Wales politics

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart makes post-Brexit aid pledge

Simon Hart Image copyright House of Commons
Image caption Simon Hart insisted the new fund will not undermine Welsh devolution

Wales will receive a "substantial sum of money" through a new fund to replace EU economic aid after Brexit, the new Welsh secretary has pledged.

Simon Hart said the Shared Prosperity Fund will ensure cash will be targeted at the areas where it is "most needed".

The new fund aims to reduce inequalities across the four UK nations, Conservative ministers say.

Mr Hart has said details will emerge shortly to replace EU Structural Funds, worth £5bn to Wales since 2000.

He called it a "good news story", telling MPs: "For the first time in 45 years, a substantial sum of money is going to be distributed in Wales by Welsh politicians, directly accountable to Welsh voters.

"That has not been the case for some time."

Mr Hart, MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, said the new proposals will not "drive coach and horses through the devolution settlement".

But he could not clarify whether the Welsh Government will control the new fund.

First Minister Mark Drakeford has said the UK government could not be "judge, jury and court of appeal" for decisions on cash payouts.

Mr Hart's new deputy at the Wales Office, Monmouth MP David TC Davies, said the UK government was "absolutely committed" to ensuring Wales does not lose out by a single penny due to Brexit, a promise made by Leave campaigners in the run-up to the 2016 EU referendum.

Analysis

By BBC Wales political reporter Gareth Pennant

Image copyright House of Commons
Image caption Simon Hart and David TC Davies answered their first Welsh Questions on Wednesday

This was Simon Hart's first appearance at Welsh Questions since being appointed the new secretary of state last month

The session was dominated by questions on the Shared Prosperity Fund, growth deals and the steel industry.

He praised his predecessor Alun Cairns, saying he did a "fantastic job" for Wales and for his "boundless" energy.

It was the first time Mr Cairns spoke in the house since his return to the backbenches following his resignation in November.

It was also David TC Davies's debut at the despatch box as a minister in the Wales Office - a "long-anticipated" and "long-awaited" promotion, according the Torfaen MP, Nick Thomas-Symonds.

And in an unusual moment, the Plaid Cymru leader in Westminster Liz Saville Roberts sang 'Yma o Hyd' by Dafydd Iwan in the Commons, after the song reached number one in the iTunes UK chart.

Mr Davies congratulated the singer and explained that another of his songs 'I'r Gad' (To Battle) "springs to mind" when considering this government's support for growth deals for Wales.

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