Welsh Secretary accused of ‘belittling’ Wales on control of Royal profits
The Welsh Secretary has been accused of “belittling” Wales when it comes to control of its own natural resources.
Simon Hart rebuffed a call from Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts’ Bill to devolve the power over Royal profits from the Crown Estate to the Senedd.
Plaid’s Westminster leader criticised the Secretary of State for Wales after he disagreed that Wales deserves equal treatment with Scotland on the matter.
During a questioning session in the House of Commons, she presented the Crown Estate (Devolution to Wales) Bill to the House of Commons, which would see the management of the Crown Estate devolved to Wales, as has been the case in Scotland since 2017.
In the year to March 31 2021, the value of the Crown Estate’s marine assets in England, Wales and Northern Ireland has more than doubled, rising from £2 billion to £4.1 billion.
This was largely driven by an auction of seabed leases for offshore wind development in February 2021 which could raise £879 million per year, or £8.8 billion over the next ten years, for the Treasury.
The February auction included ‘Bidding Area 4’ comprising northern Wales and the Irish Sea, covering 8,500 km2. The Crown Estate pays its profits to the Treasury, which normally pays 25 per cent of this to Buckingham Palace in the form of a ‘sovereign grant’.
The Scottish Government is in line for a windfall of up to £860m from a forthcoming auction of Scottish seabed plots for windfarms.
Saville Roberts’ Bill would allow the Welsh Government to keep revenues in Wales instead of returning profits to the Treasury and the Royal Family.
During the session, Liz Saville Roberts MP said: “Last week I presented a Bill to devolve the management of the Crown Estate and our natural resources in Wales, to Wales.
“Scotland gained these powers in 2017, and they’re now reaping the benefits of the green offshore wind revolution. I’m sure he’s aware that the value of the Crown Estate’s remaining sea bed assets – which include those in Wales – has more than doubled over the past year to more than four billion pounds.
“Does the Secretary of State for Wales agree with me that Wales deserves equal treatment with Scotland as regards control over our natural resources?”
In his response, Hart said that he is “in some form of disagreement” that “in order to achieve success in the renewables sector somehow we always have to go back to powers and further devolution.”
Speaking after the session, Saville Roberts added: “Mr Hart had an opportunity to commit to the principle that the people of Wales should be able to reap the benefits of the green industrial revolution just as the people of Scotland are set to do. Instead, he chose to belittle Wales.
“Offshore wind is a historic opportunity for the Welsh economy – it could create thousands of green jobs, while contributing significantly to our efforts to tackle the climate crisis. The people of Wales should be able to direct how best to benefit from that economic opportunity – not Westminster.”
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