Boris Johnson in his £5bn ‘new deal’ speech said, while he was setting out measures primarily for England, he added that his proposals would benefit the whole UK.
It is a matter of debate as to how much of a ‘new deal’ it was in the first instance. £5billion is equivalent to a mere 0.025% of the UK’s Gross Domestic Product. Whilst the OECD, the Office for Budget Responsibility and Office for National Statistics forecast an economic slump forty, fifty times that figure.
There was no new money earmarked for Wales in the PM’s £5 billion programme. Indeed much of what he announced had already been referenced by the Chancellor earlier in the year. It was a rehash of manifesto commitments last December and a series of announcements made in the spring of this year.
Some may argue that it was a pittance and will do little to stem the tide of job losses and business failures that looms. The Chancellor in his budget talked of £640 billion investment over the next five years and the PM referenced just £5 billion. Not so much ‘new’ and not much of a ‘deal’
UK Government, however, claims that money has already been provided to Wales – £2.4 billion in capital funding in 2020/21. But the Welsh Government is pointing out that that money isn’t extra, rather just what its annual capital budget is anyway.
The devolution settlement gives responsibility for building roads, schools and hospitals to rather ministers in the three devolved administrations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales with some powers shared.
The Prime Minister did make reference that funding for projects in the devolved nations would be provided soon with Downing Street saying:
“The Government also intends to bring forward funding to accelerate infrastructure projects in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland – working with the devolved administrations to identify where we can get spades in the ground, build our communities, and create jobs faster for citizens across the United Kingdom.”
Number 10 also indicated that the Chancellor will unveil more of this plan next week, and we will use the forthcoming Spending Review and Autumn Budget to set the direction for the rest of this parliament.
“The Spending review will create a multi-year, UK-wide Shared Prosperity Fund which will support local economic recovery by driving economic growth and tackling deprivation.”
The Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, was not convinced by the PM’s address, commenting at the Welsh Government’s daily press conference that it was not so much a “New Deal as No deal,”
Liz Saville Roberts MP, Plaid Cymru’s Parliamentary leader was just as critical:
“Substance-less, unspecific, and full of waffle would be a kind review of this speech. Mr. Johnson failed to point to a single project in Wales that he was going to ‘build, build, build’ or any powers that he would give us to do it ourselves.”
However, the Welsh Secretary welcomed the strategy that will ‘strengthen the union.’
“The review into the improvement of road, rail, air, and sea links between our four nations is a vital step forward in bolstering the connectivity of the UK and its internal market. As we begin our economic recovery, it is more important than ever that all four nations work together.”
Adding: “I look forward to working with the Welsh Government to identify projects in Wales that will make a real difference to people’s lives.”