Ed Jacobs reports on Carwyn Jones' calls for devolution of energy policy to the Welsh government
Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones has called for his government to be granted the same powers over energy policy enjoyed by the Scottish government.
As ministers from across the devolved nations met yesterday with Nick Clegg as part of the regular Joint Ministerial Council, on the agenda was the issue of electricity market reform, prompting the first minister to call again on the UK government to transfer to Cardiff Bay control over the financial support system for renewable energy projects.
Warning of the prospects of job losses and poor prospects for investment if changes aren’t made, Jones argued:
“It’s costing us jobs in Wales that we can’t offer the same incentives for marine energy that Scotland can. We can’t afford to be in that position for years to come.
“I also made the point that some of our larger manufacturers are finding it very difficult to attract investment because of high energy costs in the UK – we seem to have higher energy costs than other countries in Europe.
“And I made it clear that as we see reform of the electricity market, something has to be done to address the point of transparency because individuals and manufacturers don’t know how to get the best tariff…
“Otherwise, we will lose jobs in years to come. Something has to be done about the UK’s energy market to ease the pressure both on manufacturers and individuals.”
“In Scotland they control the subsidy regime for energy projects; in Wales we don’t. It means in Scotland they can offer more money for marine energy projects despite the fact that prospects for marine energy are far, far better; our seas are calmer.
“Because of that we are losing out on investment and we are losing out on jobs. It’s only right that we in Wales should be able to control the level of subsidy the same way that England can, Scotland can and Northern Ireland can.”
His calls come as the cross-party Welsh affairs select committee has today issued a report in which it cites the scrapping of the Welsh Development Agency, the lack of a trade promotion agency, and under-resourced transport infrastructure as holding back economic growth across Wales.
On transport spending, the MPs argue that cuts should not be seen as an easy hit in tackling the deficit. They conclude:
We have heard evidence that poor transport infrastructure can have a detrimental effect on the levels of inward investment. Transport infrastructure has been under-funded by the UK government and the Welsh government for a number of years.
While we recognise the UK government’s commitment to reducing the national deficit, transport infrastructure spending should not be considered less important than other areas of spending. The UK government and the Welsh government must not consider reductions in infrastructure spending as an easy means of deficit reduction.
Outlining concerns about the lack of a single trade promotion agency for Wales, the report continues:
We are concerned that the Welsh government has no dedicated trade promotion agency. Evidence suggests that the international recognition of Wales has suffered and that investment opportunities have been missed.
We recommend a greater emphasis within the Welsh government on the need to promote inward investment and job creation in Wales, with a dedicated and focused team for this purpose.
Turning its attention to development, the committee argued:
The abolition of the Welsh Development Agency has reduced Wales’s visibility in the global market place.
Nearly five years on from its abolition, the WDA brand remains one of the most recognisable of all Welsh brands. The Welsh government must urgently consider how existing recognition of the WDA brand can be used to improve and increase Wales’s global identity.
Responding to the report, a spokesperson for the Welsh government said:
“We have already recognised the need to enhance our trade and investment effort in these difficult economic circumstances and an increasingly competitive market place. We have established a major projects team to lead on trade and investment.
“We are delighted that the committee has endorsed our proposals for a new London office and a fresh approach to inward investment.
“A large number of new leads and enquiries are being generated and delivered. Our new model is a more flexible and responsive model and fit for the future, not simply a throw-back to the WDA, which had run its course.”
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