Wales needs to grow its economy faster to stop communities being eroded by second homes, Conservative MP says
Wales needs to grow its economy faster than other parts of the UK, and prevent communities from being eroded by second home ownership, a Conservative former minister has said.
Welsh Affairs Committee chair Stephen Crabb told the House of Commons: “I think if there is one part of the United Kingdom that is crying out for meaningful levelling-up then it is Wales.”
The Preseli Pembrokeshire MP said: “If we are going to close the economic gap in Wales we need to be growing in Wales on average faster, significantly faster than across the rest of the UK as an average.”
Mr Crabb later said: “We all want to protect our own little corners of Wales and keep them nice and quaint. The truth is that if we are just happy to stay at that level we will find all the properties bought up by second home owners and actually very few high-quality jobs and training opportunities to keep our young families actually living there.”
He added: “I think there is a real problem when you see places like Ceredigion, those western Welsh-speaking communities in Wales, showing a significant drop in population levels.
“That does not bode well for the future and you have got parts of Wales, declining population, overlay that with the ageing demographic, and that points to the fact that we have some very deep-seated, underlying challenges in Wales and it should be the ambition of all of us, whatever our political colours, to see that addressed.”
‘Not spending money’
His fellow Welsh Conservative MP, Robin Millar, meanwhile took aim at the Welsh Government consultation on a tourism tax, saying it would do “nothing” to address the problem of visitors who do not spend money in the local economy.
The Aberconwy MP said it is a “tragic fact” that after 24 years of devolution, Wales has the “lowest economic output of anywhere in the UK, apart from the northeast of England”.
Making an intervention, Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts asked him: “Would he consider that devolution for Wales has not equipped Wales with the tools to make a significant difference?”
She went on: “And would he agree with me, he talked about tourism, surely that if we were to play to our strengths a tax on people staying in Wales, what is known as a tourism tax, would be a way of improving our skills, the skills base that would lead to better jobs, better qualifications, and a better experience all round for those communities in which tourism takes place, and that we should be playing to these strengths, and we need the means to do it?”
Mr Millar claimed he and Ms Saville Roberts have a “fundamentally different view of the world”, as he has an “asset-based” approach instead of a deficit one.
On the tourism tax, he said: “I’ve spoken against this and I feel very strongly about this that a tax which is placed on visitors who stay in hotels, does nothing to address the problems of the behaviours of those who come to the area wild camping, and maybe don’t even stay overnight and are not spending money in the local economy.”
Meanwhile, Rhondda Labour MP Chris Bryant warned that the UK Government’s levelling-up funding was currently “based on a competition”, telling the Commons: “I think it leads to project-itis”.
“People put together projects to fit the schemes rather than a strategic look at what is needed across some of the poorest communities in South Wales and for my own money, the single most important thing we could do is try to enable far more people in the Valleys seats to build their own business up from scratch until they are employing maybe only five or 10 people,” he said.
Independent MP Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr) likened levelling-up to the reunification of Germany after the Cold War.
He told the Commons: “The first lessons that all political parties need to learn is that levelling-up will not be a one-term or one-government policy agenda, such is the scale of the challenge.
“It will take decades and Governments of different colours will have to be committed to the agenda.”
He also warned that spreading economic opportunity across the UK would “require considerably more funds than allocated to date”.
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