PRIME minister Boris Johnson visited South Wales today to throw his backing behind the Welsh Conservatives ahead of polling day in the Senedd Election on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters from the campaign office of Matt Smith – Conservative candidate for the Vale of Glamorgan – in Holton Road in Barry on Monday afternoon [May 3], the prime minister fielded questions on whether people would be able to book holidays from May 17, and the state of the region’s town and city centres, among other things.
Labour’s Jane Hutt has held the seat since 1999, but the prime minister’s visit suggests the Tories see the region as a key swing seat.
Here’s what he had to say.
Does the appearance of sleaze linked to the Conservatives – be it curtains, be it the awarding of contracts – have a possibility of damaging the Tories’ hopes ahead of this week’s elections?
“Let our opponents focus on that kind of thing if that’s what they want to do.
“I think the big issues for us now are to continue down the roadmap we are set on.
“It’s up to others to talk about that kind of stuff if they wish to. We as the UK Government are focusing on priority issues for the people of this country.
“I think the Welsh Conservatives have a great agenda, the jobs ambition is right and good, ideas around transport are great, and we want to work to deliver that.
“Welsh Labour in some ways is not delivering as much as it could in terms of healthcare in Wales.
“That is no criticism of healthcare workers in Wales, but I think there is a lack of proper leadership.”
Do you think people in Wales can expect to be able to travel abroad from May 17?
“Of course, it’s something we’re going to think about very hard. I think we’re going to be very cautious.
“The joint biosecurity committee (JBC) is meeting continuously through until the end of this week to work out what we can manage to do.
“I don’t want to anticipate their conclusions. It is likely, I would say, that we’ll be able to say something but likely we won’t be able to give everyone the green light to travel everywhere. I think we have to proceed extremely cautiously.
“I think people should wait until the JBC has come to its conclusions [before booking holidays].
“As for holidays abroad in July and August, we’re still a long way off that.”
On reports from Tehran that the UK Government is close to securing a deal to free Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, is there an update?
“There are two separate issues here. It is a complicated situation.
“As everyone knows, there are longstanding issues with what is called the IMS debt that the UK Government acknowledges, but on other hand there is the deplorable situation and treatment of Nazanin and indeed other dual-national consular cases in Tehran.
“We have to manage and prioritise those and we will continue to do so.
“We’re working on it the whole time. (Foreign secretary) Dominic Raab is talking to his counterparts around the world, and we’re continuing to work on it.
“Our thoughts are with Nazanin and her family, it’s been a very tough time for them.”
In Newport city centre we’ve heard about the loss of Debenhams and Cineworld, but we’ve also seen independent businesses move in. What needs to be done to make sure city centres like Newport flourish again, and what hope do these independent traders have of long-term success?
“Debenhams is a traditional type of store that was running into some business model problems way before the pandemic began and we’ve been doing what we can to help them.
“I appreciate the impact losing Debenhams can have on a city centre like Newport.
“I do think the high street will continue to evolve as people change their shopping habits.
“But I also think that if we can keep going down the roadmap in the way that we are, opening our stores and restaurants by June 21, then high streets will recover, and towns and cities will start to come back to life.
“On Cineworld closing, I think it is vital we get that sense of life back and people feeling they can go to the cinema in a Covid secure environment.
“I believe in café culture passionately and it’s something that can transform a city centre.
“There are lots of things that need to come together to make it work, including sensible parking policies. But in the end, you’ve got to have an offer.
“It means you’ve got to have businesses and jobs. I’m sure there’ll be a virtual circle as people feel confident again.”
The average small business in Wales has received around £10,000 in funding support so far this year, while equivalent businesses in England have received £4,000, a restart grant, and £2,000 for every 42 days closed. Has Westminster distributed money fairly to help businesses in Wales this year?
“I can’t comment on those exact figures.”
“The UK Government has given £8.3 million in support of jobs, businesses, and livelihoods in Wales.
“We’ll continue to put our arms around people. I know there are grants available up to £25,000.”
Other candidates up for the Vale of Glamorgan seat on Thursday
- Janet Brocklehurst – Propel
- Alan Coulthard – Independent
- Stuart Field – Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party
- Richard Grigg – Plaid Cymru
- Michael Hancock – Reform UK
- Jane Hutt – Labour
- Karl-James Langford – Gwlad – The Welsh Independence Party
- Neill Shah – Freedom Alliance. No Lockdowns. No Curfews
- Anthony Slaughter – Green Party
- Sally Stephenson – Liberal Democrats