Plaid economy spokesperson Luke Fletcher rebuked the Welsh Government in the Senedd yesterday after a statement by the Minister for Economy Vaughan Gething on the new freeports programme.
“The new freeports programme in Wales is nothing more than an abdication of power to companies through creating deregulated zones” – LUKE FLETCHER MS
The criticism came in the Senedd yesterday after a statement by the Minister for Economy Vaughan Gething on the new freeports programme, which was jointly announced by the UK and Welsh Governments on 23rd March.
The Celtic Freeport in Milford Haven and Port Talbot, and Anglesey Freeport on Ynys Môn were designated as Wales’s new freeport zones and will each receive £26 million of non-repayable starter funding.
The statement was lambasted and met with heavy scepticism by Plaid spokesperson for the Economy, Luke Fletcher. Mr Fletcher, a consistent critic of the freeport concept, has raised concerns about the veracity of the claims surrounding freeports. Further doubts were raised today about the capacity of workers and trade unions to influence the governance of the new freeports.
The doubts are supported by a significant body of evidence which states that freeports attract organised crime and money-laundering, while displacing jobs rather than creating new ones. One of the main criticisms of freeports maintains that they risk simply diverting business into the freeport zone from the surrounding area for tax purposes, merely moving economic activity from one location to another.
In response to the statement, Luke Fletcher MS said: “This is nothing more than an abdication of power to companies through creating deregulated zones, trickle-down economic in its purest form. The freeport concept has proven extractive by design, and there is a significant body of evidence that supports this view.
“There are serious questions that the Welsh Government must answer around the safeguarding of workers’ rights and the living wage. For example, how will the Government ensure that companies operating in a freeport zone will meet these requirements, both in the first instance and also in the long-term?
“The role of trade unions also requires further elaboration. It is crucial that they have genuine power and capacity to exert influence over governance arrangements. The Welsh Government must ensure that their roles are not merely consultative.”
Mr Fletcher concluded: “My challenge to the Minister and the Welsh Government is to prove communities wrong. Time and time again, Welsh workers have been fed the promise of regeneration, and time and time again little has changed.”
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