A UK Government minister has claimed HS2 will have “huge benefits for Wales” despite running solely through England.
David TC Davies told the Commons that the high speed railway running between London and Birmingham will benefit Wales because companies in the nation will be able to bid to work on it.
He also told MPs that plans to electrify the South Wales mainline between Cardiff and Swansea had been scrapped because there was “no actual benefit for passengers”.
At Wales Office questions on Wednesday, Conservative MP Jacob Young (Redcar) asked the minister: “One key way of supporting rail infrastructure across the country is HS2. Does the minister agree with me that HS2 will have a truly nationwide benefit in places like Port Talbot and in Deeside if we use UK steel in its construction?”
Mr Davies replied: “Of course, there will be many companies in Wales who will be tendering for work on the HS2 project so, of course, there will be huge benefits to Wales, huge benefits for the railway industry and, of course, huge benefits for the whole of the United Kingdom because HS2 is also about getting people off the roads and onto the railways, which is something that anyone who supports getting Britain to net zero by 2050 should be in support of.”
Labour MP Tonia Antoniazzi (Gower) asked if the minister shared her disappointment “with the lack of electrification to Swansea”.
Mr Davies replied: “I understand her disappointment around electrification, but she will know through her sterling work on the Welsh affairs select committee there would have been enormous costs in electrification between Cardiff and Swansea and no actual benefit for passengers in terms of decreased time, so what this Government wants to do is spend that money where it is going to have the most impact and benefit for rail passengers.”
Elsewhere in the debate, opposition MPs pressed the Government about the impact of scrapping the £20-a-week Universal Credit uplift on Wales, with the shadow Wales secretary, Nia Griffith, describing it as “not just a blow to our families but is a real hit on our shops and business”, which would “suck £286 million per year out of the Welsh economy”.
Liz Saville Roberts said: “Given the Government is content that Wales loses almost £300 million, the internal market act, trade agreements, control of state aid, and now plans to cut Welsh MPs from 40 to 32, the pattern is clear: this Government is taking from Wales and giving to Westminster. Anyone can see that levelling up will only happen when we have a strong parliament in Wales that is empowered to do the job and directly answerable to the people of Wales.
She added: “We all know there is a reshuffle going on, is now the time to reshuffle the Wales office out of existence?”
Wales Secretary Simon Hart replied: “She needs to make her mind up whether she wants Westminster representation or she doesn’t. She complains on the one hand the numbers are being reduced whereas, in fact, they are being equalised to make things fairer, and on the other claims we shouldn’t be here at all.”