Sir Keir Starmer and Mark Drakeford pledge to work together on visit to Shropshire border

The leaders of the Labour party and the Welsh Government say that they would work together with mutual respect for the good of the UK if Labour was in government in Westminster.

Sir Keir Starmer talks to Phil Daniels
Sir Keir Starmer talks to Phil Daniels

Sir Keir Starmer and Mark Drakeford paid a visit to the Kronospan fibreboard factory during a visit to the Welsh border town of Chirk on Friday.

They acknowledged that different rules on either side of the English/Welsh border – whether through the pandemic or generally – made for problems in border counties such as Shropshire.

The leaders pledged to work together to make improvements in relations between the UK Government and the Senedd.

Sir Keir Starmer, Mark Drakeford and Ken Skates meet apprentices at Kronospan

They visited Kronospan along with the local member of the Senedd, Ken Skates, for a tour of the factory, one of the area's major employers, chatting to apprentices and to union representatives as well as bosses at the company, which makes medium density fibreboard.

Sir Keir said if Labour was in government he was re-instate regular joint ministerial committee meetings between the UK government and devolved parliaments.

"We would have a mutual respect for each other that, I am afraid, seems to have been missing recently," he added.

The leader of the Senedd said that while since Christmas there had been weekly discussions between himself and with UK minister Michael Gove, there had been not one official joint ministerial committee held since Boris Johnson had become prime minister.

Mark Drakeford chats to Kronospan's Mike McKenna

Both leaders agreed that transport links between England and Wales are vital for the economy.

Mr Skates, who has just stepped down as minister of transport and and the economy in the Welsh parliament, said the Senedd was actively talking to the Highways Agency about rail and road improvements including the A483 and A5 through Shropshire.

He said: "The Welsh Government has exciting plans for road improvements and we are in talks with the Highways Agency to ensure the cross border roads can be improved."

Sir Keir said transport links were vital to help the economy of the UK as a whole and that the Welsh/English border should not be a barrier.

The Labour leader said he had been very impressed with the Kronospan operation.

Sir Keir Starmer talks to some of the apprentices

"The company has five per cent of its workforce doing apprenticeships at any one time and they go on to become important employees here," he said.

Mr Drakeford said that apprenticeships were key to the Welsh Government's plans for regeneration and underpinning the economy while Mr Skates said they were important for those who wanted to remain in their community rather than move away to university or college.

Links with the unions at Kronospan were also praised.

Looking over the factory floor

Sir Keir said: "They work together rather than against each other, as it should be."

Mr Drakeford added: "The company works with the union under the type of social partnership that is so prevalent here in Wales."

A Unite spokesman said: "It was great to see the visit to workers at the Kronospan plant in Chirk.

"We welcome the proactive approach taken by Welsh Government during the pandemic to support the manufacturing sector, protect highly skilled jobs and help rebuild a stronger economy."

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