Wales politics

Carwyn Jones: Wales needs to borrow for big projects

Traffic on M4 at Port Talbot
Future motorway improvements in Port Talbot need borrowed money, Carwyn Jones says

First Minister Carwyn Jones says Wales will miss out on important infrastructure projects unless his government has the power to borrow money.

He used the example of the M4 in Port Talbot, saying potential improvements would need funding with borrowed money.

The Welsh government is calling for borrowing powers as part of reforms to the way it is funded.

In a speech, Mr Jones also repeated a call for a written UK constitution.

The motorway in Port Talbot was likely to become "very crowded" in the future, prompting the need for money to be spent on it, said Mr Jones.

"The only way that can be done is through borrowing powers," he told a conference on constitutional reform and devolution in Cardiff.

Northern Ireland's devolved administration can borrow money and borrowing powers are being given to Scotland.

If the same did not happen for Wales there was a danger that schemes would not go ahead "simply because of their geography", the first minister claimed.

"That clearly cannot be right. We have to be in the same position as England, Scotland and Northern Ireland."

He said the Treasury had never contested the Welsh government's evidence that it is "underfunded" by the formula for handing out money to the devolved administrations.

A report commissioned by the previous Welsh government said it was being short-changed by the Barnett formula.

A separate UK government commission is looking into whether responsibility for some taxes could be devolved to Cardiff.

But Mr Jones said: "We can't go ahead with fiscal devolution without funding being addressed otherwise we risk locking ourselves into the current Barnett formula which is to our detriment."

In a wide-ranging speech, he said it was not fair that agriculture ministers from Westminster spoke for the whole of the UK at the EU.

He said: "There are four agriculture ministers in the UK and yet at the European Council of Ministers the politician who is effectively the English agriculture minister casts a vote on behalf of the four of us."

Defining what he called the "Bridgend question" - after his own constituency - Mr Jones said: "That seems to me increasingly unsatisfactory and unsustainable as time goes by."

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