Rishi Sunak tells new Welsh Secretary David TC Davies to improve relations with Welsh Government
The UK Government’s new Welsh Secretary says he’s been ordered by the Prime Minister to develop a “good and positive relationship with Welsh Government.”
David TC Davies told MPs that he will be holding another detailed conversation with the First Minister on Wednesday.
Relations between the two governments in London and Cardiff, which are often tense, fell to a new low during Liz Truss’ short time as Prime Minister when she failed to have a full conversation with Mark Drakeford.
Rishi Sunak made it a priority to call the First Ministers in Wales and Scotland within hours of becoming Prime Minister and today Wales’ cabinet minister said that was a priority Mr Sunak wanted other ministers to follow.
David TC Davies was giving evidence to the Commons Welsh Affairs Committee for the first time since being appointed to the cabinet last week.
He was asked by the committee’s chair, Stephen Crabb if he had been given a “mission” by the Prime Minister.
Mr Davies said: “The Prime Minister emphasised to all of us how important it was to display professionalism at all times. He certainly said to me that it was important we develop a good and positive relationship with Welsh Government.
“I was very pleased that I think the day after I was appointed, I was able to talk briefly to Mark Drakeford online in respect of another meeting, and I'm looking forward to having a proper one-to-one conversation with him today.”
Newport Wafer Fab
The new Welsh Secretary also said that the UK Government is looking very carefully at the sale of a Newport-based microchip business to a Chinese-owned business.
But David TC Davies said he couldn’t comment on a further delay to a National Security Review although he acknowledged the uncertainty was causing concern to those working at the site.
Newport Wafer Fab began life in the early 1990s as Inmos. It makes semiconductor wafers onto which tiny circuits are printed.
In June 2021 it was sold to the Netherlands-based company Nexperia in a deal said to be worth £63m.
However security concerns were raised almost immediately because Nexperia is in turn owned by the Chinese firm Wingtech.
The purchase was condemned by the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee as “the sale of one of the UK’s prized assets to a strategic competitor” and described Nexperia as “a company heavily backed by the Chinese Communist Party."
In a Commons debate in July 2021, the former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said the deal was part of “project kowtow” and should have been blocked.
The UK Government launched a National Security review into the sale in May this year, but the outcome of that review has been delayed several times.
It was last due to conclude at the beginning of October.
Asked about the delays by members of the Commons Welsh Affairs Select Committee, the new Secretary of State said he couldn’t comment in detail.
But David TC Davies told the MPs that “I’m very well aware of the issues around this and I have had a number of briefings on it.
“But obviously there is a national security issue here and the advice I've had is not to comment further on it, but to say that it has been very carefully looked at at the moment by government.”
He acknowledged that the uncertainty is causing concern to those working at the Newport factory.
“I know there are 200 jobs at risk. I think some of the people who are working there are actually constituents. And so as a constituency MP, I've been contacted by someone also by the union. I'm absolutely aware of it.
“Nobody wants to see any jobs being lost anywhere. But the process has arisen because of national security concerns and I can confirm I've had briefings about that. And I've been advised not to say anything further.”
St David’s Day holiday
Mr Davies also said he was “on balance” against having a bank holiday to mark St. David’s Day in Wales.
Welsh Conservatives based in the Senedd have been calling for the creation of a new public holiday on March 1st and the previous Welsh Secretary said he was personally “very sympathetic” to the idea.
In an interview with S4C’s Y Byd yn ei Le programme last month, Sir Robert Buckland said "My personal view would be get rid of May Day and have St David's Day as our bank holiday and it would be a nice quid pro quo.”
His successor was asked his view during today’s meeting of the Welsh Affairs Select Committee.
David TC Davies told the committee that the idea “isn’t government policy at the moment” and that while it wasn’t something he felt strongly about, “on balance” he supports the current position “because actually I think there are some advantages to not having a bank holiday.
“I have three children who all went to a state school in South Wales and they always used to celebrate St David's day in school. I think I've been there a few times to watch them dancing, singing and stuff.
“And I suspect that had they not been in school, rather than celebrating this wonderful part of Welsh culture and enjoying a little bit of the language and the dancing that there might have been a tendency to flop down on a sofa and mess around with a Playstation and I'd much rather they were celebrating Welsh culture. So on balance on I'm happy with things as they are.”