Now very clearly we would like to do that in collaboration with the Welsh government which is where the blockage currently resides but we can – and if necessary we will – proceed to deliver on our manifesto commitment come what may,” he said.
Goods that arrive into freeports from abroad are exempt from tax charges. These taxes are only paid if the goods leave the freeport and are moved elsewhere in the UK. Otherwise, they are sent overseas without the charges being paid.
The UK Government’s hope is that freeports could help regenerate deprived areas such as Anglesey.
Mark Drakeford said in March that they “will not be keen to sign up to a freeport proposal that leads, for example, to a reduction in environmental standards. The UK government has agreed conditionality with the Scottish government in that way”.
“We would look for joint decision making given that devolved and non-devolved responsibilities are at stake in freeports, and again the UK government has agreed joint decision making with the Scottish government.
“Then we’d look for the same level of funding for a freeport in Wales as is being made available to all freeports in England – that’s £25m available to a freeport in England, we’d expect to see the same level of funding for a freeport in Wales.