Plaid Cymru Funding Debate 21st September 2011

Mark Drakeford: Thank you for the opportunity to take part in the debate. On the whole, the debate has been serious in tone, and that is absolutely right, because it is almost impossible to exaggerate the dangers that face the British economy, now and in the months to come. That is a view that is shared by some parties in the Chamber, but not by all. Some of you will have heard the Chief Secretary to the Treasury this morning desperately trying to defend the coalition Government’s economic policies in the face of the IMF’s evidence. He referred persistently to his Government’s policies as the greatest asset that Britain has. It reminded me of a man who, having decided to go swimming, has tied a great iron ring around his neck, and as he disappears below the waves, he waves to the shore and says, ‘At least I have an asset’. As the leader of Plaid Cymru set out clearly in the first half of his opening contribution, the British economy is in exactly that position: disappearing fast below the waves. That puts an even greater obligation on the Welsh Government to do everything it can to protect and defend the Welsh economy. However, there is a little bit of good news, which Members will have heard in the Chamber already, which is that there is no dearth of ideas about what might be done in Wales to do just that. Those ideas include—I do not think that they have all been mentioned so far this afternoon—social impact bonds, a Welsh housing bond, a Wales savings super mutual, and a development bank for Wales that would draw on the experience of solidarity funds in Quebec and on the finance that is held by the eight major public sector pension funds. 

I want to say something about the experience in Quebec, because there are lessons to be drawn from it. It is called a solidarity fund, because it is an $8.2 billion fund that has grown out of the funds of the trade union movement. These are assets that belong to trade unionists, in their pension funds and in their savings. Those who run the fund say that those assets are used in Quebec to be part of the struggle for full employment and the struggle to improve conditions for labour in the Quebec economy. Last year, the Quebec solidarity fund put $25 billion aside for a new fund for agriculture in that province, in order to provide capital funding for new entrants into farming, to provide them with an equity stake in the purchase of land, and to provide them with start-up grants so that, as they said, aspiring young farmers facing a tough challenge can get a new start in their own economy. This year, the solidarity fund has provided £6 billion to invest in the growth of the aerospace industry in Quebec. This investment will almost double the number of high-skilled jobs that that industry provides.   

Yn hynny o beth, mae gennym yr hyn glywsom gan y Llywodraeth yr wythnos hon. Hoffwn groesawu datganiad y Gweinidog dros fusnes am gyhoeddi y bydd parthau menter yng Nghymru. Drwy fuddsoddi mewn sectorau penodol, fel y mae Cwebéc yn ei wneud, bydd yn bosibl adeiladu ar y meysydd hynny yn economi Cymru sy’n parhau i fod yn gryf.   
[In this regard, we have the announcement we heard from the Government this week. I would like to welcome the statement by the Minister for business for announcing that there will be enterprise zones in Wales. By investing in certain sectors, as is being done in Quebec, it is possible to build on those areas in the Welsh economy that continue to be strong.]   
This is an example of exactly what the Government has done this week, and this can be seen in the example from Quebec. There are ideas that we can use in Wales. Therefore, Minister, we look forward to hearing your reply to the debate, particularly because we know that we will be relying on your vast experience and your commitment to these things, because the key political task that we face is in taking these new ideas and making them a reality in Wales. We are not short of such ideas, but you know, as do those who were involved in the One Wales Government, that there is a huge amount of passive resistance to new ideas in the machinery of government. It is a really difficult job, but it is one that relies on key political determination to take some of the ideas that we have heard in the Chamber this afternoon and put them to work for the benefit of Wales.