Wales losing out over ports fund
Hywel Williams MP, Plaid Cymru’s Westminster spokesperson for energy and climate change, has today repeated criticism of the UK Government’s ports fund programme which gives Wales just £700,000 to develop offshore wind technology at ports, while giving England nearly £60m.
Mr Williams challenged the UK Energy Minister Charles Hendry in Westminster this week over this issue, with the Minister claiming that the money was intended for economic development rather than for ports.
Mr Williams said: “It is disgraceful that the UK Government can turn around and say that they have provided nearly £60m for English ports to develop offshore wind technology no-site, but just £700,000 for ports in Wales, such as Holyhead, to do the same.
“The UK Energy Minister makes the excuse that this money is intended for economic development yet the project is called the ‘UK ports fund’.
“As I reminded the Minister, ports are a reserved matter, dealt with by Westminster.
“Welsh ports should be free to compete alongside ports in England for this £60m and, given our expertise in these fields, we would expect to win substantial contracts.
“The reason that the UK Government can do this is because of the incoherent way in which Labour’s unfair Barnett Formula is operated, with no independent scrutiny.
“One of the recommendations of the Holtham Commission was that funding of the Welsh Assembly from London be independent – because decisions like this show that the UK Government cannot be trusted to do what’s best for Wales.
“If Welsh ports were able to compete for this £60m in the ports fund then this would be investment in quality skills and techniques that could make us a world leader and equipping our ports with diversified capabilities - but the UK Government is abusing their power to channel this money and we are losing out badly.”
An extract from the exchange this week:
Hywel Williams (Arfon) (PC): Ports are a reserved matter. How are the Government enabling Welsh ports to participate in the offshore industry, and to what extent and in what way are they working with the Welsh Assembly Government?
Charles Hendry: We took a view that the best way for the funding to go forward was through an economic generation programme linked specifically to manufacturing projects, meaning that it ceased to be a ports programme and became an economic development matter. Funding was allocated through the Barnett formula to the Welsh Assembly Government for them to take forward their own programmes in the area, and we have also asked the Crown Estate to work with ports throughout the United Kingdom to see how they can all benefit from the renaissance.