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Welsh Secretary accused of ‘belittling our democracy’ by Plaid Cymru MP

26 Feb 2021 3 minute read
Simon Hart (left) by Chris McAndrew (CC BY 3.0).

A Plaid Cymru MP has accused the Secretary of State for Wales of “belittling” Welsh democracy.

Liz Saville Roberts MP was responding to comments by Simon Hart, who said that the Welsh Government should stop “fretting” about their “little status” when its powers over funding are being taken away by Westminster.

UK ministers will decide how cash is spent on schemes through its so called “levelling up fund”, such as regeneration projects in Wales. This prompted the Welsh Government to accuse them of “aggressively undermining” Wales’ autonomy.

But Welsh Secretary Simon Hart said that he wished they would “stop fretting about their own little status in Cardiff and actually look at the bigger picture”.

“This is not about politicians and power – this is about jobs, livelihoods and post-Covid recovery,” he told the BBC.

In response Saville Roberts pointed to examples where she says the Secretary of State for Wales has failed to deliver for Wales, during a General Debate on Welsh Affairs in the House of Commons.

This included the ‘England-and-Wales’ HS2 project paid by Welsh taxes, as well as the undelivered projects of the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon and the electrification of Welsh railways.

She also pointed out that Wales is due to lose a fifth of its representation in Westminster in the next election because of the cut in the number of MPs from 40 to 32 in the boundary review.

‘Overruling Wales’ 

Liz Saville Roberts MP said: “Through this ‘Levelling Up Fund’, Westminster is overruling Wales, side-lining our democracy and dictating our future.

“The Secretary of State’s comments yesterday evening that we should ‘stop fretting’ about what he terms our ‘little status’ ignores his own insignificance at the cabinet table or that Wales will lose a fifth of its representation in Westminster in the next parliament. Perhaps he should reflect on his own role before belittling our democracy.

“That Westminster can single-handedly fix regional inequality is fantasy politics. It is Westminster which has tolerated, facilitated and, at times, marshalled the creation of systemic and structural regional inequalities which are the worst of any comparable developed country.

“In this unequal union, Wales is at best treated as expendable; at worst our homegrown ambitions are thwarted.

“Take HS2: a £100 billion a high-speed railway without an imperial inch of track in Wales. Ignoring this and their calculations that HS2 will cost Cardiff alone nearly £70 million annually, the UK government classified the project as benefitting both England and Wales.

“This means Wales won’t receive the full Barnett consequential payments – approximately £5 billion – it should rightfully receive.

“On projects actually physically here in Wales, like the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon or the electrification of our railways, Westminster also failed to deliver.

“This announcement is a duplicitous mistake, a shameful sham of an election ploy. Empty words when Wales needs so much better.

“Decisions affecting Wales should be made in Wales, by a government that is accountable to the people of Wales. This May, Vote for Wales.”

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