Wales politics

Swansea Bay city deal not ready to sign, says Alun Cairns

Alun Cairns

A proposed £1.3bn investment deal for Swansea and south west Wales is not ready to be signed, Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns has said.

Chancellor Philip Hammond told MPs last week he hoped to conclude the Swansea Bay region city deal by Spring Budget day.

But the budget on Wednesday merely confirmed "good progress".

Mr Cairns said he would decide when the deal was ready and officials were in Swansea to get the plan in place.

The UK Government's adviser on the scheme, former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine, was sacked last night after he rebelled against the government over Brexit in the House of Lords.

He had been due to visit Swansea on Wednesday in his role advising on a proposed £1.3bn investment deal for the region.

Mr Cairns said: "The call is mine as to when it's going to be signed but from the challenge session that we had ten days ago I didn't think it was ready.

"I have officials in Swansea today working on trying to get the plan into place."

He said he was not prepared to sign "any deal", adding: "I want to sign a deal that will work for businesses in the area and that will really raise the living standards of those who work there."

Earlier Wales Office minister Guto Bebb said he was confident a Swansea city deal will go ahead despite the sacking of Lord Heseltine.

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Media captionGuto Bebb says he is "confident" UK government will back city and growth deals

During Welsh Questions in the Commons on Wednesday, Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts had asked the minister "what hope we have of securing similar deals for the rest of Wales if experts are axed at the whim of an insecure executive fearful of parliamentary sovereignty?"

In reply, Mr Bebb described the Swansea region city deal as a "bottom-up agenda".

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Media caption'Great disappointment' to lose advisory roles, says Lord Heseltine

A UK Government spokesman said: "Lord Heseltine provided useful input to the Swansea City Deal project.

"However the decision over his role as government adviser does not impact on the city deal.

"We will keep working to ensure we meet the Secretary of State for Wales' ambition to turn a good proposal into a great one."

Lord Heseltine told the BBC he felt "great disappointment" to be sacked as an advisor, but defended his rebellion on Brexit, saying Europe was the "transcending issue of our time".

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