Rebecca Evans MS, Minister for Finance and Local Government
Vaughan Gething MS, Minister for Economy
Today, jointly with the UK Government, we are publishing the prospectus for the Freeport Programme in Wales.
Following constructive discussions with the UK Government, we have agreed an approach to the Freeport Programme in Wales which reflects our priorities and values. This has followed lengthy and detailed negotiations, built upon a genuine desire from all parties to achieve an acceptable outcome. The prospectus will launch the competition through which potential sites can bid for investment and it sets the parameters they will be assessed against.
Welsh Ministers agreed to support Freeport policies in Wales following the UK Government’s agreement that it would meet the Welsh Government’s demands that both governments would act in a ‘partnership of equals’ to deliver Freeports in Wales. In addition, UK Ministers also agreed to provide at least £26 million of non-repayable starter funding for any Freeport established in Wales, which represents parity with the deals offered to English Freeports.
A Welsh Freeport will be a special zone with the benefits of simplified customs procedures, relief on customs duties, tax benefits, and development flexibility.
The Welsh and UK Governments have worked together to design a Freeport model which will deliver on three main objectives which must be met by applicants:
- Promote regeneration and high-quality job creation;
- Establish the Freeport as a national hub for global trade and investment across the economy;
- Foster an innovative environment.
A Welsh Freeport will need to operate in a manner that aligns with the Welsh Government’s policies on fair work and social partnership, where workers are fairly rewarded, heard and represented, and can progress in a secure, healthy, and inclusive working environment, where their rights as workers are respected
As a result, the Freeports Programme in Wales includes made-in-Wales policies, such as the inclusion of the Welsh Government’s Economic Contract, Trade Union involvement in Freeport governance structures, an emphasis on the real living wage and lifting the wage floor, and setting expectations around employers’ treatment of employer national insurance contributions.
A Welsh Freeport will need to operate within the Welsh legislative framework on sustainability and well-being – the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 – and our commitment to net zero.
These priorities will be at the forefront of our thinking when assessing bids and I encourage partners to focus on how their vision will support high value, innovative activity that supports good jobs and a just transition to net zero.
The bidding process opens today 1 September. Applicants will have 12 weeks to complete and submit their bids. Bids must be summited by 6pm on 24 November.
Both governments will work together to co-design the process for site selection. Both governments will have an equal say in all implementation decisions, including the final decision on site selection.
The successful bid will be announced in early spring 2023, with the Freeport being established by summer 2023.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Senedd returns I would be happy to do so.