Suzy Davies AM: Will the Cabinet Secretary provide an update on the Welsh Government's proposed new taxes?
Mark Drakeford AM: Simply to say that it remains my intention to test the new Wales Act 2014 powers during 2018.
Suzy Davies AM: Okay. Well, thank you for that answer as well, because it gives me a bit of a steer on timing there. Last month, following a debate on potential tourism tax in Bridgend council, the Labour cabinet member for regeneration there said, 'As the cabinet portfolio holder for tourism, I would say that this is the least likely of the Welsh Government options for a new tax to find favour across Wales.'
And then went on to say 'I think most people would strongly support the alternative proposal of a tax on disposable plastics.' The Labour leader of Swansea council has today said he favours a social care tax. When Labour leaders in my region are already dismissing the tourism tax as an idea, would it not be a good idea to actually save some money by not developing that idea and concentrating on the other three options?
Mark Drakeford AM: Llywydd, I'm very glad to see individuals around Wales taking an interest in this debate, and it's interesting to see that there are a variety of views out there, and that is exactly what we had hoped would happen by bringing forward the debate in the way that we have. It would have been very easy for the Welsh Government to have acted as the UK Government does in fiscal matters by keeping everything entirely to itself and attempting to spring a surprise on everyone else after a decision has been made. I have been very keen to go about our fiscal responsibilities in an entirely different way, to be far more open, to be far more engaged with people who have views. I listen very carefully to what people in all parties say about the four different ideas that we have brought forward. The leader of Swansea would be correct to say that, in terms of public reaction, there has been more support for a plastics tax than any of the other items that we put on our list, but that is not to say that there isn't interest in all of them or that the debate should not continue.
Neil Hamilton AM: To revert to the experimental tax case that Suzy Davies mentioned earlier on in relation to a tourist tax, has he not seen that Ian Edwards, the chief executive of the Celtic Manor, has recently said, 'Along with everybody else in our industry, I was stunned by news of a proposed new tourism tax for Wales being considered' by the Welsh Government? He said that 'A tourism tax would seriously jeopardise our ability to continue our rapid recent growth as a resort and carry on making this valuable contribution to the Welsh economy.' In the same sentence that the Cabinet Secretary uttered to me, in that debate that I referred to a moment ago, that there was no evidence that lower tax boosts growth, he also said that badly designed taxes can hamper growth. The Cabinet Secretary has certainly announced a number of ideas for hampering growth in the Welsh economy. I hope he will reject these ideas.
Mark Drakeford AM: Llywydd, there's little for me to add to what I said earlier on this whole matter. We're having a debate about different possibilities that exist for Wales. The views of anybody who has a view are welcome, whatever they may be, and we will take them into account when we come to make our decision. We will take the views of Celtic Manor into account. The Welsh Government is a very significant investor in Celtic Manor. It has received many millions of pounds in direct aid from the Welsh taxpayer. We will take its views into account, alongside anybody else's. That's the point of having a debate.
Neil Hamilton AM: I appreciate that the Cabinet Secretary has an open mind and he's not in a position today to announce any final decisions, because that's the whole point of the consultation process, and I appreciate that having put £22.5 million into Celtic Manor he should want to get a good return on that investment. Therefore, I hope that that's going to inform his decision taking in this respect as well, because Ian Edwards said further in the article that I'm quoting that 'Adding extra cost to staying in Wales would have just as damaging an effect on attracting business events as it would on attracting leisure visitors. Securing large conferences and association meetings is a very competitive sector and an additional tax on the thousands of delegates who attend these events would be a significant deterrent to those considering Wales as a venue.' So, clearly, this is a vitally important issue for the whole of the hospitality sector in Wales, and the sooner we announce that we're not going to go ahead with a tourist tax, the easier it will be for them to relax and sleep easy in their beds.
Mark Drakeford AM: Llywydd, I hear the case that the Member has made. He will be aware that others make a very different set of propositions. Other people would say that taking a very small amount of money from people who are clearly not short of money—they're coming to stay in the Celtic Manor—that a very small addition to their nightly stay would create a pool of money that could be further invested in enterprises like the Celtic Manor and other tourism possibilities that would attract more people into Wales in the future, and that investment of that sort, delivered by people who, after all, are enjoying the benefits of all the investment that the public purse has made in that sector—that that is not an unfair thing to ask of them, and actually creates a benign cycle in which small amounts of individual contributions are aggregated and allow significant new investments, that benefit the industry, to be made.
Now, I am not saying that the Welsh Government has come down on either side of this argument. All I'm saying is that in this area, as in all others, there are many competing analyses of what would work best, and the point of having a debate is to allow all those arguments to come out into the open, and then to be properly weighed up.