LEVELLING Up secretary has thrown his weight behind the Western Gateway scheme.

Speaking at the inaugural conference into the scheme Mr Gove said it offered the region a chance to 'turbocharge the UK’s ambitions as a scientific superpower.'

Here is the full text of his speech to the conference:

Bore da. A very good morning to everyone attending this inaugural conference for the Western Gateway.

It’s an honour to be opening this event, which is such an exciting milestone for the partnership and all who look forward to seeing it achieve great things.

We are, of course, meeting against the grave backdrop of the appalling events in Ukraine. I know that your thoughts, like mine, are very much with the Ukrainian people and what we as a country can do to support them.

It is at times like this that we most value opportunities like this to come together in a free and open democracy to build something better for those we serve.

And I am especially delighted to be speaking to you today in my role as Levelling Up Secretary and also as Minister for Intergovernmental Relations.

In this last role, it’s my job to make sure the UK government works well with the Welsh and Scottish Governments and the Northern Ireland Executive, particularly on shared challenges like levelling up and the race to Net Zero.

The Western Gateway has a unique role to play on these defining missions.

It is, without doubt, a special partnership.

Spanning the English and Welsh borders, it is testament to the success of devolution and the strength of our United Kingdom.

And I am very pleased that Vaughan Gething is joining you today from the Welsh Government, underlining our joint commitment to the Western Gateway’s success.

It is a partnership that’s also at the forefront of our low-carbon ambitions, with the area poised to become a global beacon for f energy.

Through its strengths in advanced engineering and digital technology, it also promises to turbocharge the UK’s ambitions as a scientific superpower.

So, this dynamic, enterprising part of our United Kingdom is, in every sense, going from strength to strength.

A lot of the credit must go to Katherine Bennett for her tremendous leadership over the two years since the Partnership’s launch. It’s thanks to this that the Western Gateway has become one of the UK’s top economic powerhouses.

I’d like to also take this opportunity to welcome Katherine as a valued member of the Levelling Up Advisory Council as announced in the White Paper.

And, a huge thanks, too, to the leaders of the constituent authorities, in particular Councillors Jane Mudd and Toby Savage of Newport City Council and South Gloucestershire, for their unflagging commitment and contribution.

Western Gateway progress

It is incredible to think a journey that has taken us this far began with something as simple as the ending of the tolls on the Severn Crossings in December 2018.

But that for-sighted decision – delivered by my friend and colleague Alun Cairns when he was Secretary of State for Wales, it effectively supercharged the flow of transport, goods and labour to and from Cardiff and Bristol, bringing real economic benefits to communities both sides of the border.

I was fascinated to read in your refreshed prospectus that over 140,000 people now cross the Severn Bridge every day – talent unleashed to find opportunities wherever they exist between the regions of south Wales and the west of England.

Your prospectus makes clear that the Western Gateway has never looked back.

Fourteen of the world’s fifteen largest aerospace design and manufacturing firms are based right here in the Western Gateway.

And, not far from where this conference is taking place, there is a world-leading manufacturing hub of compound semiconductors – powering everything from iPhones to satellites.

On the other side of the Severn, Bristol and Cheltenham are home to some of the biggest cyber manufacturers and innovators in Europe.

Each a vital part of the other’s supply chain.

And we see collaborative research between the universities of Bath, Bristol and Swansea spurring exciting developments in the use of hydrogen as an alternative energy source.

Russia’s invasion has only served to heighten global concerns about energy security and costs. So, our move into greener, more self-sustaining forms of energy cannot come quick enough.

To that end, the launch, today, of an independent commission on tidal energy in the Severn is very welcome news.

I am also aware that you have submitted a strong bid to host the STEP nuclear fusion prototype plant at Oldbury and Berkeley – one of five proposals that has made the final shortlist by the UK Atomic Energy Agency – drawing on expertise in steel production in South Wales, lithium production in Cornwall, construction excellence in Somerset and materials engineering in Bristol.

This is a fantastic example of how the pan-regional partnership can add value at scale and I know the Secretary of State for Energy is looking forward to receiving the UKAEA's recommendations later in the summer.

But whatever the outcome, the Western Gateway has put itself firmly on the map when it comes to Green Energy, helping the UK blaze a trail towards Net Zero and delivering fairer, greener growth.

These are not just Western Gateway success stories, but UK success stories.

Pan-regional partnerships / local leadership and levelling up/Union

I know your ambition is to aim higher still – to go global so that the Western Gateway can take its rightful place alongside the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine.

We share that ambition.

Which is why pan-regional partnerships and strengthening local leadership are at the heart of our efforts to drive up productivity and reverse persistent geographic inequalities, as set out in the Levelling Up White Paper.

Levelling up is a UK-wide mission.

Talent is spread equally across our country; but opportunity is not.

Indeed, disparities have persisted between and within places for decades, under successive governments, throughout the UK.

It’s clear that overcoming these unacceptable divides is a shared challenge.

For Cardiff as much as Whitehall. For all parts of the United Kingdom, for all governments, whether UK-wide, devolved or local. For all political parties; Plaid Cymru, Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green, Independent.

None of us has all the answers or tools to make our country fairer or more prosperous. So, it’s right that we work together in all our interests.

That’s what the people we serve expect.

And that what we’re committed to do.

Through the latest Growth Deal signed last month between the UK and Welsh Governments, which will bring more jobs, investment and growth to communities on both sides of the border.

Through a successful conclusion to our longstanding Review of Intergovernmental Relations, which will create stronger working relationships between the UK government and devolved governments.

And, crucially, through our ambitious plans to level up in Wales, in England, and in every corner of the United Kingdom.

We’ve heard a lot about levelling up the North and the Midlands but we know the Western Gateway region faces its own challenges too.

Significant pockets of deprivation and inequalities.

Some communities still struggling, after decades of deindustrialisation, to find their place in the global economy.

We want to help you tackle these challenges head-on.

With real investment that breathes new life into our towns and cities and drives long-term prosperity.

Communities in the Western Gateway have secured £105m through our Levelling Up and Community Renewal Funds. £800,000 for Newport’s flourishing film and television sector, £3.5m for a new transport hub in Porth and training and work experience projects across the West of England, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire to help young people secure jobs and support the region’s transition to a green economy.

But the reforms set out in the White Paper allow us to go even further…

Moving public research and development investment beyond London and the south-east of England, and towards Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the north of England.

We are also backing Welsh and English SMEs in the Western Gateway with £3bn of funding through the British Business Bank and Global Britain Investment Funds, boosting the region’s burgeoning FinTech sector and advanced manufacturing base.

We are replacing the old EU structural funds with our new £2.6 billion UK Shared Prosperity Fund. That money will go straight to local councils in England and Wales to invest in local priorities; including in communities and place, people and skills and support for local business.

And the White Paper also champions a significant shift in power and funding away from Whitehall as part of our guarantee that, by 2030, every part of England that wants one will have a new devolution deal. This will be underpinned for the first time by a new, coherent framework.

As a result, counties and regions which haven’t so far had this opportunity will be able to see local people taking more control over their communities and having their voices heard.

I have found that local leaders of all political stripes have broadly welcomed this agenda.

There is nothing like having a dedicated advocate on your side.

And I look forward to playing my part, along with my friend and colleague Simon Hart, to ensure that the Western Gateway has just that – passionate Ministerial Champions to bang the drum for you at home and abroad and see the partnership take the next step to go from a national to international powerhouse.

The prize within our grasp couldn’t be greater.

A boost of £34 billion for the UK economy by 2030 from improved productivity.

The Western Gateway becoming one of the fastest-growing economies in the UK and a science superpower in its own right.

A successful partnership across Governments, across political parties, across the public and private sectors that’s leading the way on some of the biggest challenges we face – levelling up and achieving Net Zero.

We are behind you all the way in this endeavour.

Because if the Western Gateway can rise to this, we all can.

Diolch yn fawr. Thank you.