Mark Drakeford denies letting 7,000 job gigafactory project 'slip through fingers'

first minister and map of gigga factory
The factory will now be created in Northumberland and provide over 7,000 jobs to the region Credit: Britishvolt / PA

The First Minister has denied opposition claims that the Welsh Government let a 7,000-job project “slip through [its]fingers.”

It follows an announcement that the UK Government is supporting the car battery manufacturer Britishvolt in creating a factory in Northumberland.

It’ll be the first large-scale “gigafactory” in Britain but until 2020 the company’s preferred location had been at St Athan in the Vale of Glamorgan.

"The sort of project we should be trying to attract here in Wales"

Andrew RT Davies questioned Mark Drakeford on why the project was not going to be based in Wales.

In the weekly First Minister’s Questions, Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies asked Mark Drakeford about Britishvolt’s decision not to go ahead with the St Athan project.

Mr Davies said, “This is exactly the sort of project that we should be trying to attract here in Wales and secure its foundations here in Wales.

“Now British Volt has secured financial backing and will open its gigafactory in Northumberland. It seems that the project slipped through your fingers.

"What went wrong First Minister?”

In response, Mark Drakeford said the Welsh Government had done all it could to secure the project and remained in touch with Britishvolt.

“In the end they decided that their first investment would be elsewhere. That does not mean to say we've not had further conversations with them." Mr Drakeford said.

“As a company, they are ambitious to do more in the field of battery development. We continue to be in conversations with them and if it is possible to bring that development to South Wales, of course the Welsh Government remains actively interested and actively engaged in that alongside many other opportunities," He added.

The gigafactory will manufacture around 200,000 batteries for electric cars in phase 1 and 2 of the project.

Britishvolt say they are delighted its transformational plans for the company’s first full-scale Gigaplant are powering ahead. Credit: Britishvolt

The Opposition leader said there had been suggestions that the Welsh Government had taken a “lacklustre” approach to negotiations with the company.

“According to media reports with people associated with the projects, Welsh government's decision to say the least was lacklustre and was never a top priority for the Welsh government," Mr Davies said.

But the First Minister rejected that accusation.

He said “The Welsh Government was very closely involved in discussions with the company. Those discussions progressed to the very final stages.

"If it was lacklustre effort, it did remarkably well to be in the final running for the location of that business in the first factory, as I said, that it plans to create.”

And he insisted that conversations continue with Britishvolt about a future investment and he committed to publishing a report from an independent expert into the original negotiations.