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EDITIONS
Budget 2001 Thursday, 8 March, 2001, 18:49 GMT
Plaid Cymru: Last chance, missed chance
Caernarfon MP Dafydd Wigley stood down as Plaid Cymru leader last year and is now the party's Treasury spokesman.
By Dafydd Wigley MP

This Budget must be seen as a missed opportunity as far as Wales is concerned.


This Budget is one for Middle England, not for Wales

The chancellor has gone out of his way to stress how well the economy is performing. If these words mean anything, there was clearly adequate cash available to deal with a number of key issues facing Wales.

What we have had is a lot of spin and precious little substance of ongoing benefit for the Welsh economy.

Miss one: We have had no commitment that the full benefit of European structural funds, ear-marked for Wales, will be passed on in their entirety over and above the Barnett block.

Nor are there any signs that the block will be increased - over and above that generated by UK average increases in public spending - to enable match-funding to be provided without diverting resources away from education.

Operating aid required

Miss two: Neither is there any commitment to providing operating aid for the Objective One areas.


This government has presided for four years over the demolition of rural communities

A plea was made in January to the Lib-Lab government in Cardiff for reduced employer national Insurance and reduced corporation tax in Objective One areas.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has acknowledged that the power to do this rests with the Treasury. With the Budget, we have seen how the Treasury in London treats with contempt the pleas of the government of Wales.

Miss three: The main requirement of manufacturing, tourism and agriculture in Wales is for the parity of the pound to be more favourable against the euro, to give a level playing-field for their activities.

This Budget has given no indication that the chancellor intends to take any steps whatsoever to facilitate such an adjustment. As a consequence, all these sectors will continue to limp along with one hand tied behind their backs as a deliberate act of government policy.

Too small a step

Miss four: This government has presided for four years over the demolition of rural communities. In the Budget unveiled by Gordon Brown this week, there could have been significant announcements to help in such areas.

There has been inadequate recognition of the impact of high petrol and diesel prices on the competitiveness of rural businesses.


Pensioners have been let down once more

We welcome the small step taken in the Budget, but it does not begin to redress the balance which has gone so far against these rural communities.

Miss five: With the massive funds available we might have expected a relinking of pensions with earnings, and for the money stolen off pensioners by the Conservatives since 1981 to be restored.

That opportunity has again been missed by the chancellor, and the pensioners have been let down once more.

Miss six: With the foot-and-mouth crisis having worsened substantially during the past week, there was a desperate hope that the chancellor would have announced a multi-billion pound package to help not only farmers but also ancillary industries, such as slaughterhouses and hauliers.

Such a fund should also be available to help those in the tourist industry who could be put out of business, through no fault of their own, as a result of foot-and-mouth.

On Wednesday the chancellor stuck his head in the sand, afraid to confront the significance of the scale of the issue.

Weasel words

Miss seven: The steelworkers of Wales were hoping for a package of proposals which could help save their industry. No such element was to be found in the Budget.


Anyone who shows such a colossal series of misses is not fit to hold his place

The Blair government has offered weasel words but has brought forward nothing to save steel. A last chance opportunity lost.

Anyone who shows such a colossal series of misses is not fit to hold his place.

Plaid Cymru, does however, welcome a number of other changes announced in the Budget, such as:

  • increased support for families and working parents/increase in maternity pay
  • reconfiguration of excise duty for hard-pressed haulage industry
  • VAT simplification for small businesses
  • extra for education and health - Lib-Lab government in the National Assembly for Wales must ensure this gets to schools and hospitals in Wales

This Budget is one for Middle England, not for Wales.

In summary, New Labour candidates will feel this full brunt of public dismay in Wales when this election comes.


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Spending and saving

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See also:

01 Mar 01 | Budget 2001
09 Aug 00 | Wales
19 Jul 00 | Wales
03 Jul 00 | UK Politics
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