Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Neil Hamilton.]

5:09 pm
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Mr David Hunt (Wirral West)

I am delighted that once again this year we have an opportunity to debate on the Floor of the House the state of affairs in Wales. There is a great deal that is extremely positive and encouraging going on in the Principality, and I shall want to draw the House's attention not only to our achievements so far, but to our plans for the future.

First, however, I am sure all parts of the House would want to join me in remembering our brave troops in the Gulf and in particular those from Wales in the regiments, ships and the Air Force serving with allied forces. All our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families. They have fought courageously to make the world a safer place. We all recognise our enormous debt to them, both individually and collectively.

I should also like to say what a big difference it will make to our proceedings that Donald Coleman is no longer sitting in his seat. On both sides of the House, I know that we miss him very much, as I am sure do his constituents in Neath—whom he served so faithfully and effectively for so many years.

The office of Secretary of State for Wales encompasses an enormous range of functions. Indeed, it sometimes comes as a surprise to the people of Wales that there is any aspect of their daily lives for which the Secretary of State does not have governmental responsibility. The House can rest assured that I do not intend to take them on a grand tour, but there have been a number of developments in certain areas in the past year or so to which I should like to draw attention, before turning to what I believe should be the main subject of our debate—the economy in Wales.

First, as regards local government finance, I was very pleased with the professional approach which local authorities in Wales adopted in implementing the community charge system last year. However, as my predecessor my right hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) pointed out, budgets for the forthcoming year were set too high by some councils, with the result that the average charge in Wales was higher than necessary. However, at 232 per charge payer, it is more than 100 lower than the average in England. The local authority settlement for 1991–92, which I negotiated this year, provided sufficient resources, giving nearly 200 million extra or 112 per cent. in external finance, to enable authorities to spend in line with my plans and to produce an average community charge of 228.

However, it has been suggested in the press—although I treat the reports with the caution that they deserve—that authorities generally have failed to achieve that figure. I am sure that the House will agree that that is disappointing and that the electorate will recognise immediately that the fault lies with those councils which have set excessive charges. I remind the House that I have been given the powers to charge-cap and I shall not hesitate to use them when I have full details of the spending and charging decisions taken.

Last month, I was able to announce a new community charge reduction scheme which, at 62 million, will treble the amount of money going to twice as many people who face the steepest increases in their bills after the transition from rates, and will mean that two thirds of the communities in Wales will benefit from reductions. At the same time, I am, of course, proceeding with a fundamental review of the finance, functions and structure of local government. During the past week I have had interesting and constructive discussions with the Welsh members of the Liberal Democrat Party, and with Plaid Cymru. I welcome the constructive spirit in which the hon. Members concerned have entered into those discussions. It is a pity that the official Opposition still feel unable to meet me without setting unreasonable and unacceptable preconditions. I appeal to them to rethink their position.

In the past year there have been a number of developments in education, most notably the decision that Welsh should be included as a foundation subject in the national curriculum. I am strongly and firmly committed to policies which secure and strengthen the position of the Welsh language. I have before me the proposals of the Welsh Language Board; I am carefully considering them and shall respond to the board. However, I am sure that our decision——

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Mr Dafydd Elis Thomas (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)

Can the Secretary of State give some sign of whether he is satisfied that there are sufficient resources for all the admirable objectives of the national curriculum legislation to be fulfilled over a period throughout Wales, as Welsh is reintroduced in areas where it was neither a subject nor a medium of instruction in secondary schools?

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Mr David Hunt (Wirral West)

My hon. Friend and I have been monitoring the situation carefully. As the hon. Gentleman will know, we have devoted additional resources to in-service training, which we consider to be a key part of our overall strategy to ensure that the policy works.

I am sure that the decision to afford Welsh such a prominent place in the national curriculum will do a great deal to safeguard its future. We have also published our plans for teaching history and geography in Wales, where again we have been able to ensure that it has a specific Welsh dimension.

Turning to the management of education within the Principality, I was very pleased that I was able to announce that I had approved the first application by a school to opt for grant-maintained status. I hope that many more schools will follow suit. There was a general welcome from those most concerned for my decision to take the higher education sector in Wales under the direct control of the Welsh Office. I am sure that this development will give the Polytechnic of Wales and the other higher education institutions the opportunity to expand and to develop their activities.

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Mr Richard Livsey (Brecon and Radnor)

Will the Secretary of State consider the impossibility of the situation in which the Welsh agricultural college now finds itself, as local authorities are withdrawing support for its finance? I was a member of staff there before I became a Member of Parliament. Will the Secretary of State consider the possibility of direct Welsh Office funding for Wales's national agricultural college?

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Mr David Hunt (Wirral West)

No. That is not part of what I have termed the higher education sector, but I shall try to respond in more detail to the hon. Gentleman, and my hon. Friend may wish to add some further remarks on the subject.

Roads are a vital component of our industrial regeneration strategy. On Monday, I published the 1991 supplement to "Roads in Wales", which shows that ten major road schemes have been completed since April 1989, adding 23 miles to the 138 miles which have already been completed since 1979 in motorway and trunk roads, and a further seven schemes are in progress.

Since 1979 we have spent 14 billion on motorways and trunk roads in Wales. We intend to continue to invest at a high rate, with more than 05 billion planned during the next three years. We have announced start dates for the two missing sections of the M4 in Dyfed, and on Monday I opened the Llanidloes bypass on the A470. Last week I announced an additional 6 million worth of provision for local authority road schemes. So let there be no doubt about our commitment to the upgrading and improvement of the road network in Wales.

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Mr Gareth Wardell (Gower)

Would the Secretary of State correct one slight slip and say that the missing gaps in the M4 are not in Dyfed but in West Glamorgan? We look forward to the completion of the gaps, which have been a huge problem for inward investment coming to west Wales—that is, west of Port Talbot. Could he possibly speed up the completion date so that this major monument to ineffectual Tory planning is removed before 1994? All the people of Wales will welcome any speeding up of the programme.

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Mr David Hunt (Wirral West)

I visited the site a few days ago and the boundary line was pointed out to me. The hon. Gentleman is correct, most of the gaps are in west Glamorgan. However, the hon. Gentleman was wrong in his other remarks. On site, I took out my pocket calculator and worked out that I was now devoting a total of 163 million in resources to fill the M4 gaps. I regard that as worthwhile investment because, according to the strategy that the Minister of State pioneered for working out values, for 163 million invested we get 187 million worth of improvement. The hon. Gentleman sought to make a party point, but I cannot recall the extent to which his party when it was in office gave this high priority. We certainly do.

The national health service is fast approaching one of its most important changes since its foundation in 1947. In Wales, we are spending more than ever before on health and personal social services, and I take great pride in that. Spending in Wales is 55 per head more than it is in England. Activity in the health service in Wales is at an all-time high. I am happy to say that 472,021 in-patients, 94,624 day-patients and 2,296,064 out-patients were treated in the year to June 1990. Those figures represent increases of 365 per cent., 246 per cent. and nearly 30 per cent. respectively on the 1979 figures. We are also making the most of the new treatments that are available and the potential of new technologies.

Although I do not normally enjoy watching open-heart operations, I was much impressed with the technical advancements in coronary treatment and bone marrow transplants that I recently witnessed at the University hospital of Wales. It was marvellous to watch that work, and to realise that it is some of the most pioneering work that is being done anywhere in Europe.

The district health authority chairmen have responded constructively and enthusiastically to the opportunities presented by the national health service reforms. Moreover, during the past year, Pembrokeshire district health authority has expressed interest to me in seeking self-governing status. I was pleased to be able to tell the authority that I was content for it to work up its proposal into a formal application.

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Mr Win Griffiths (Bridgend)

We are impressed by the fact that those working in the health service in Wales are treating more people than ever before. That is a tribute to their efficiency, although it may also be a comment on what 12 years of Tory government have done to the health of people in Wales.

Does the Secretary of State intend to find more funds to allow people with renal problems to use the drug erythropoetin, or EPO? At present, only about one third of those who could benefit from such treatment are able to obtain it, given the level of cash allocations to, for instance, the renal unit at Cardiff royal infirmary.

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Mr David Hunt (Wirral West)

The hon. Gentleman's party political points are always a little contrived. He did, however, raise a point of substance about a drug. I shall not pontificate from the Dispatch Box about which drugs should and should not be used; that must be a matter for the clinical judgment of those involved in the medical committees. As for the hon. Gentleman's point about money, I need only point to the record of the past 12 years. When we came into office, 480 million was being spent on the health service in Wales. Next year it will be 1,654 million. Opposition Members should not try to read us lessons on their failure to fund the health service properly in the 1970s.

The hon. Gentleman's other remarks give me a chance to pay tribute not only to those who work in the health service, but to the extremely hard-working and professional civil servants who look after Wales from the Welsh Office. During my nine months as Secretary of State, I have never failed to be impressed by the commitment of all those who work in Wales to improve the quality of the service there.

I now want to sy something about the essential foundation of all our achievements in the Principality. I hope that, in doing so, I shall be able to dispel some of the myths perpetrated by the merchants of doom and gloom on the Opposition Benches who seem so determined to talk Wales down. I do not include all Opposition Members in that description, but to listen to some of them one would think not only that our traditional industries had contracted—which is true—but that nothing had come in to take their place, which is far from true.

The Welsh economy is not isolated from that of the rest of the United Kingdom. Unemployment is rising now, but there is no sign that it will return to its previous high level. Since 1986, the unemployment gap between Wales and the United Kingdom as a whole has fallen from 26 per cent. to 07 per cent. In the meantime, employment in Wales has never been so high, with the civilian work force standing at 1,239,000.

The narrowing of the gap between unemployment in Wales and that in the rest of the United Kingdom is a symbol of the point that I want to make to Opposition Members—indeed, to the whole House. The rebirth of the Welsh economy over the past decade—I pay tribute to all the people in Wales for the part that they have played—has left us extremely well placed to ride out the present downturn, and to exploit the upturn as it comes.

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Dr Kim Howells (Pontypridd)

This is an important moment in the history of Wales. Today is the last full day on which the south Wales miners will be served by an elected full-time president.

May I take the Secretary of State back to a statement that he made earlier about the courage shown by Welsh boys fighting out in the Gulf? Perhaps one of the mistakes made over the past decade, and indeed, in earlier decades, was our throwing away rather too easily a great natural resource in coal. Given our dependence on the Gulf and its politics, we could well do with a more stable and consistent supply of coal from south Wales.

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Mr David Hunt (Wirral West)

The first time I went underground at a pit was in Wales, although not in south Wales—at the Point of Ayr. I have gone underground several times in Wales, and I never cease to be impressed by the resource of those involved in deep coal mining, and the way in which they try to overcome the geological problems. I think that the hon. Gentleman would be the first to admit that these problems are real and often intense, and that is why I disagree with his conclusion.

The Government's policy is well known: it is to defeat inflation. It is working—inflation is clearly falling, and interest rates are beginning to follow suit. Once they are plainly on a downward trend, investment and growth will start to pick up again. I believe that the Welsh economy is extremely healthy—much healthier than the Opposition had any right to expect, given the state in which they left it in 1979.

The hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) can, and probably will, furnish us with a list of industries and factories which are experiencing difficulties. In the past year, probably the most serious was the decision by United Engineering Steels to close its plant at Brymbo, outside Wrexham. I acknowledge that that was a terrible blow to the local people. I went to Brymbo last Friday, and heard from them about the extent of their problems. I hope, however, that the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside will himself acknowledge the amount of effort that the Government have put into alleviating the effect on the local economy. On Friday I announced a further 185 million in aid for projects affected by the Brymbo closure, which brings to over 8 million the resources directed towards mitigating the effects of the closure on the area. In addition, there has been the European regional development fund grant of 2,229,000.

The Government will respond to the occasional set-backs in the Welsh economy, but we are encouraged about its longer-term prospects. The CBI has made it clear that those prospects are even brighter than those in the rest of the United Kingdom, and I believe that the medium to longer-term prospects are as good as ever.

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Mr David Hunt (Wirral West)

When I have finished this point.

How have we in Wales moved from being one of the most depressed regions in the United Kingdom to having some of the brightest prospects? I believe that one of the main reasons is that we have had the courage to restructure the traditional industries that were the bedrock of the economy when they had exhausted themselves. We did not try to prop them up regardless of the amount of activity that they could generate, the costs that they incurred and the demand for their products. The day of reckoning was hard, and was made harder because it was postponed by the Labour party in the 1970s. We faced up to it and undertook a restructuring of Welsh industry.

That task has not been completed, but much has been accomplished. The most dramatic aspect of our resurgence has been the amount of inward investment in Wales. Last year, 142 projects were secured—a record number—promising 15,000 new and safeguarded jobs and an investment of almost 640 million. The people of Wales have every right to be proud of that magnificent achievement. In a five-year period, that represents a 75 per cent. increase in the annual number of projects, and a more than doubling in jobs and investment.

In the past five years, the people of Wales have secured an average of no fewer than two projects a week from abroad and the rest of the United Kingdom. Those projects provide good jobs—for example, at Bosch, Toyota, British Airways or the new Imperial college science park at Duffryn. A key factor in our success is that companies that come to Wales stay and expand their activities.

It has become known that Wales is a good place to invest because we—the Government, local authorities, the development agencies and the people—form a partnership in which we all play our part. That is why we have the largest concentration of Japanese inward investment in Europe.

A key role in attracting inward investment is played by Welsh Development International, the inward investment arm of the Welsh Development agency. I am delighted to be able to announce that next year I shall raise financial provision for the WDI by more than 2 million.

However, inward investment is not enough; we must develop the market for our goods. This year, as in former years, ministerial colleagues and I will lead trade missions of Welsh business people to new European markets. Last October, I led a trade mission to Lyon. Next month, 29 business men and women from Wales will join my hon. Friend the Minister of State on a visit to Milan. Later in the year, there will be a visit to Barcelona and I shall shortly visit Stuttgart.

I hope that the House will recognise Stuttgart, Lyon, Milan and Barcelona as the capitals of the four motor regions of Europe, which Wales proudly joins. Our links with Baden-Wurttemberg are the most developed, and they encompass a wide range of activities. Since the formal declaration between Wales and Baden-Wurttemberg was signed a year ago, more than 20 joint activities have been planned or are under way, ranging from industrial collaboration to joint research projects and from collaboration and research in health management to co-operation in maintaining and protecting our countryside.

People think of inward investment in terms of industry, but initiatives for encouraging new business in Wales range far beyond just manufacturing. For example, under the financial services initiative, which was launched by my predecessor, local authorities in south Wales joined the Welsh Development Agency to undertake a focused campaign to draw in projects in that high-growth sector. I pay tribute to everybody involved in that initiative, which has been successful in securing more than 20 new projects and promising more than 3,500 new jobs. Employment in the sector has grown by 20 per cent. Rothschilds' decision to open an office in Cardiff—only its second regional office in the United Kingdom—was clear recognition of Cardiff's increasing status as a major financial centre.

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Mr Rhodri Morgan (Cardiff West)

I hope that my intervention will not be quite as long as the point that the Secretary of State was making. Does he agree that the acid test of regional policy is whether we are closing the gap with the rest of the United Kingdom? The best measure is not the statistics that the Secretary of State gave but those on gross domestic product per head. He said that we are closing the gap and spoke of the rebirth of the economy. Gross domestic product in Wales used to be 86 per cent. of the United Kingdom average, but it is now 84 per cent. Does he accept that the gap has widened, not narrowed?

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Mr David Hunt (Wirral West)

I have seen much correspondence between the hon. Gentleman and the Welsh Development Agency on the rate of inward investment, on projects and on the rate of GDP per head. When I took over as Secretary of State for Wales, I said that we had some serious problems—low GDP per head and low activity rates. I still regard those as challenges, but they are problems that we inherited. I should like the hon. Gentleman to start proclaiming our achievements instead of decrying them and to point out the challenges that lie ahead rather than the problems.

I have already mentioned the Welsh Development Agency, the work of which has been a key factor in the resurgence of Wales. It undertakes a wide range of activities, which is why I was delighted to be able to announce an increase in its budget for next year to 160 million—its highest ever budget, and approximately 10 million higher than expected. It is set to remain above the 1990–91 level in each of the subsequent two years. Next year's budget will be more than 60 per cent. higher in real terms than five years ago.

Property development will continue to be a major element of the WDA's activities in 1991–92, and I am pleased to announce that I have approved the agency's 1991–92 property development programme, which sets out its strategy for spending 716 million in the coming year.

The agency tells me that it will prepare a detailed, comprehensive document for publication next month. the key elements that I have agreed with it include particular emphasis on land assembly and custom-built developments, which together are expected to account for more than 30 million of the total, as well as continuing a significant programme of advanced factory construction. The property programme is vital to Wales's ability to secure major inward investment projects. I am looking forward to the Imperial college science park at Newport, which I have already mentioned.

Increasing emphasis will be placed on such partnership developments following the successful first year of the Welsh property venture initiative, which is on course to exceed its targets. The agency has earmarked 10 million for that key element of its programme. High priority will be given to providing premises in rural areas, in support of the rural initiative that I announced last week. The programme ensures that the agency will be on course to meet its targets under the valleys programme of construction, which is to construct 25 million sq ft of premises in the first five years of the extended programme.

It provides for the A55 road of opportunity initiative, under which the agency has pledged to spend 15 million in north Wales next year.

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Mr Ted Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney)

What is the assumption on the sale of property by the WDA in the next financial year?

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Mr David Hunt (Wirral West)

The targets have been given to me and I have announced them. They are detailed targets, based on the best available evidence, and I shall supply them to the hon. Gentleman. I have accepted the targets, which are based on the best information that the WDA says it can give me on forthcoming market conditions. If those conditions change, I shall have to reconsider the figures.

Last September, I announced that the agency would in future be carrying out its land reclamation, environmental improvement and urban renewal activities under two strategic programmes—Landscape Wales and Urban Development Wales. I am delighted to be able to announce new increases in the agency's expenditure on the programmes in 1991–92. The budget for Landscape Wales will rise by 4 million to 31 million next year and that for Urban Development Wales will rise by 3 million to 10 million.

The agency has now established Urban Development Wales as an innovative urban programme which aims to regenerate the economies and environment of Welsh towns that show significant growth potential and which will link the development expertise and investment of the private sector, the controlled use of central Government funds and the commitment of local authorities and their communities in a series of joint venture partnerships. A joint venture is already established in Llanelli and I am sure that the House will be delighted to hear that earlier today an action programme in the Cynon valley, estimated to cost about 18 million was launched by the local authority and the WDA. The partners will be looking to harness substantial private sector support for the programme and I wish them every possible success. The Cynon valley is only one of the communities that the agency is identifying as having the potential for fast and successful growth. I look forward to hearing news of others in the near future.

I am also pleased to announce that the WDA will be launching a new information technology initiative targeted specifically at capturing high technology companies for Wales. Initially, this will concentrate on south-east Wales. A key part of the strategy is the concept of the extension of the M4 information technology corridor into Wales. The WDA is already working closely with local authorities in the development of other marketing initiatives for north and west Wales.

A switch of industrial emphasis such as we have had in Wales in recent years is bound to lead to a demand for urban regeneration and the removal of industrial dereliction. In the first three years of the valleys programme, the Welsh Office has approved grants totalling 95 million towards projects in the south Wales valleys under the urban development grant and its successor, the urban investment grant. The grants are designed to bring development to derelict urban sites and are expected to trigger private sector investment of more than 40 million and create or safeguard 1,500 permanent jobs.

In Cardiff we have one of the most exciting urban development corporation projects in the whole United Kingdom. We are already seeing some notable developments in Cardiff bay—the continued progress at Atlantic wharf, including the Brains brewery investment in a 32 million leisure complex; plans for the creation of the maritime community at Penarth haven; the construction of more than 400 houses by a consortium of private builders at Windsor quay; and Grosvenor Waterside's 125 million redevelopment planned for the Roath basin. In time, the opportunities created by the development strategy could yield 25,000 new jobs—created by private sector investment of 15 billion.

A similar catalyst to economic regeneration in north Wales is the A55—the road of opportunity. But that is not our only contribution. The Welsh Development Agency has made considerable efforts to regenerate north Wales. During 1989–90, 105 million was spent on industrial property in Clwyd and Gwynedd. This included speculative factories in Wrexham, Deeside and Gaerwen. Projects currently under way include the business centre at Park Menai, advance factories at Greenfield business park, the industrial site at Caernarfon and Tai Llwyd at Kinmel bay. In the current financial year, the agency will be increasing its expenditure on property development by almost 5 million, and some 15 million will be spent on property development centred on places such as Wrexham, Deeside, Llandudno and St Asaph.

In the past few years, the private sector has also become active in the industrial and commercial property market in north Wales. Let me mention just two ventures that point to the quality of private sector interest that has come to our part of the world—the St. David's business park at Ewloe—which is being developed by the Redrow group—and the Cheshire-based Pochins plans to construct 21,000 sq ft of business floor space at Wrexham. Those investment decisions are in indication of the continuing strength of the local property market.

I cannot leave the subject of north Wales without mentioned that it is just over a year since the devastating floods hit the north Wales coast. Earlier this week we published our response to the Select Committee report on the flooding and the efforts to clear up after it. The Government responded to the devastation of the affected communities by channelling some 4 million of aid to them. British Rail has now completed its consideration of, and decided on its preferred option for, the rebuilding of the sea wall.

Now let me say something about rural areas. Last week in the Welsh Grand Committee, I announced a rural initiative to parallel the valleys initiative and to co-ordinate and maximise the benefit of the Government's substantial investment in rural Wales, which runs at about 1 million a day. I took the opportunity of making various announcements, which I shall not repeat now.

I reiterate my commitment to agriculture, which is an essential part of the economy of rural Wales. From my frequent visits to rural Wales and my discussions not only on farms but with the farmers' unions, I know of the serious difficulties facing Welsh agriculture. I shall not minimise them, nor do I seek to play down the vital importance of agriculture to large areas of Wales.

We have been able to announce the first across-the-board increase for five years in the rate of hill livestock compensatory allowances payable in the less-favoured areas. That will represent a cash injection of more than 37 million, for the industry in Wales, of which 48 million is additional. We have also been able to make advance payments of the sheep annual premium and the suckler cow premium payments are now running at 10 million a year. The farmers of Wales can have no doubt that we have their best interests at heart. Their representatives know that I am always willing to see them to discuss the difficulties that the industry faces.

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Mr Paul Flynn (Newport West)

While the Opposition are still reeling from the battery of statistics that the Secretary of State has given us, will the right hon. Gentleman say a word about what he intends to do about the disgracefully low pay both in farming and in urban areas?

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Mr David Hunt (Wirral West)

No, I will not. In a debate on agriculture, I would be prepared to discuss a great variety of subjects, including the whole question of pay in agriculture. But I have been going for 38 minutes and I want to complete my speech. I reiterate, however, that I am totally committed to the view that a healthy agriculture industry in Wales in absolutely vital for the future economic, social and environmental well-being of our country.

The rural initiative represents a shift of emphasis in rural policy. Last December, I announced the refocusing of the valleys initiative. For the next two years, I want the valleys programme to focus on partnership with the people. Several valleys communities will have the opportunity to put their own plans for revival in practice, Business in the Community will operate a private project to encourage employee volunteering and the South East Wales Arts Association will run an arts festival in the autumn of 1992, based on eight buildings renovated as part of the programme and timed to coincide with the great national garden festival in 1992.

The urban programme has been a source of considerable investment over the years, both within the valleys communities and elsewhere in Wales. For 199192, I have been able to allocate nearly 379 million to the programme which, according to the local authorities, will result in the creation or safeguarding of 3,500 jobs. More than 65 per cent. of that has been allocated to projects aimed at economic regeneration, including 45 million for nursery factory provision, 35 milion for industrial infrastructure, almost 26 million for grants and loans to projects in commercial and industrial improvement and more than 12 million for tourism and tourist-related projects. Only last week, I was able to approve 24 million for a number of deserving economic projects throughout Wales.

Tourism is also an essential part of the Welsh economy. The Wales tourist board is determined to promote Wales as a major destination for tourism in conjunction with a number of other agencies and local authorities. That does not just take the form of marketing Wales as a place to take holidays. It can also take the form of direct financial assistance toward tourism projects. For example, since 1971 the Wales tourist board has provided 35 million towards 1,600 different tourism projects and I pay tribute to that work.

The total capital cost of those projects has been in excess of 180 million and as a consequence 7,200 jobs have been safeguarded or created. Perhaps the most prominent project ever to be supported by the Wales tourist board is Butlins Starcoast world at Pwllhelll. That represents the largest ever investment in a single tourism project in Wales and I understand from Butlins that it is embarking on a recruitment programme for 1,000 people for the summer season.

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Mr Roy Hughes (Newport East)

I am glad to hear that the Wales tourist board is making progress. However, could it not do even better if it was allowed to operate under its own title abroad and so encourage more foreign visitors to Wales? That would be a great advantage.

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Mr David Hunt (Wirral West)

Then Wales tourist board has objectives in several directions. It certainly wants to increase the number of visitors from the United Kingdom into Wales. It also wants to encourage visitors from abroad. As the hon. Gentleman may know, the WTB has just appointed an officer in the United States and it is working closely with the British Tourism Association to market Wales abroad.

The WTB will be closely involved this year in the Cutty Sark tall ships race which is due to take place out of Milford Haven next July. That will be a wonderful opportunity and a super challenge to present Wales to the world and I am sure that it will be a tremendous triumph.

One of the key factors in equipping and sustaining our future economic growth will be our ability to provide our work force with the skills to enable them to compete in the international market place. The way to achieve that, as with so much else, is through partnership that involves Government, business, individuals and the wider community. That partnership should take place at the local level where the needs of employers and individuals are clearly defined. That is why, by setting up training and enterprise councils, we have given employers a major new opportunity to transform training in the communities to meet local needs. Our TEC network will be complete by the beginning of the next financial year which is well ahead of schedule and well before that in the rest of the United Kingdom.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Employment has announced increased resources for employment training. I am pleased to be able to announce today that there will be an additional amount of money for Wales of just over 8 million for our TECs. That is an increase on the original allocation of just over 15 per cent.

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Mr Barry Jones (Alyn and Deeside)

With regard to TECs, will the extra 8 million mean that no employment training or youth training places will be lost next year, that no training providers in Wales will go out of business and that no trainers will lose their jobs? The right hon. Gentleman referred to 8 million. Is that supplementary to the 120 million announced by the Secretary of State for Employment earlier this week?

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Mr David Hunt (Wirral West)

The 8 million is extra money for Wales, but forms part of the announcement about new resources made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Employment. However, it is over and above the original budget allocated to TECs. The extra money will enable TECs to ensure that employment training continues to play its part in helping long-term unemployed people and those with special needs back to work.

Our training strategy is ahead of the rest of the United Kingdom. Our TECs are employer-led and locally based and they can identify with the areas they serve. We will give them the freedom to develop strategies for training and enterprise to meet the needs of their own areas. The TECs currently operating in Wales are already showing how, working in partnership with the community, they can develop individual approaches to the local labour markets.

I hope that I have said enough this afternoon to show clearly why I believe that the Welsh economy is so well placed to survive the present downturn and take advantage of the upturn as it arrives. Before I finish and before the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside—for whom I have great respect, which is why I think that he may attempt to blackwash what I have said today—makes his contribution, I have a further series of announcements to make.

I am pleased to announce today my approval for financial support for continued development on nine projects: in north Wales, by Mita (UK) Ltd. at Bodelwyddan; Kemitron UK Ltd. at Deeside, W. A. Turner at Flint and Label Research Ltd. at Wrexham; and in south and west Wales by Kysor Europe Marketing Ltd. at Ystrad Mynach; Ascom Telecommunications at St. Mellons; Harris Pye (Holdings) Ltd. at Barry Dock; A. M. K. Plastics Ltd. at Llantrisant, and Slimma (Wales) Ltd. at Cardigan, Lampeter, Fishguard and Swansea.

Those projects are diverse and include, for example, the production of accessories for electrical systems, printing of labels for the pharmaceutical industry, car components and steel tube processing. The total investment is 30 million towards which I am pleased to put 525 million of taxpayers' money. The projects will create nearly 650 new jobs for Wales. I am delighted that the announcement is tangible evidence of companies' willingness and confidence to invest in Wales, and I am glad that the Welsh Office has been able to support the projects. I am confident of further forthcoming announcements in the coming months that will bring even more job opportunities to Wales.

It is always difficult for a community when its traditional industries and employers decline. However, we should not allow our concern for that to overshadow the prospects for the future. I remain convinced that the medium to long-term prospects are as good for Wales as they ever were, and I invite the House to agree with me.

5:56 pm
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Mr Barry Jones (Alyn and Deeside)

The Secretary of State for Wales began by referring to our brave soldiery in the Gulf. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman entirely, as do all hon. Members. The Secretary of State may not know that Francis Evans of Flint died in the Gulf. He was a REME lance corporal and a full-time soldier of courage and professionalism. I know his father, Ted Evans, and Francis was a superb son and a fine, professional and very brave soldier. He will be greatly missed in Flint and we pay tribute to what he did and what he was seeking to do.

The Secretary of State also referred to our late colleague Mr. Donald Coleman. He would have taken part in this debate had he been here and we would all have listened to him with great respect because he was a fine constituency Member.

At 3 pm today I was told of the loss of 238 steel jobs at British Steel at Shotton. I must protest about that appalling development, bearing in mind the devastating job losses that my constituency suffered during the 1980s. Why must those jobs be lost? Will the Secretary of State guarantee that no more jobs will be lost? When did he learn of those losses? I must express my anger at this development. It constitutes appalling treatment. My constituents at Shotton steelworks break records. They co-operate with demanning and make a great deal of money for the board of British Steel. They are continually increasing productivity. To sum up, anything that the company asks of my steel-working constituents, they deliver, but what have we had in return? An appalling decision, which I must protest about hearing in this honourable House. I repeat my question to the Secretary of State; when did he know about the job losses?

Hon. Members:

Answer.

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Mr Roy Hughes (Newport East)

Does my hon. Friend agree that it might appear to the House—it certainly appears this way to me—that it was deceitful of the Secretary of State not to make an announcement about that great loss of steel jobs? After all, the right hon. Gentleman is our representative, our spokesman, in the Cabinet.

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Mr Barry Jones (Alyn and Deeside)

My hon. Friend speaks with great authority on steel matters. In the absence of the Secretary of State coming to the Dispatch Box to answer any of my questions, I must assume that he did not know.

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Mr Raymond Powell (Ogmore)

What surprised me was the Secretary of State's peroration when he boasted about bringing 600 jobs to Wales. As soon as my hon. Friend rises, he talks about half that number of jobs being lost in one industry alone. It is disgusting that the right hon. Gentleman has refused to answer my hon Friend's questions.

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Mr Barry Jones (Alyn and Deeside)

I ask the right hon. Gentleman for any information that he can give me. I also ask him to receive seriously my deputation early next week when I hope that members of Alyn and Deeside council, Clwyd county council and the affected steelworkers may be able to see him. I look to him for his good offices and hope that he will enable me to meet the chairman of British Steel, Lord Scholey, when I shall be able to tell British Steel of my deep concern at these developments.

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Mr David Hunt (Wirral West)

I do not want to turn this into a match in which we bat job losses against job increases. The increase of 650 jobs that I announced are directly supported by the Government's support of 51 million. I should like to make it clear that I shall be pleased to receive the hon. Gentleman's delegation, when we can discuss this announcement in greater detail. At the moment, however, I am unable to verify the exact number of jobs involved, although the hon. Gentleman is obviously quoting a figure that he has seen in some announcement.

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Mr Barry Jones (Alyn and Deeside)

I must move on in my speech, because many right hon. and hon. Members wish to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

It is clear both to me and to my right hon. and hon. Friends that we do not recognise the Wales about which the Secretary of State has spoken. It is for the right hon. Gentleman to listen to our worries. The right hon. Gentleman rattled the sabre of charge capping, but I challenge him to name one irresponsible local authority in Wales.

I warmly welcome the 650 jobs that the nine projects that we have been promised will provide one day. I also welcome the 8 million for the training and enterprise councils. The Cynon valley cash is encouraging. However, as the right hon. Gentleman has announced some money for Cynon valley, why will he not meet the Heads of the Valleys Standing Conference? I urge him to do so.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells), I pay a sincere tribute to the president of the South Wales National Union of Mineworkers, Mr. Dutfield, who stands down today. He is greatly respected throughout Wales. He is a fourth generation miner, who has 30 years' experience of face-working himself. His commitment and integrity are compelling. However, I remind the Secretary of State of what has happened while Mr. Dutfield has been president. In 1985, there were 20 pits in south Wales, employing 20,000 men: today, there are only four pits and 2,000 men.

We have had our triumphs in Wales this year. Our technical triumphs include Ford and Bosch, and Toyota in my constituency. We have all welcomed the marvellous news of British Airways' planned expansion at Cardiff airport. I congratulate both the Welsh Office and the local authorities involved—both the county and the city authorities—on their work to achieve that. However, may I also congratulate the Welsh Development Agency and the Development Board for Rural Wales? I advise the Secretary of State firmly that those agencies were created by a Labour Government—often in the teeth of opposition from Conservative Members—[HON. MEMBERS: "They voted against."' Yes, there were votes on the matter and there were votes against those agencies. However, the economic life of Wales during the 1980s would have been a complete disaster without those agencies. I am glad that there are now science parks in Wales at Aberystwyth, Deeside, Bridgend, Swansea, Cardiff and Menai Bridge. They must form the future base of the Welsh economy.

The Welsh Office is entitled to sing about its successes, but it is short sighted of the Secretary of State to come here today and to imply that all is well. I shall put it this way: Service industry cannot substitute for manufacturing industry … The decline in Britain's manufacturing base has continued … This country does not give a high enough priority to manufacturing industry … Industrial research and development has been growing at a slower pace than elsewhere. Those are not my words: they are the words of the current chairman of Imperial Chemical Industries. Furthermore: The rumoured large rises in power prices will deal a savage blow to manufacturers … Business is being left to carry the can Manufacturers of steel, chemicals, paper and industrial gases may face increases in electricity costs of up to 25 per cent. Interest rates have been too high for too long. Those are not my views: they are the view of Sir Brian Corby, the president of the Confederation of British Industry.

The claims made by Conservative Ministers only two years ago that they had produced an "economic miracle" now look absurd. In the St. David's day debate two years ago, the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) said: Wales is experiencing a substantial fall in unemployment".—[Official Report, 1 March 1989; Vol. 148, c. 306.] The latest CBI "Welsh Industrial Trends Survey", which was published last month, reports that business confidence in Wales is experiencing its sharpest decline since the survey began in 1978.

The Cardiff chamber of commerce and industry stated recently: it is clear that future investment in plant, machinery and buildings—the last bastion of confidence in the near future—has finally succumbed and investment plans are almost universally being revised downwards". In a memorable speech last year, my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) said that we must pay attention to indigenous Welsh companies, to the industry that is already here. He described—he derided—the supposed Conservative transformation because, as he said: we have only 6,000 miners but 60,000 bank employees. With prescient words, my hon. Friend warned of difficulties if we build local economies … on the shifting sands of the service sector".—[Official Report, 1 March 1990; Vol. 168, c. 453–55.] He was right. Today, the banks are shedding labour and we are losing steel and coal jobs. Indeed, the head of Barclays Bank, Sir John Quinton, who is not noted for his support for my party, has suggested that his bank will have to lose a large number of jobs. So is Lloyds. Indeed, Sir John Quinton himself said a few weeks ago that he feared a 1930s-scale problem in the economy. I hope that he is wrong.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) said in this debate last year: We in Wales do not have immunity from the consequences of the Government's hideous and mounting economic problems."—[Official Report, 1 March 1990; Vol. 168, c. 427.] They were prophetic words indeed. My right hon. Friend was absolutely right. Even the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Jones) told in his speech last year of several companies which were on the critical list. He is on the critical list, too, but that is neither here nor there. He warned of a move from loss to liquidation. He warned that an overdose of interest rates might damage the economy. He was right—it has. Government policy errors have put major pressures on Welsh industry.

There is a disturbing trend in jobs. I want the Secretary of State to admit it. May I show him some headlines such as: Job losses average 200 a week. That was a headline from the Western Mail, a daily newspaper in the Principality. Another such headline was: Dole total surges up to 100,000. It is apparent that the worst cases are in Aberdare, Bangor, Caernarfon, Holyhead, Rhymney and parts of Pembrokeshire.

In south Wales there have been closures, redundancies or announced redundancies AB Electronics, British Steel, Wolseley Electronics in Pontypridd, Mardy colliery, Deep Navigation Mine, the great company Hoover, the BBC and Harlech Television. Those are white collar and blue collar posts in basic industries and technology industries. The greatest losses are in mid Glamorgan, south Glamorgan, west Glamorgan and Gwent. We are losing and we have lost well-paid, real jobs which required training. They were jobs of status and the very jobs that create wealth. They were jobs for breadwinners and mortgage payers.

I remind the House that the Conservatives have been in power for the past 12 years. Now the evidence of recession is all around us. Redundancies in Wales increased the final quarter of last year by 43 per cent. on the previous year. Unemployment in Wales has risen for four successive months and for eight of the past nine months. Output in the Welsh economy fell by almost 2 per cent. in the third quarter of last year.

In north Wales the story is similar. Brymbo steelworks has closed with the loss of 1,250 jobs. At Owens Corning and Remsdag jobs have been lost. At Castle Cement 200 jobs were lost. Perhaps 300 jobs at the Laura Ashley clothing company will be lost. At G-Plan Furniture 120 jobs will be lost, and at Style Furniture 60 jobs will be lost. More than 100 jobs will be lost at Pilkington. There will be 70 job losses at J.C.B. Axles and Gearboxes and 70 at Marchwiel creamery. Further west, jobs will be lost at Austin Taylor Telecommunications and Crosville bus company.

North-east Wales has lost more than 2,000 jobs in a short time. I conclude that the new economy that the Government helped to build is not yet sufficiently robust and is suffering redundancies in high technology and manufacturing industry. My excellent local authority of Alyn and Deeside published a report this week which said, even before it knew about the redundancies at Shotton: there are substantial deep seated structural inadequacies within the local economy of North East Clwyd and Deeside in particular, and demonstrate that there is still a continuing need for intervention by the Government, its agencies and the European Commission to help to protect, rebuild and restructure the local economy because it has not yet developed the intrinsic strength to successfully complete these tasks on its own. Of course it has not. The economy will need all the assistance of the Welsh Office and all the agencies at its disposal as well as all the assistance that local authorities can give.

I have expressed my anger about Shotton. I counsel the Secretary of State, in the light of the evidence that I have given and the latest redundancies at Shotton, not to issue news releases entitled: Brighter future for North Wales economy, says David Hunt. Such notices are misjudged. The Secretary of State must have a finer sense of what is happening in Wales than to make crudely optimistic statements as he did today. It would be far better if he told us other things and said, "We look to you to give us assistance. I acknowledge that there are defects."

It is clear to all of us that the redundancies and the shake-out will continue for some time yet. The deep recession might, with bad luck, be even worse than we expect. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent was right in his speech last year and so was my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney. Job losses of such quality and in such amounts are serious. They denude our manufacturing, wealth-creating base. The Government's economic mismanagement is undermining the hard-fought, indeed, brilliant gains of inward investment. It is 'hurrah' for Sharp, Brother, Toyota, Ford and Bosch. That is well done. But it is also goodbye to Brymbo, south Wales collieries, Castle Cement and the Hoover plant jobs at Merthyr. It is serious.

I remind the Secretary of State of the recession in the construction industry. The Building Federation in Wales warns that 4,000 jobs could be lost in Wales. Its state of trade survey is the worst for 10 years. In response to a parliamentary question, I was told, incredibly, that only nine of Wales's 37 district councils made new housing starts in 1990. Such building is the best spur to the construction industry. No starts were made in Blaenau Gwent, Cynon Valley, Islwyn, Lliw Valley, Merthyr Tydfil, Neath, Newport, Rhondda, Rhymney, Swansea or Torfaen. That is incredible.

Homelessness is not exclusive to the great cities. It is in every town and larger village in Wales. It is a horrendous feature of Welsh life. The waiting lists are extensive. It is for the Government to solve the problem because the Government created the problem and they have been in office since 1979.

It is so wounding to families when they cannot find affordable tenancies. Mortgage rates are sky high. They cannot rent homes from their local council. The problem is the Government's fault and the Government should implement policies to deal with it urgently. The fact that so many of our young people are sleeping out in our towns and villages in Wales, even in the coldest weather, is a scar on our communities. It reflects nothing but ill on the Government.

The Government, having created unemployment, are abandoning the unemployed. They are cutting their training budget and putting hundreds of employment training and youth training scheme places in Wales at risk. They are putting training providers out of business and closing training programmes. I want the cuts to be reversed. The employment training centre at Pentre in Deeside in my constituency will close at the end of March with a loss of nine full-time jobs and 115 ET training places.

In the north-east Wales area alone, 700 ET places are to be axed, a cut of over 40 per cent., and the 17 operating training organisations will be reduced to nine. Community Activities and Training in Ogmore—CATO—in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) should be allowed to continue. I recently accompanied my hon. Friend to see the Secretary of State, who was kind enough to see us. We argued for the continued existence of CATO. My hon. Friend made out an excellent case for CATO, which has a good track record. It has a farm, it assists those who need adult education and it serves an area which has lost its collieries. It is a fine organisation which should remain intact. Following a ministerial visit, it was given a good bill of health, and my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore has given CATO good leadership.

I must refer to the predicament in Ferndale of the Ferndale-Rhondda home improvement service. Although it is instructive and has a Rhondda reputation, it fears the loss of staff, perhaps 15 of 33. It deals annually with perhaps 50 trainees and it does only good. It helps pensioners, providing them with new floors and windows. It rectifies, for example, damage done by frozen water pipes. It is currently helping an 87-year-old blind resident and aims to rewire a terrace of homes in Ferndale. It is professionally successful, socially necessary and economically beneficial. Rather than going out of business, it should not be at risk in any way.

The Observer on Sunday reported that 6,000 experts who have been training the unemployed face redundancy next month. That cannot be right. As Britain's unemployment rises, why put 6,000 trainers out of work? Is it wrong and poor government. It is tragic that Britain should be advancing—rather than use the word "advancing", I should say "reversing"—in that way, and I urge the Secretary of State to fight in Cabinet to rectify that wrong. Government expenditure on regional preferential assistance to industry has been cut. That must be labelled a foolish policy. Welsh Office spending is to be cut by 35 per cent. in real terms over the next three years.

My hon. Friends and I say that the injustice of Government policy has found no better expression than in the poll tax, which is unfair, unpopular and inefficient. It is clear from experience that the inefficiencies, the cost and the waste of the poll tax are multiplying rather than diminishing with time.

I find, talking to professionals, that the poll tax is difficult and costly to collect. In Alyn and Deeside alone, there have been more than 27,000 changes in the poll tax register since April. About 25 per cent. of staff time in the poll tax section is occupied with the registration process. The system costs 995 per charge payer in Alyn and Deeside.

Labour policy for a system of modern rates is clear. The same cannot be said of the Government. They are in a mess on the poll tax and the Secretary of State for the Environment is said to be fretting at the poll tax muddle according to an "unnamed senior Tory MP" quoted in The Sunday Times last weekend. According to that paper, he said: We are totally at sea. Ask half a dozen MPs what we should do and you get totally different answers. What is the position of the Secretary of State for Wales? As Minister for Local Government, he said in July 1989: I welcome the community charge system, to which I was committed at the last election and to which I remain committed".—[Official Report, 25 July 1989; Vol. 157, c. 900.]mmm In March 1990, only a year ago, the right hon. Gentleman said: the community charge is a much fairer and simpler system".—[Official Report, 21 March 1990; Vol. 169, c. 1109.] Tell that to the marines. We do not believe it.

Without a doubt, the Conservative party is divided over the poll tax issue and hon. Members who represent marginal seats know that it is an electoral albatross. At the same time, the Government do not seem willing or able to admit what everyone else has known for years—that the poll tax is a colossal, costly criminal blunder and that the only way forward is to abolish it. That we shall do.

The Secretary of State for Wales earned his promotion to the Cabinet for the efficient and enthusiastic manner in which he embraced and proposed the poll tax, improved its bite and defended it. So I look forward with interest to hearing him explain, as he surely will, why the poll tax must be abolished. I predict that soon the Minister who perfected the poll tax, tooled it up and oiled it to perfection will be disowning it for reasons not of conversion but of potential, hoped-for electoral gain.

The poll tax is destroying local government, so difficult is it to administer and collect. It has not been accepted or acknowledged by the people of Wales, because they know that it is unfair and unjust. At every electoral opportunity the people of Wales have rejected it, and that goes for Euro-elections, county elections and parliamentary by-elections. It has been rejected with contempt in Wales.

Today, more than ever, we must think about the future and Wales—the whole of Britain—has a clear choice. Either we build a strong, competitive, high-skill economy or we resign ourselves to becoming a low-paid, second-rate economy with all the implications that that has for unemployment, the standard of public services and our quality of life.

A Labour Government will be elected and, when that happens, we shall address ourselves to the problems of the people of Wales.

Several Hon. Members:

rose——

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Mr Harold Walker (Doncaster Central)

Order. A large number of hon. Members wish to take part in the debate. Brief speeches will avoid disappointment.

6:27 pm
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Mr Ian Grist (Cardiff Central)

The speech of the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) was revealing. He urged us to face up to what he called reality and we were assured that the policy of the Labour party towards rates was clear. He then passed to another subject without explaining his party's policy. Presumably it would take us back to where we started, with revaluation thrown in. If so, people would be in for a nasty surprise.

The hon. Gentleman's speech was typical of the activities of the last Labour Government. Indeed. it is almost 17 years to the day that the hon. Members for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley), for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Dr. Thomas), for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Howells) and I came into the House, following the election of 28 February 1974. The Labour party then had to wait till the October to get something like a workable majority, after which that Government produced the Welsh Development Agency. The wording of the measure that introduced the WDA was all part of the idea of the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) for an expansion of state power. It was in line with the proposed nationalisation of port-related activities, which Mr. John Mackintosh and Mr. Brian Walden managed to overcome only by refusing to support their then party.

I remember that period well. It was only after losing constituencies such as Ashfield in the most catastrophic by-election reverses that Labour lost its ideological edge and had to go to the IMF. That was after the hon. Member for Merthyr-Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) had told Welsh councils to spend, spend, spend. They did, but things came to a grinding halt when the A470 reached Taff's Well, and it remained there until we were elected in 1979.

The Labour Government had knocked all capital expenditure on the head. They were bust and had to creep around asking to be bailed out. Labour could not understand mathematics and the simple facts that he who spends too much goes bust, and that there is no magic source of money. It the Opposition were to cost their current proposals they would see that they would be back to the IMF very quickly, oil or no oil.

The hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside welcomed a host of modern companies. He compared them with three older forms of company and could not see that the new companies were essential for the end of this century and the beginning of the next. One might be nostalgic about older companies, but out-of-date methods have bedevilled Wales. The slowness of the Labour party in backing Monty Finniston to modernise our steel industry gave us much later heartache. We now have a profitable and, therefore, safe steel industry rather than the one that the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) saw closing in his constituency. The closure of the East Moors plant in Cardiff has left the shadow of unemployment over older people in my constituency and that of the hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael).

The Opposition have the extraordinary idea that if they do not like the game they can change the system. The hon. Member for Caernarfon may part company with me on that. When the Labour Government could not put through some of their more ideological ideas on the economy, they made a pledge about devolution and assemblies in Wales and Scotland. We spent a great deal of time on the two relevant Bills. They could not keep matters to one Bill because they lost the first vote. We were occupied with that for many nights, but that was helpful to a Government who could not get anything else through. However, in the end devolution also failed. There was a pledge for a referendum and it was on that that they crashed so badly in 1979. Now the Opposition say that they will not have a referendum but that devolution will be contained in their manifesto. It was in their 1974 manifesto, so I cannot see the difference.

The Opposition bleat about democracy, but do not seem prepared to have a referendum on devolution. However, there is little chance of their winning the next election. They never learn. They underestimate the necessity to reduce and keep down inflation. The right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent served in a Government who presided over 16 per cent. average inflation. That rotted savings, because interest rates were lower than the loss in the value of money. There was a negative interest rate. The right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) knows that, and he also knows that it was quite unpardonable because it robbed people who were thrifty enough to save for their old age.

This is my first speech from the Back Benches for about three years. It was a privilege to serve in the Welsh Office and it was a joy to meet many people throughout Wales, such as chairmen of local authorities or health authorities and people in voluntary service or housing associations. They underlined the fact that in Wales people at local level are all trying to work together. That gives us a great advantage over some parts of England, which seem to be in a permanent state of strife. I pay tribute to the staff who worked for me in the Welsh Office. They were greatly respected and looked upon as friends by the groups with which they had dealings. People in health and social services and housing knew personally those who were carrying out the building and administration in Wales. Those dedicated people were mostly Welsh or had chosen to work in the Welsh Office.

The Secretary of State gave many statistics about the health service. Such statistics can be rolled out to prove that there are no cuts, but I used to get rather fed up with that claim, because it is patently untrue. The Opposition should welcome the work of the Health Promotion Authority for Wales in promoting health rather than dealing with the consequences of ill health. We all have a part to play in that. They should welcome the publication of the agenda for action which shows the way forward for the administration kf the health service.

Targets have been given to administrators and doctors and to all of us in our various roles to further the health of the people of Wales which, for a variety of reasons, has not been good. By the end of the century we could be among the healthiest people in Europe. Wales is in the lead with its mental handicap and mental illness strategy, not just in the United Kingdom but in Europe. We have set a standard of which we can be proud.

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Dr Kim Howells (Pontypridd)

I agree with much of what the hon. Gentleman says about Wales's record on looking after patients who have been in long-stay mental hospitals. Is he satisfied with the funds that have been set aside for the care of long-stay mental health patients who are released from the hospitals into the community? I am sure he agrees that this issue is a great source of worry to many hon. Members.

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Mr Ian Grist (Cardiff Central)

The hon. Gentleman would be reassured if he appreciated that people will not be released from mental hospitals or homes unless they are capable of dealing with their new environment, in which they will need strong support and help. I hope that they will be close to their homes so that relatives and friends will be able easily to meet them. Because of the distances, that has a real meaning in places such as north Wales. They will be released only if funds are available to make that possible.

Joint planning is essential. One of the advantages of the Welsh Office is that it is able to co-ordinate housing, social services and the health service. In that context, we were disappointed by the postponement of the community care proposals. We in Wales are a little more advanced than the people in England and more capable of putting such proposals into operation. However, the speed with which we could have put them into operation would have tripped us, even in Wales, and the breathing space may have given us a good chance to put matters in order before the whistle is blown for the start. It was essential for England to have a delay.

The slogan that our intent is to add years to life and, more important, life to years is a good one. It is not just a matter of lengthening life, which is a problem that western countries now enjoy and endure. It has two sides to it, because it is essential to add life to years. We can all agree on that.

Because the Welsh Office is multi-functional, it can operate effectively in a co-ordinated way. For instance, the last Welsh house condition survey was extremely encouraging and showed the improvement in the aged housing stock compared to similar property in most of the United Kingdom. At last, we are getting on top of the problems of those rows of dilapidated former coal board houses. Although enormous sums have been spent—some 900 million—on repair and improvement of council and private housing, some people, sadly, still did not receive grants, largely because certain local authorities were less efficient than others in ensuring that their citizens knew their rights and that the money flowed where it was most needed.

When I was first in the Welsh Office, I was invited to look at housing in Islwyn. I agreed, firmly believing, in my ignorance, that I would be shown all the problems of that area, and told myself, "Steel yourself for a difficult day." In fact, it was the reverse: I was taken to see what the local authority was doing with the various Government schemes and what a tremendous fist it was making of those schemes. When the house condition survey was published, only 3 per cent. of its housing was shown to be unfit. That is the lowest percentage of all the local authorities in Wales.

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Mr Gareth Wardell (Gower)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that a major step forward could be made by expanding agency schemes whereby, for old people in particular, the contract for improving property is made not between the builder and the client but between the housing association or local authority and the builder? That would eradicate the problems and worries that elderly people frequently have with so-called cowboy builders.

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Mr Ian Grist (Cardiff Central)

Yes, that is Government policy. TIPAS and other agencies exist for that purpose. Nobody wants to encourage cowboy builders, who have been a blight on some old people. The new system, which is designed uniquely for Wales, ensures that the poorest people—who experienced difficulty in finding the necessary contribution under the old scheme and were sometimes missed—can get a 100 per cent. grant. That will be one of the defences against cowboy builders. A properly costed proposal must be presented and approved before the money is released, so the new scheme should protect people more effectively than the old one.

Another reason why it will be better is that those who will benefit from the increased value of their homes should make a greater contribution. I was always surprised that people received a present of a lump sum of money from the taxpayer and ended up with a house, the capital value of which had increased. Such people received a double present. Many of my constituents enjoyed such a gift because, of the 12,500 houses approved under the enveloping scheme, my constituency had the most.

Hon. Members who went on the Rhondda, West by-election campaign in the mid-sixties will remember people saying, "Why on earth are they building that estate up in the mountain? Nobody will want to live there, it is too cold and windy." All those who criticised the council then were right. It has been an utterly cataclysmic disaster for Penrhys in the Rhondda. Fortunately, through the priority estates project, we are spending many millions of pounds to put it right. I welcome the recognition of housing difficulties that were caused in the past.

I draw the attention of hon. Members to two issues that highlight the future of Wales. First, the Cardiff bay proposal, which will illumine the capital city and will reflect on the whole of south Wales, it should be welcomed by all those who have an interest in the area, as it will beautify part of the west of the country. All hon. Members will recognise that Wales, together with Portugal, the Western Isles and Ireland, has the difficulty of being slightly on the fringe of the EEC. Those who live in the hub of the EEC will enjoy the most heat, if I may draw an analogy between the EEC and the sun.

Secondly, we should welcome the Ebbw Vale garden festival. It will show many people who did not already realise it how beautiful the valleys are, how close and well connected they are to the midlands and the south-east, and what a tremendous welcome companies would receive if they brought their business to the valleys. At the head of the valleys, in the Ebbw Vale garden festival and in the development of Cardiff bay, Wales has something going for it.

I have two worries. First, I agree with the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside in some respects. For some time, Wales has had a low level of educational achievement. It probably dates from the time when most people did manual work that did not require academic qualifications. If one was bright and went through a Welsh grammar school, one received a peerless education. The helots worked underground, on the farm or in the steelworks, or did some other manual job. Today, however, people need academic qualifications. They cannot even drive a tank or fire a gun without qualifications—they are far too expensively equipped. Whether people are banging a typewriter or whatever, they need qualifications that their parents and grandparents never dreamed of. Unfortunately, it has been difficult to convey this necessity to many people in Wales.

A spin-off of that problem is low ambition, which we are having to overcome painfully. We want to be able to ask youngsters what they want to be and to hear them say, "A brain surgeon or a doctor, or a Member of Parliament." They may never achieve that, but some children in the classroom may do so. In a middle-class area we might believe a child who says that he wants to be a doctor, but it is doubtful whether we would even receive such an answer in Cynon valley. We must boost those dreams and ambitions. Among the ambitions is the realisation of children and parents that they must have qualifications. Children must pass exams, stay on at school, and, if necessary, return to school for them.

My second worry is an important, in-house worry, of which I have made my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State aware in the past. I am worried about the way in which the block grant is made up in the Welsh Office. The health sector in the block grant is beginning to eat up other parts of the Welsh Office budget. We are proud of the tremendous growth in health expenditure and the new posts and other achievements are fine, but there is a price to be paid for them. Although we receive a proportionate share of the health department's budget, which comes in the form of the block grant, it is not enough because of particular factors in Wales. Older staff are at the top of the salary scale and there is greater morbidity. We do not have the 8 per cent. of people switching to private health care, as they do in many parts of England. Those factors all put a greater pressure on health care in Wales than in England. The Treasury and the Department of Health and Social Security should recognise those issues in future.

I have outlined two problems—how we accommodate the expenditure for health within the present financing of the Welsh Office and the problem of education. Other than that, for goodness' sake, let us increase the ambitions and dreams of the young people in Wales.

6:49 pm
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Mr Denzil Davies (Llanelli)

We always listen to the hon. Member for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Grist) with close interest when he dwells on his responsibilities when he was in the Welsh Office, but today he strayed on to the economy. It would have been better if he had drawn a veil over the Government's record from 1979 to 1991—the past 12 years. We bequeathed to the Government a balance of payments surplus—more important, a surplus in manufacturing goods—in 1979. Last month, there was a deficit of 11 billion in one month, with a recession and interest rates of 135 per cent. In the coming year, the manufacturing deficit is likely to be between 12 billion and 15 billion. That is the measure of the decline in manufacturing industry caused by the Government. They frittered away, not only the surplus, but almost 100 billion of oil revenues.

Perhaps the hon. Member for Cardiff, Central will explain why the savings ratio during the past 12 years has been the lowest in Britian for a long time. If the Government are so concerned about savings, why is the ratio so low?

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Mr Ian Grist (Cardiff Central)

The savings ratio is now more than 9 per cent. If we could maintain that figure, we would make a saving for not just this country but all other western European countries. No other country has reached that figure except the Japanese.

Photo of Mr Denzil Davies

Mr Denzil Davies (Llanelli)

My hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones), in an excellent speech, highlighted the decline of manufacturing industry, and the manufacturing and industrial base of Wales, during the past 12 years. The gap between the income per head and the gross domestic product in Wales, and the income per head and the GDP in the rest of the United Kingdom, is wider than it was in 1979.

In Llanelli, in the six years from 1981 to 1987, for which official figures are available from the Department of Employment census of employment, manufacturing employment has declined by at least one fifth. In the 12 years of the Government's term of office, manufacturing employment in Llanelli has declined by one third—33 to 35 per cent. That shows the measure of the decline of manufacturing in my constituency. The decline in mining has been 40 to 50 per cent. during that period; it has now declined by about 80 per cent. No doubt in a few years' time it will have declined by 100 per cent. when the last British Coal pit, Bettus, in my constituency is closed.

There has been a steady decline in the manufacturing and industrial base in Wales and a dramatic decimation of the coal industry in south Wales. The Government put forward myths and propaganda. We heard them again today when the Secretary of State talked about the rebirth of the Welsh economy. The myth and propaganda suggest that manufacturing jobs have been replaced by service jobs. The reality in my constituency and many others is quite different.

Over a six-year period we have gained 1,000 jobs in the service sector, but with the closure of factories, pits and steelworks we have lost 35 per cent. of jobs in the haulage industry—a service industry. The running down of manufacturing industry has consequences for the service industry. In six years, we have gained 1,000 jobs in the service sector, but we lost 1,800 jobs in one night in 1981 in the Duport steelworks in Llanelli as a direct result of the policies of the then Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is a myth to suggest that some of those jobs have been replaced by service jobs.

Although service jobs have come to Llanelli and other constituencies, many of them have been part time and poorly paid. therefore, although, to some extent, the jobs have come, the locality's income has been reduced. The withdrawal of well-paid, manufacturing jobs and quite well-paid mining jobs, and their replacement by part-time jobs in the service industry, has affected the community. Income has been taken out of our communities and towns which has had adverse consequences for their development.

Another myth perpetrated by the Government is that a decline in manufacturing industry is inevitable because the world has changed. They say that we have automation and no longer need to worry about factories. However, that is not the case in other countries. There has been hardly any decline in Germany's manufacturing industry during the past 10 years. The figure for manufacturing in Germany is far higher than it is in Britain. There has been a slight decline in manufacturing industry in France. The position in Japan is totally different.

It is a myth to say that we can forget manufacturing now because it is no longer important and high-tech has replaced it. Basic manufacturing industry makes the consumer goods that people want to buy in the shops. We are not making such goods any more. If other countries on the continent and in the far east can do so, why cannot we?

The main, but not the only, reason for the decline in manufacturing industry in Britain during the past 10 years was the attitude of the Conservative party when it came to power in 1979. There was certainly hostility, if not hatred, of manufacturing industry. Some of the first acts of the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry were to abolish investment grants, cut down investment allowances and take away the regional grants. Such grants were not a panacea and did not solve all the problems, but they helped to redress the imbalance caused by the Welsh economy being on the periphery of the European economy. Nearly all those aids were taken away. That is the main reason for the decline in manufacturing industry.

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Mr Wyn Roberts (Conwy)

The right hon. Gentleman talks about the decline of manufacturing industry in Britain as a whole and Llanelli in particular. Will he note that employment in manufacturing industry in Wales has increased by no less than 41,000 jobs—193 per cent.—since 1986?

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Mr Denzil Davies (Llanelli)

The figures in my constituency show that a third—33 per cent.—of manufacturing jobs have gone. The number has not risen but gone down; jobs have disappeared.

The Government said in 1979 that Britain's future would be in property, banks, financial services, leisure and tourism, and that Britain would be a low income tax, rentier economy, living off the dividends of the production of other countries. That was said by the Conservative party before it came to office, and it was what the Conservative Government tried to achieve. Local authorities in Wales and other agencies were encouraged to move out of manufacturing and to move towards banks, financial services and leisure activities. Wales is now covered with artificial lakes around which there are executive houses, where tired executives sit on cramped verandahs and look at their little boats bobbing in the water. Many of them cannot even afford to take their boats to sea. That is the sort of economy that the Government are creating in Wales.

The Secretary of State mentioned banking. It is extraordinary that he did not know what had happened in Shotton, and he does not seem to know what is happening in banking. He said that it was a high growth sector. He should tell that to Sir John Quinton of Barclays bank, the National Westminster bank and the Trustee Savings bank. The previous Secretary of State used to be enthusiastic about encouraging banks to come to Wales, but banks will not be a growth sector in the 1990s—quite the opposite. That bonanza has ended, as has the property bonanza. But money is still being poured into crazy property and marine schemes and leisure activities in Wales, although they will not make money and there will be no money in the 1990s to support such schemes.

Another Government myth is that, if we develop service industries, they will not be affected by recession in the same way as the old manufacturing industries. The irony is that the service sector in Britain—as well as the manufacturing sector—is being affected because it is totally out of balance and out of kilter with the manufacturing sector. The service sector is the borrowing sector; it does not generate profits for future development. It merely lives on money coming in and out—borrowed money. The idea that we should invest in banks and property to prevent a recession affecting our economy has been proved untrue, and is being proved untrue by the state of Britain's economy today.

With the problems of the environment, eastern Europe and the American economy, and with oil reserves petering out or running down, it seems that the future of the Welsh economy lies in manufacturing, and not in the service sector because the service boom is over. It is time that the Government started to think about rebuilding our manufacturing base. The Welsh Development Agency—or Welsh Development International—has had some success—nobody wants to be churlish about it—in going around the world looking for what used to be described as footloose capital. It had success in Japan, and some in Germany. However, I fear that there will not be much fruit to be had in going around the world in the next 10 years looking for footloose capital. The Secretary of State may go to Baden-Wurttemberg again, but he will not get much investment there or from Bosch. The Germans will be pre-occupied with rebuilding east Germany, eastern Europe and perhaps even the Soviet Union. The Japanese will not be in the same position in the next 10 years.

We must look to home-grown industry instead of believing that we can rejuvenate the Welsh economy by getting investment from outside. By all means let us get investment from outside, but the future lies with home-grown manufacturing. In many ways, that is more difficult than seeking investment here, there, and everywhere.

From what I have said, it may seem surprising that 30 per cent. of the people employed in my constituency are still employed in manufacturing. The figure was probably 50 per cent. 10 years ago. We must not lose the skills of those people. We can build on them, and also on the skills of those who are unemployed and who lost their jobs in manufacturing but who still retain their skills. That is why it is so important that the next 10 years should see the rebuilding of the manufacturing basis.

There are four pits left in south Wales, one of which is in my constituency. Frankly, the way in which the Government have reduced the Welsh coal industry to four pits is a crime. We know that coal cannot regain its pre-eminence even of the 1950s. We know that it has environmental problems and that it has competition, especially from gas and perhaps from coal imports. We understand that, but there is room for a coal industry. There is room in Britain for two energy sources. We accept that gas must be one, but coal is the other. Neither the Government nor British Coal has shown any imagination about developing the coal industry or about finding new technology and ways to burn coal which are not detrimental to the environment. The Government's attitude has been that coal, like manufacturing, is old-fashioned and dirty, that there is nothing good about it and that we should develop the service sector.

My hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Williams) and I have the anthracite coalfield in our constituencies. Again, nothing has been done. British Coal is interested only in gouging the anthracite out of the earth with the JCBs. It has not considered the small drift mines or the opportunities to use anthracite. It is the only anthracite field west of Poland, as I keep saying. There has been no attempt whatsoever to market it. There has been no imagination and no belief in it. That permeates all the way down from Government to the local authority and to local government agencies, which take their cue from Government.

In the past 10 years, there has been a decline in manufacturing and in the coal industry. The Government have forfeited any right to a chance to rebuild that economy. Only a Labour Government can do that.

7:03 pm
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Mr Richard Livsey (Brecon and Radnor)

I should like to add my tribute to what has been said about our brave soldiers in the Gulf and about the sad loss of life. The Welsh troops fought bravely and acquitted themselves with great honour.

Last Saturday night, I was in the company of the Powys cadets. We were celebrating St. David's day at a dinner because we had saved the cadets. They were to be disbanded about 12 months ago when the Ministry of Defence decided—or at least proposed—to centralise cadet forces in north and south Wales. We fought a long battle of attrition and eventually we won. It was rightly said that the recruiting of cadets for the army, in mid-Wales in particular, was associated with the districts and with the communities. There is great loyalty to those communities, and if it did not have its cadet force, Powys would not have cadets at all, because the young people could not afford to travel to the centres in the north or in the south.

On Saturday night, I and the members of the cadet force ate raw leeks, as has been the custom of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers for the past 300 years. The leeks duly repeated on us for the whole weekend.

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Mr Alex Carlile (Montgomery)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way while he gets his breath back after eating raw leeks. I applaud the great tradition of towns such as Welshpool in my constituency, and Llandrindod Wells in his, of providing high-quality young soldiers to the British Army. That tradition goes back centuries and is one which he and I hope will continue.

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Mr Richard Livsey (Brecon and Radnor)

That is a timely intervention, because there are 31 soldiers from the Brecon area currently serving in the Gulf. It is sad that the Army proposes to close clown its headquarters in Wales and amalgamate it with the Army in the north-west and in the midlands. That is wholly unacceptable to the people of Wales and to the army in Wales.

Lieutenant-General Sir Peter de la Billiere was general officer commanding Wales only two years ago. I know him extremely well. He is an outstanding soldier who has done a brilliant job, with the allies and the coalition in the Gulf, by winning the battle of Desert Storm. It is sad that, according to the Ministry of Defence's proposals, we shall not have a GOC Wales of major-general status. Apparently, we shall have a headquarters based in Shrewsbury. In view of the Army tradition in Wales, that is wholly unacceptable. It impinges on recruitment, on the status of the Army in Wales and also on employment.

I implore the Secretary of State to get in touch with the Secretary of State for Defence and put to him, fairly and squarely, the strong feeling in Wales about the disbanding of the Army base. After all, we come from the area from which the archers of Agincourt went with Henry V to win a great battle. The area has a tradition that goes back many centuries, and that must not be stopped in its tracks. The loyalty must be maintained. Why is it that Scotland will retain its GOC at the rank of general, but Wales will not? It will go down to brigadier level, but that is wholly unacceptable and means a loss of status. I suggest to the Secretary of State that there is no better time than the present to make representations to the Ministry of Defence. I am sure that he will be supported by General Sir Peter de la Billiere.

I shall now deal with the economy, which the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) mentioned. Interest rates, especially, have had a devastating effect on the Welsh economy—one has only to consider mortgage holders and their misery. People are having to sell their houses and go into other accommodation, whether private or—if they are extremely lucky—from the meagre resources that still just about exist in local authorities.

Interest rates have also impinged very much on small business in Wales, especially in rural areas. Shops, post offices, garages, pubs, agricultural engineers and many others have suffered greatly and, indeed, some have closed. That is a result of a combination of high interest rates and the uniform business rate. When that is applied to the farming community, farm incomes are devastated.

I was glad that the Secretary of State underlined the importance of farming. Great initiatives are required to save the day, especially for the Welsh family farm. The Aberystwyth university farm management survey shows that upland farms of about 175 acres had an income of about 2,000 in the last year costed. Farms of 175 acres and above had incomes of about 4,000. No one can live on those incomes, least of all a young son coming into the business. In my constituency, even single sons are leaving the family farm and trying to find alternative employment. In many cases, they find that employment outside Wales.

There is a need for environmental support and for social support for the farms of Wales. The Secretary of State mentioned hill livestock compensatory allowance payments. Last night, we had a debate in the House on those payments. The Secretary of State said that an extra 37 million went into those payments. I must tell him that, in 1988–90 in Wales, total farm incomes went down by 41 per cent. or by 32 million, which is close to the figure of 37 million. There is a standstill in Government support, yet farmers have devastatingly low incomes.

The HLCA increases have been said to be 14 per cent., but if the Secretary of State reads Hansard for last night, he will see that the capping of HLCAs at 6248 per hectare, when the allowance can go up to 7733 per hectare, restricts farmers who have been more efficient in stocking rates, with which the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has also mucked around.

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Mr Geraint Howells (Ceredigion and Pembroke North)

My hon. Friend is making an interesting speech. I am sure that he, like many of the hill farmers of Wales, is aware that, although they will have an increase in HLCA this year, which is a great help, unfortunately, within 12 months, Welsh sheep producers will have lost half that money because the guaranteed price for wool will end in 1991. I am sure that my hon. Friend will urge the Secretary of State to extend the guaranteed price support scheme for another five years to the farmers in Wales.

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Mr Richard Livsey (Brecon and Radnor)

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. It is extremely important for the guarantee to continue for another five years. If the Secretary of State looks at current open market wool prices, he will see that they are at rock bottom. They have been as low as 20p recently. Such a regime next year would spell disaster for another source of income for upland farmers. My hon. Friend the Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Howells) is right to draw that point to the attention of the House.

I congratulate the Secretary of State on his rural initiative, which he announced last week in the Welsh Grand Committee. It is a useful initiative. However, I am slightly disappointed that it was not more, at a time of such crisis in agriculture. The Secretary of State has done well to secure what I calculate to be—I hope that he will correct me if I am wrong—approximately 35 million to add to the 1 million a day that goes from the Welsh Office into the rural areas of Wales. However, by my calculations, that is roughly a 10 per cent. increase, which is on a par with the current rate of inflation. If one compares that with the drop in farm incomes of 41 per cent. in two years, we see that there is a long way to go to catch up with the loss of income in rural Wales.

I have made that point to underline how serious the problem is. The Secretary of State is right to point to initiatives in urban Wales, where he is helping in many ways, but the crisis in rural Wales is extreme and needs further attention. We welcome the allocation in that announcement, with 6 million support from Tai Cymru for rural housing. Unfortunately, that does not equate with the average price of affordable housing, which is about 35,000. The allocation will build only 180 houses in rural Wales. It is a help, but it is a drop in the ocean compared with need. We have already heard speeches about that. There is a great need for local people to be housed in affordable housing in rural Wales. The present situation is a tragedy. The lack of affordable housing erodes the Welsh language in some areas. Some people in rural Wales are on low incomes and cannot afford a roof over their heads.

We welcome the report of the Welsh Language Board and urge the Secretary of State to introduce a Welsh language Bill. As the board says, the language needs equal status with English. In the heartlands of the Welsh-speaking areas of Wales—I speak as an English-speaking Welshman—we must not let fear and ignorance of the Welsh language stop us supporting it. The Secretary of State should grasp the initiative and introduce a new Welsh language Act. He will certainly receive support from the Liberal Democrats and, probably, from throughout the House. He must do something to save the Welsh language and to develop it for future generations to use.

There have been cuts in the road programme, and I am sure that the Secretary of State regrets them. Perhaps it is wrong to talk about cuts. It may be better to say that there has been a reallocation of resources into different projects in different parts of Wales. That affects two parts of my constituency. I especially regret that the reallocation has affected the Builth bypass. As the Secretary of State will have noticed, Builth is very busy at the time of the Royal Welsh show.

I bitterly regret—I hope that the Secretary of State is listening—his dropping of the Talgarth bypass. I am a native of Talgarth and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that Talgarth is being knocked down by articulated lorries. I invite him to come with me to Talgarth to see the seriousness of the problem. We cannot delay the Talgarth bypass any longer. It is a major route from mid-Wales to south-east Wales, and, especially, to the Severn bridge. Windows are being smashed, and bricks are being removed from houses. The citizens of Talgarth walk along the pavements with great fear. We need to put that matter right urgently.

I thank the Secretary of State for receiving yesterday our delegation on the reform of the poll tax and on local government reform. The Welsh Liberal Democrats led the delegation to put forward our proposals. We believe that the poll tax must be abolished as soon as possible and replaced with a method based on people's ability to pay. We advocate a local income tax, which is fair and easy to administer. It is ideally suited and would be cheap to introduce.

The Secretary of State should introduce proposals to create single-tier authorities in Wales. I hope that that will be the conclusion of his wide-ranging review of local government reform. We believe that there should be about 25 authorities based on the old counties in mid Wales, in north-west Wales and in south-west Wales. In the south Wales valleys and north-east Wales, the authorities should be based on the new districts so that they reflect natural communities.

Unemployment in Wales is now well over 100,000 again, which is extremely regrettable. The recession is biting deep. I am one of 10 hon. Members who are ex-employees of ICI. We met the chairman of ICI at Christmas, as we do each year. He told us that the recession was probably deeper than that of 1981, and that fire brigade action was required to put matters right. He was worried that the basis of ICI would be cut away by the depth of the recession. Leaders of industry are very worried about the economy.

I hope that the Secretary of State will urge his Cabinet colleagues to cut interest rates by at least 2 per cent. to save the day. Wales needs an action programme, with lower interest rates, to build 7,000 to 10,000 houses a year to accommodate the 70,000 who are on the waiting list and to invest in the infrastructure, including roads. British Rail must be told to do a better job of running a non-existent railway system. As the right hon. Member for Llanelli said, we must produce more indigenous industry and businesses. We must encourage more young entrepreneurs, who are more highly educated, and more technocrats who can meet the challenge of the year 2000 and beyond.

We want a new Wales. We want investment and we want our young people to live in a country with a good environment where they can speak their own language and live in their own communities. We want them to produce a country of which we can all be proud. When we come here on future St. David's days, we want to be able to say that we are proud of Wales and that we are proud of being Welshmen and people associated with Wales for its own good.

7:21 pm
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Mr Gwilym Jones (Cardiff North)

Like the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Livsey), my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) some of my thoughts are far away, on what our forces have endured. I marvel at what they have achieved. They deserve all our cheers.

Much mention has been made of the Army and the Royal Air Force. I want to refer to the Royal Navy ship which bears the same name as the capital city of Wales. HMS Cardiff was the first ship to be mentioned as having been in action in the waters of the northern Gulf. Since then there have been several references to the important work that the ship has been doing. The captain, Commander Adrian Nance, wrote to me on 4 February, confirming that the ship had been busy with the drama of surface actions against Iraqi fast patrol boats, in addition to its supporting role in the capture of some oil rigs. He told me that at that time HMS Cardiff was the only ship to have achieved an outright sinking. The ship is already steaming home. I offer my congratulations to the captain and the entire company on what they have achieved on our behalf. I look forward to the ship's return to the capital city of Wales, where it will get a deservedly warm welcome.

I welcome my right hon. Friend's announcements when he opened the debate on Welsh affairs. He told us about new money which will benefit the Principality in various ways. Not least, he was able to tell us about new jobs. Like every other hon. Member, he recognises the reality of the present downturn. We have a more soundly based economy to weather the downturn, and the action being taken by my right hon. Friend is apposite.

The hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside, once he had passed over the sound bites which he had to insert, also welcomed my right hon. Friend's announcements. I felt sure that we must be on the right lines. Dare I even now congratulate my right hon. Friend on the way that he has mastered the responsibilities of his office in the nine months that he has been there? Not only has he mastered his responsibilities, but he has mastered the pronunciation of the Welsh language. That owes much to his aptitude for it and perhaps not a little to the supreme expertise of my hon. Friend the Minister of State.

I wish to refer primarily to the health service in Wales and, if I have not tried the patience of the House too much, to mention briefly at the end the crafts industry.

In Cardiff, North we are well served with health facilities. We have Velindre hospital, Whitchurch hospital, the BUPA hospital and, of course, the mighty University hospital of Wales. My constituents are very well served. I have the greatest admiration for all the health professionals who work in those hospitals, providing such an excellent service to my constituents and to many more from far afield.

It is sad to relate that the only real problem of industrial pollution in Cardiff, North comes from the mighty University hospital of Wales. It has embarked on a programme for a new incinerator. I hope that the environmental implications have been carefully considered. There have been complaints before now, which have had to be referred to the hospital and to the health authority, about pollution from the present incinerator. I do not wish to see any worsening of the position. The new incinerator programme will have beneficial effects because it is to be a combined heat and power scheme. I understand that that will result in a saving of electricty costs for the hospital, which has to be worth while. The new generator may even be able to sell power back to the national grid.

In the recent announcement giving the go-ahead for the scheme, my concerns appear to have been heeded. It is expected that the incinerator will create less damage to the environment by the use of gas as a fuel than previously, and less damage than might result from the use of a power station to generate the same amount of electricity. I trust that that concern for the environment will continue. I hope too that the hospital is not neglecting opportunities for recycling. All of us should take opportunities to recycle before we incinerate.

We have in Wales an excellent record in the health service. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Grist) made some rueful references to the statistics that can be adduced. He confirmed what a good Minister we had when he was in the Welsh Office. From what he said this afternoon, showing his clear depth of knowledge, his experience and his obvious sincerity, the Back Benches are reinvigorated by his return.

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Mr Roy Hughes (Newport East)

Did not his hon. Friend turn out to be not a very good punter, as he backed the wrong horse in the leadership stakes?

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Mr Gwilym Jones (Cardiff North)

I will not go down any horseracing tracks.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, Central pointed out that the statistics on health provision in Wales are almost mind-boggling. Spending in real terms is up by 55 per cent., numbers of nurses and midwives are up by 25 per cent., the number of general practitioners is up by 23 per cent., the number of hospital doctors is up by 17 per cent., the number of consultants is up by 26 per cent., and the number of dentists is up by 30 per cent. I stop to ask what is being achieved by the increases in spending and by all the extra health professionals.

The most important statistics about health provision must be the benefit that they have for the people of Wales. My right hon. Friend gave us the latest figures. It is interesting to reflect on the improvements in the numbers of patients treated. My right hon. Friend said that last year there were 472,000 in-patients: in 1979, that figure was only 314,000. The statistics for out-patients are similar, with almost 23 million last year compared with only 18 million in 1979. There has been an even more staggering increase in day patients: there were 95,000 last year, compared with only 31,000 in 1979.

The statistics are significant. In total, almost 750,000 more people per year are being treated. On an individual basis, for every three people treated by the NHS today, only two would have been treated in 1979. That is not just today, but tomorrow, the day after and every other day. That is the scale of the increase. Surely health provision is about ensuring that patients are treated. Those figures are most important, as they show that many more patients are being treated.

I do not dismiss the significance of waiting lists. The Welsh Office should ensure that waiting lists are reduced as much and as widely as possible. But the very success of the health service generates waiting lists. Treatments are available now that were not readily available a few years ago. There was no point queueing up for treatments that were not provided. The fact that they are now being provided and are being provided so well encourages waiting lists. Therefore, the mere consideration of waiting lists is not of the greatest relevance.

I am interested in transplants, particularly kidney transplants. I am not complaining, but I am impatient for more progress. I have long been interested in the subject, and for a few years I have been one of the vice-presidents of the Kidney Research Unit Foundation for Wales.

Wales has a good record in the treatment of kidney patients and that was brought home to the House in 1986 when my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Mr. Favell) introduced a ten-minute Bill entitled Kidney Dialysis (Elimination of Waiting Lists) Bill. That sought to impose on England the very practices already adopted in Wales. An English Member of Parliament said that, if only England did what Wales was already doing, England could reduce its waiting list for kidney treatment.

My hon. Friend introduced his Bill against the background of the latest renal units in Wales at Carmarthen and Bangor. Since then, kidney treatments have been extended by new units at Cardiff and Merthyr, with which I believe my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, Central was involved. On 21 May 1990, a further two units were announced at Wrexham and Newport. I should be most interested to hear what further progress has been made on those units when my hon. Friend the Minister of State replies, or perhaps he would like to write to me.

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Mr Ian Grist (Cardiff Central)

Hon. Members may be aware that the new units are private and they provide one of the best examples of bringing medicine and expertise into the NHS for the benefit of all. I have heard no complaints, only the highest praise.

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Mr Gwilym Jones (Cardiff North)

My hon. Friend is right to underline that. As I suggested when I referred to the spread of health provision in my constituency—which has a BUPA hospital and three other major hospitals—it does not matter whence the treatment comes or under what auspices it is provided; it is the quality of the treatment and how much the people of Wales benefit from it that matters. With BUPA in Cardiff, North and the renal units developing in the way that my hon. Friend has described, nobody can deny that the people of Wales have benefited significantly from that extra provision.

The two new units at Wrexham and Newport mean that kidney treatment is no longer a regional facility. Every health authority in Wales has a renal unit either within its boundaries or adjacent to it. In 1986, my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport said that Wales compared favourably with England. The figures still compare favourably and that progress will be maintained when the latest two units are completed.

But dialysis is often only a temporary answer, and a transplant is necessary. I was glad to hear a fortnight ago that the 1,000th transplant operation had been carried out at Cardiff royal infirmary. The CRI has dedicated health professionals whose work, particularly on transplants, must be admired.

Between 80 and 90 kidney transplants are carried out each year. That figure has remained constant. There has been no dramatic increase. Similarly, the number of transplant operations in the United Kingdom does not show a fantastic increase. In 1986–87 1,566 transplant operations were carried out and, in the last year for which figures are available, 1988–89, that figure rose to 1,732. According to a written answer last month, the waiting list of transplant operations now stands at 3,620 and that is increasing all the time.

It is sad that, on each waiting list for transplants, one person in four may die before they can have a transplant. There has been a slight improvement but I am impatient for more transplants. It is a tragedy that not more transplant operations are carried out. The Hoffenberg report told us that there is a potential for 8,000 kidneys to be available each year—a much larger figure than the present number of operations of just over 1,700.

One reason why there are not more operations is because the all-important question of the availability of organs is not being addressed. I regret that publicity can sometimes have a detrimental effect. Occasionally, not the best informed articles have appeared in some Sunday newspapers which have led to a significant downturn in the number of organs being made available, despite the fact that they are obviously so necessary.

In 1988 I introduced a ten-minute Bill entitled Transplant Notification Bill, which required a request to be made when there was a possibility of an organ becoming available for donation within a hospital.

With the growing frustration at the lack of transplant operations, there is pressure for the alternative procedure of opting out, which assumes that everyone is prepared for his or her organs to be donated unless an individual has opted out of that presumption. I am not yet persuaded that we should go down that road. Instead, I prefer that relatives should be asked and be free to agree or disagree. An important gift of life is involved. At a time of grief, relatives can find some consolation in knowing that, although they cannot replace a loved one, that loved one's organs can provide a gift of life to others.

Three years ago, my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie), replying to a debate as Under-Secretary of State for Health, told me that a circular would be put into effect by 1 January 1989 and that she expected it to be renewed after 1 January 1991. We have now passed that date, which is my reason for raising the matter again today. We have not made anything like enough progress in the past three years. I urge my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, as the Minister with responsibility for health, to take the lead and pioneer either required request legislation, or the concept of opting out. But whichever road he chooses, I hope that he will take the lead so that we can dramatically increase the number of transplant operations.

7:37 pm
Photo of Mr Raymond Powell

Mr Raymond Powell (Ogmore)

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) for his remarks about Community Activities and Training in Ogmore, commonly called CATO. I make no excuse for concentrating my remarks on the training and enterprise council's decision not to renew CATO's contract. Earlier today there was a deputation from the Ogmore constituency, the borough of Ogwr, Aberavon and from other areas where the TECs have taken similar decisions, not only in Mid Glamorgan but in West and South Glamorgan.

I wish that I had more time today to refer to phase two of the Princess of Wales hospital, which has been swept under the carpet for the next 10 years, and to say why the Secretary of State should reconsider that matter. I want to concentrate also on opencast development at St. John's colliery at Maesteg, and to mention unemployment, the escalating bankruptcies and so on which are affecting all the people of Wales, particularly in my constituency.

I must concentrate on CATO, as it is an organisation to whose development I and five other directors have given 10 years of our spare time. I have put this on record previously, but I intend to do so again. CATO was formed in 1981. In June of that year, the company gained a contract with the Manpower Services Commission—which the Labour Government set up—for 13 weeks. The contract provided for 70 places, and CATO received 3,000. In 1988, when the Manpower Services Commission contracts ended, CATO had successfully carried out a contract providing 500 places, to which the company received 3 million.

In 1988, at the end of the community programme. and with the start of employment training, CATO became an employment training manager, with 300 places. This scheme, like its predecessor, was Government—funded. Under the employment training programme, CATO had a successful first 18 months, at which point the overseeing body changed from the Training Agency to the training and enterprise council. Within six months, CATO found out that from 31 March 1991 the company would receive no further funding.

As a company, CATO has had nothing but success in the last 10 years. That success has included results in the examinations of City and Guilds of London Institute, Royal Society of Arts Associated Board and the road transport industry training board, and in examinations for training managers certificates. Many of those who are trained by CATO have obtained employment elsewhere, and even those who have achieved neither examination success nor outside employment have gained in confidence and personal effectiveness.

In the past 10 years, CATO has employed both the able-bodied and those with special needs: men and women; and people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, it has always vigorously pursued an equal opportunities policy. As a caring company, it has also been much involved in the life of the valley, and has worked for the disabled and the elderly. If CATO were to close, the Age Concern lunch clubs in the valleys would be unable to provide 7,000 meals a year, and 140 clients who are catered for at the caring unit at Blackmill would have to be referred back to the social services system. In addition, 13,000 to 20,000 people in the borough of Porthcawl would cease to have meals provided.

We acquired the Blackmill hospital after a fight lasting two years. That hospital, together with five others, was to be closed. We, as a training organisation, took it over for the purpose of training carers and caterers, and in one wing of the hospital we provided catering facilities for elderly people in the Ogmore valley. On numerous occasions I have placed on record the work of training managers and the problems and changing difficulties that they have had to overcome in the past 10 years. I speak with full knowledge of how schemes are allowed to progress, of the difficulties that they have had to survive, and of the headaches and heartaches that arise when new schemes are introduced—especially when, as of late, they are underfunded.

How can the Government expect the standard of training to be higher when funding is lower? Of course we welcome budget increases, such as were announced on Tuesday and today. Of course we welcome more funds for training, including training under TECs. However, I ask the Secretary of State for Wales whether he thinks that 8 million out of the 120 million announced on Tuesday is a fair share for Wales. Will that 8 million save 40 jobs and 200 training positions in CATO? Will it help to save 20 jobs and 100 training positions provided by the Mid Glamorgan county council, whose loss was announced in last Thursday's South Wales Echo? Will it help to save the thousands of training jobs that will be lost as a result of cuts in the TEC budget?

The training managers in Mid, West and South Glamorgan are all complaining of cuts. Will this 8 million save their organisations? In particular, will it save the jobs of devoted trainers—people who have given up time and have spent effort and energy on study so that they might train people whom jobcentres and others consider to be untrainable? As a result of the efforts of these trainers, the "untrainable" people go into the community and get jobs.

The purpose of the local community initiative that started in CATO was to beat the problem of unemployment created in 1979 after my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) left the Welsh Office. My right hon. and learned Friend represented a constituency next to mine. We had a travel-to-work area based on Aberavon. In 1979, the rate of unemployment was 37 per cent. Of those unemployed people, 17 per cent., or more, were unemployed because they were suffering from pneumoconiosis; 1 per cent. were construction workers, who could not be employed; and 1 per cent. were people who would not normally look for jobs. Overnight, 12,000 steelworkers were put out of work. In addition, 8,000 miners lost their jobs as a result of colliery closures.

Something had to be done. Community Activities and Training in Ogmore was formed as a registered charity—with no payment for directors, no vested interests, no remuneration, no handouts. That is very different from the situation under the present TECs, where directors are compelled to have vested interests. If people did not have vested interests, they would not be put on the management boards. Speaking in a debate on 23 July 1990, which I had initiated, the hon. Member for Conwy (Sir W. Roberts) said: I am glad to hear the hon. Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy) at least say that if the Opposition were returned to government, they would retain the training and enterprise councils that the Government have set up. Let us hope that the Government will not allow the present training and enterprise councils to remain in office as the same composite bodies and with the same individuals. I predict that a Labour Government will be elected on 2 May this year. [Interruption.] I have great confidence. I look forward to a change not only in the management of TECs but also in their composition.

The Minister of State continued: It would be unrealistic to expect the previous high level of expenditure on training to be maintained while unemployment has fallen dramatically. It is only to be expected that there should be some downward adjustment in the Government contribution to training, simply because fewer people now need support on Government training programmes. The case load is down and therefore expenditure is down. Opposition Members may find that unpalatable, but they cannot argue with the logic."—[Official Report, 23 July 1990; Vol. 177, c. 267.] Logic suggests that, if unemployment is rising, funding should increase. Or is that too logical for the Government to comprehend? Since the Minister of State made that speech on 23 July—I realise, of course, that he was speaking at 8.55 in the morning—business failures have increased by 25 per cent. That shows the depth of the depression. With unemployment escalating out of control, what action do the Government take? We have had a 200 million cut in training and retraining and the promise of 8 million coming in. The Government cut the budget one week and put the money back into the economy the next. I could go on for some time, but I realise that other hon. Members are waiting to be called.

The Minister of State visited farmers in the Ogmore valley some time ago. My hon. Friend—soon he will be my right hon. Friend—the Member for Alyn and Deeside complimented the Minister for calling at the CATO farm. While he was there, the Minister praised people and commented favourably upon the farm's development. About two years ago he encouraged the CATO board to invest money in the farm because we were being encouraged to provide training for agriculturists and horticulturists. Now, with TECs and employment training, the Government do not want to encourage the training of agriculturists and horticulturists.

We had visits from other Ministers. I have informed the hon. Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls) that I would be mentioning his name, and he gave his full consent to my doing so. While he was at the Department of Employment, he put on record his praise for the standard of training, the standard of trainers, the diversification of routes and the high quality of CATO. He was very disappointed that the TEC had taken this unbelievable decision. He said: I have examined in detail the meeting of the CATO Board of Directors and assessors—(Monitoring Officers), Mr. A. Woods (Quality), Mr. P. Evans (Quality), Mr. D. Gould (Health and Safety), Mr. R. Turner (Finance), and Mr. Allen Williams, the chief executive officer of the Mid-Glamorgan TEC. He also said: I have also examined in detail the ROTA I under ET and the 5 criteria set—and since then ROTA II and the 7 criteria that applied under TECs together with the letters sent. The TEC chief executive, Mr. Allen Williams, replied to the CATO company secretary, who had requested details showing why the assessors decided that CATO had not met the criteria. In his letter, a copy of which I have here, Mr. Williams said: You request a detailed reply to John McMenemy's letter of 5th December in which he responded to the ROTA II report.You will understand, I am sure, that it is not normal practice to reply to ROTA responses. We are talking about a training organisation which had been established for 10 years. Yet within six months of the formation of the new TEC, it is decided that the organisation will not be funded and will be wiped out of the training programme. However, it is "not normal practice" for TECs to give reasons why the organisation does not measure up to the standard set for ROTA II.

It is not a question of the standard set but of the assessors, or the monitoring officers, deciding, in their qualified opinion, whether standards are achieved. In Mid Glamorgan they are not qualified. The whole issue stinks to high heaven of political collusion—of bias against an organisation that provided quality and not only measured up to all the standards set but surpassed them with its record of achievement in getting trainees trained and qualified.

The director of Training Agency Wales, Mr. H. V. Thomas, approved and awarded ROTA I on 12 March 1990, but within three or four months, on 23 July, the TEC was formed—it was officially opened in Caerphilly in September—but after monitoring visits he did not approve ROTA II on 4 January 1991. CATO staff and trainees were told in September that their contracts would not be renewed and the monitoring officers stated that it did not matter to them that the chairman of CATO was a "bloody MP"—I use the words of the monitoring officers.

The chief executive of the TEC recently replied to numerous questions on his interpretation and the decision of his monitoring officers. I hasten to add that the TEC board of management had not been involved in the decision, as it was taken by the assessors and reported to the board meeting on 31 January. Nevertheless, it appears that the TEC board acquiesced in the assessors' decision.

In the South Wales Echo on 21 February 1991, there was an article by Margaret O'Reilly. I give her credit for a more realistic, fair, balanced and accurate report than I can credit to that egotistical, self-opinionated, self-indulgent comedian who scribbles for the Western Mail, David Cornock. It is high time that he accurately reported Parliament instead of wasting his time trying to appear intelligent and funny. Where, oh where, have the David Rossers of this world gone? When there were Welsh debates, Welsh Grand Committees and Welsh questions the Western Mail accurately reported what hon. Members said. Ever since I was a young boy, the Western Mail has been delivered to my home, and I used to read it from page one to the back page. It was never reduced to the scribble that it is now.

The report by Margaret O'Reilly states: Councillors have demanded a Parliamentary inquiry into a Mid Glamorgan training organisation after hearing that jobs will be axed.The Government-backed Training and Enterprise Council was launched at Caerphilly Castle by Welsh Secretary Mr. David Hunt amid a blaze of publicity in September.The vision was one of turning the county into a dynamic industrial area with standards of living to compare with the highest in Europe.Less than six months later, Mid Glamorgan councillors are furious that one of the council's own schemes had its contract withdrawn by TEC, forcing them to sack 16 staff.They say more redundancies are on the way and TEC officers refuse to tell them where public money is going … The TEC say they want more people to receive their training in industry or commerce but Councillor Rees said he had grave doubts. He said: 'When industry goes into recession, the first thing which goes is the training budget. They will not subsidise training as we are doing. We have asked for the names of these companies so we know where public money is going but they have refused. Secrecy only raises suspicions in people's minds.'Education chairman Councillor Dennis Philpin called for a Parliamentary investigation into the running of the TEC. He asked, 'Is the money going into firms to stop them failing or to help them afford to send up balloons with their name on them? I find the whole thing absolutely deplorable and am furious for training in Mid Glamorgan.'TEC product director Mr. Gary Owen said … 'We are trying to find the right mix which meets the needs of young people, not the needs of training providers.' That press cutting refers to Mid Glamorgan county council demanding a parliamentary inquiry into the Mid Glamorgan TEC and states that one of the council's schemes had its contract withdrawn forcing the sacking of 16 staff, with more redundancies on the way. Yes, we can close CATO down, but it is difficult to close down the county council, although I know that some people have high hopes, as devolution is now on the political agenda again.

One paragraph of the report tells us: They say more redundancies are on the way and TEC officers refuse to tell them where public money is going. We want a public inquiry, so that we can find out where every penny spent by the Mid Glamorgan, South Glamorgan and West Glamorgan TECs is going. Certainly I shall be making further inquiries.

What right have the TEC officers to refuse to tell us where they spend our money? I thought that, in this modern age, the dictators were in Iraq, not in Wales. County Councillor Denis Philpin is right: there should be a thorough parliamentary inquiry into the running of TECs. They all interpret ROTAs I and II differently. Some have understanding monitoring officers or assessors, while others have Gestapo types. Mid Glamorgan seems to have been landed with the latter type, unfortunately; but it is our money that is being spent, and we have a right to know how and where it is being spent. I look to my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Wardell), as Chairman of the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs, to accept my request and start the investigation immediately.

I should like to hear from my hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy), when he replies for the Opposition, a clear statement about the future of TECs after 2 May. The officers will need to be changed overnight. We have no desire to fund and encourage any clandestine organisation that will not explain in detail where it spends our money.

We also need to examine the membership of the boards of management. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) recently referred in the House to the chairman of the South Glamorgan TEC's board. Such people are publicly in a very difficult position when they have a direct pecuniary interest; that applies to all members of the boards of TECs. I shall carry out monitoring to ensure that training places are properly balanced, and that managers keep up the standards set, supposedly, to disqualify CATO.

When I examined Mid Glamorgan TEC's board membership, I expected the members of the county council to press for their chief executive's early retirement from the board. The director of education and the Wales TUC should also seriously consider whether they want representation on such a body. I would expect the TUC representative, having read or listened to the observations of his colleagues on the county council, to consider his position seriously and ask himself whether it was in his interests to remain a member. It appears that the tail is wagging the dog. I have been informed by a reliable source—not the Western Mail reporter in the House—that last Tuesday's 8 am meeting of Mid Glamorgan TEC's board passed a motion of no confidence in its management. It seems that breakfast meetings can prove justifiably productive.

When I examined the TEC's board of management further, it did not take me long to discover which way the political balance swung. Two of the 15 members are members of the Labour party, two are county officers and the other 11, if not holding Tory party membership cards, are former Wales Tory party chairmen like Sir Donald Walters, deputy chairman of the Welsh Development Agency since 1984 and a hoard member since 1980. That is why we hear so much talk about the WDA from the Secretary of State.

Lest anyone suggest that I am exaggerating, let me mention the other 10 members. John W. Phillips is the chairman and managing director of Reliance Barker-Davies, Pontyclun. Wendy Bailey is a director of Golley Slater and Partners. John Cornwall is managing director of Fairclough Building Limited, Mid Glamorgan. David W. Free is managing director of Wolsey Electronics Pontypridd. Dennis Jessop is technical director of Hoover plc. Derek Morgan is regional director of PA Consulting Group. Peter Morgan is managing director of Catric Limited, Caerphilly. R. John Tree is chairman of Form and Surface Grinding, Pontypridd. Dick Webster is managing director of Midcast Numerical Control, Maesteg. Bob Wilson is general manager of L'Oreal, Pontyclun. How can a Tory organisation like that make any decision that can even be suggested to be non-political?

I am prompted to say all that by the Secretary of State's reply to my supplementary question. It is high time that lie took up the challenge I issued at our own breakfast meeting recently, and assessed the management of that TEC. If anyone is to assess any organisation, surely the least that we can expect is people who are qualified to determine whether the route taken by that organisation is acceptable to ROTA II.

I have given the Secretary of State various documents dealing with the qualifications obtained by CATO trainees in music and catering, for example. Trainees in the computer section have passed 28 examinations. Surely a full investigation is needed when unqualified people in the TECs decide that CATO, which has trained people to such high standards, should not continue.

I hope that the Secretary of State will take up more or less immediately the issues that I have raised; failing that, I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Gower, as Chairman of the Welsh Select Committee, will do so.

8:06 pm
Photo of Mr Gareth Wardell

Mr Gareth Wardell (Gower)

Let me give my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) the same reply that I give to anyone else who asks the Select Committee to examine a specific subject. I shall put his request to the Committee at its next meeting, but I must tell my hon. Friend that a whole range of issues are currently before us, including the writing of a report on Cardiff Wales airport, the future of opencast coal mining in Wales, affordable housing in Wales, salmonella, and the future of the health service, particularly in elective surgery.

I intend to concentrate on the economy, unemployment and, in particular, training, much as my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore has done. It is a tragedy for Wales that unemployment rises should again be in the headlines. Last week, the South Wales Evening Post reported that 4,200 Welsh jobs had been axed. Three thousand people a day are now losing their jobs. Alan Walters—once an eminent professor at the London school of economics where I was proud to be a student—claims that unemployment will have risen to 3 million by the end of the year. Our work force is now one of the least skilled in Europe.

In Wales, the growth in service-sector employment has failed to keep pace with the continuing long-term decline in manufacturing employment. I noted with interest the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies), who, in his usual expert way, pointed out that the expansion of the high-wage service industry is always doomed unless the manufacturing base is fundamentally healthy. Evidence throughout the world attests to that.

Between June 1979 and June 1990, the number of people in work fell by 24,000. According to research carried out by West Glamorgan county council, 30 of the biggest manufacturing companies in Swansea employed 41,000 people in 1979, but by 1990 only 20 of the companies remained, and the new list of the 30 largest companies shows that they employ only 19,000 people.

Britain has increased manufacturing investment by only 5 per cent., whereas Italy has increased such investment by 30 per cent., the Netherlands by 50 per cent., France by 57 per cent., Germany by 60 per cent. and Luxembourg, Belgium and Ireland by more than 100 per cent. Manufacturing investment in Wales has fallen by 19 per cent. in the past decade. It is estimated that, if investment in Welsh manufacturing had remained the same as in 1979, 1,833 million more would have been invested. That is what the economic miracle did for Wales.

The chamber of commerce survey for the fourth quarter of 1990 shows that employers are much less optimistic about the economy and their contribution to it. They have sharply reduced the number of people they think they will employ. The Government's long-standing policy of reliance only on interest rates to beat inflation is crippling Welsh industry and Welsh people. Last year, business failures in Wales increased by 4 per cent., and they are accelerating. The chamber of commerce reports that more than half of manufacturing companies and almost half of service companies have recruiting difficulties.

As our European competitors invest in equipping their work forces with skills and ongoing training to ensure that they are ready to seize what 1992 offers, and as Japan, South Korea and Singapore invest in ensuring that their work forces stay ahead of new ideas and applications of technology, what are the Government doing to give us the edge? They are taking 300 million from the budget for training unemployed people. They are cutting the United Kingdom training budget by more than a third. Between 1987 and 1992, they will have cut almost 15 billion from training expenditure.

At a time when everyone recognises the need for improved training, when the CBI and trade unions are working together to promote the kite mark award for employers who operate good training schemes, when employers are concerned about skill shortages causing blockages in the economy, when labour is being shed and when high interest rates inhibit companies from investing in plant and equipment, let alone training employees whom someone else will poach within months, what is the Government's contribution? They have decided that, as everyone else will have to do more training and as employers are starting to do more, they can do less. Their view is that, as TECs have found their feet, the Department of Employment can walk away. That takes some vision.

In July 1990, the West Wales training and enterprise council, a new private enterprise scheme with a Government-provided budget of 110,000, was launched. It was described by the Secretary of State and the local chief executive as the engine that would help regenerate the west Wales economy by providing high-quality training. How short-lived that has proved to be.

The West Wales TEC, like all the other TECs, is facing a cut of 60 per cent. Instead of the 4,200 places that are currently available for trainee placement in West Glamorgan and Dyfed, only 1,700 training places will remain after April. That means the decimation of training managers' programmes. The classic example of that in the West Wales TEC is at Swansea and Afan colleges. The number of trainee places available at the former will fall from 340 this year to zero next year. At Afan college, the number will fall from 140 this year to zero next year. In addition, 32 skilled trainers employed at those colleges will lose their jobs. I am pleased that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) has tabled a parliamentary question asking what that will mean for Afan college.

Training managers have asked me, "How do you tell people who have been on the dole for six months in order to qualify for a training place, who are paid between 29 and 36 for a 40-hour week, that they have just been sacked?" I do not know how they will be told, but told they must be. Who loses and who keeps their training place may seem arbitrary to trainees. The new contracts that are being imposed will make who stays in training and who returns to an ever-lengthening dole queue an economic decision, but not a rational one.

Not only is the number of trainees to be cut, but the TEC payment to training managers for each trainee is to be reduced from 35 a week to 20 or 30 a week, depending on the skill of the training undertaken and on whether the trainee obtains a full-time job after training. Managing agents are chasing points that have been obtained by trainees acquiring non-vocational qualifications at various levels. The more points, the more the managing fee—a reintroduction of the payments by results that we thought the Government had turned their back on.

That will mean that potential trainees who are in special need of a placement, perhaps a long-term unemployed person who shut himself out of school and has found himself repeatedly shut out of the labour market ever since, will be at a disadvantage. That is what the Government are doing.

Those who are seeking a new start through the probation service, where the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders is the managing agent, are the worst affected in the West Wales TEC area. All the 175 placements and their 16 trainers will go on 1 April. Such groups are likely to provide less income to managing agents than someone who has well-developed skills in one sector, who has been in regular employment, who will retrain for a new career and who will get points for the managing agent. For those disadvantaged people, employment training has provided a bridge into the labour market. That bridge will be demolished on 1 April—truly April fool's day for the Government.

Some of the training routes will be closed, such as the scheme that is jointly operated by Afan college and Lychgate Ltd., which provides training for potential computer programmers, whose highly skilled labour is in demand.

This year, I have been privileged to spend a considerable amount of my parliamentary work experience time with the Royal Navy, and I have seen its training establishments, including the marvellous engineering school on HMS Sultan. I have met the men on HMS Gloucester who did such wonderful work in the Gulf. A fortnight ago, I was in Rosyth, and saw in progress the training for anti-submarine warfare which made an inestimable contribution to the outcome of the horrible war in the Gulf. The training undertaken by the men and women in the Navy has made our Navy, our anti-mine submarines and our submariners the envy of the world. In addition to such necessary training for war, however, we need to prepare our young people for jobs and for the purposes of peace.

Until now, TECs have paid transport costs to trainees but under the new contracts, the costs are to be paid by the training managers. Kenyons in Pontardawe is a refrigeration engineering firm of national repute. Where everything between trainees is equal, to reduce the number placements from the present 30 to 12 on 1 April, it has a choice: it can sack a trainee from Clydach with travel costs of 6 a week or someone from Seven Sisters, placed under the valleys initiative, with transport costs of 27 a week. If the Seven Sisters man does brilliantly and ends up with full-time employment, Kenyons will get only 3 a week for training him. But even if the man from Clydach makes a foul-up, the company will still get 19 a week. Decisions will not be based on economic efficiency or common sense but on luck—on where a person lives.

There is now some uncertainty among Conservative Members. When the Government decided on the cuts, the election was a long way off and the rising unemployment figures were no more than blips or aberrations. Now, however, election dates are firming up for May or June, and more elaborate footwork than cut-and-run will have to be stage-managed.

The Secretary of State for Employment—formerly of Llanelli—did not accept a single amendment in Committee on the poll tax Bill, which became the Local Government Finance Act 1988. He had to do some nifty footwork on Tuesday to try to retrieve some credibility. He announced that he proposed to increase the training budget by 125 million. He did not say that his estimate of the reductions in spending that the training budget could stand had been wrong.

No Minister in this Government seems to have the courage these days to say that he or she was wrong. The Secretary of State for Employment did not say that his cuts in training would be reduced from 300 million to 175 million. He certainly did not say that he needed to get more people off the unemployment register by May so he would have to push them into training schemes and could not afford to reduce the number of places on quite the scale that he had originally planned—until after the election, that is, or perhaps even after the Budget. It seems that, even for this Government, training has its uses.

What Wales is crying out for is an election, and a new Labour Government. It is crying out for a Government who are committed to the modernisation and rebuilding of our manufacturing industry and who genuinely believe that a partnership between people and technology fostered and supported by Government is the way to bring long-term stability and eventual prosperity to our economy. We want a Government under whom training, instead of being a brush to sweep unemployment under the carpet, is a way of investing in the prosperity of the economy, of industry and of individual development and economic freedom. That is why we relish the prospect of an election in May or June.

8:24 pm
Photo of Mr Ted Rowlands

Mr Ted Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney)

I could not hope to follow a better speech. My hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Wardell) spoke for us all, with great compassion and commitment to the future training needs of our communities. I hope that he will not be treated to one of the Minister's waffly, weaselly replies. The Minister will have to answer the speech in detail. My hon. Friend made his case on behalf of the young people and unemployed not only of Gower but of Merthyr Tydfil, Llanelli and elsewhere. We are baffled by some of the changes in the training programme. I shall give one or two examples, and I hope that the Minister will not respond in general terms but instead will get down to the detail arid explain to the House why iniquities such as those described by my hon. Friend take place.

First, I want to address a few personal remarks to the Secretary of State. At Welsh Question Time two Mondays ago, I was sad to see the right hon. Gentleman putting the old Peter Walker record on again. When Opposition Members come to the House to express the worries, concerns and fears of our constituents as the recession worsens, as unemployment increases and as more people are made redundant—trying to convince the Government that what is happening is not myth but reality—we are told that we are running down our communities.

We resent that allegation, because it is monstrously untrue. I have not run down Hoover and reduced the number of jobs from 5,400 to 1,300. I did not run down the washing machine market—a development that has led to another 450 redundancies being announced last Friday. I have not run down three pits in my constituency in the space of 18 months. That running down is largely the result of Government policy. I hope that the Secretary of State will reconsider his return to the Walker whine that we are in some way demeaning or denigrating our communities.

There is another reason why I resent that line. As the Secretary of State will know from the stream of correspondence that he receives from hon. Members on both sides of the House, whichever Government are in power, Welsh Members are privileged to be party to the painstaking process of rebuilding our local economies. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has that job to do in Wirral, West but for most Opposition Members it has been a lifelong job.

We spend an enormous amount of our time trying to obtain extra infrastructure programmes for our communities and attract industry and drawing to Ministers' attention the fact that this or that company may be looking for a factory or a site. We work with the Secretary of State and his officials, the Welsh Development Agency and our local authorities to do just that—painfully to put our local economies back together.

I have taken some knocks in the past 20 years, but the closure of Hymac in Rhymney was a devastating and heartbreaking blow. I feel it personally, because I know people who have been hit by it and because it hits the whole community. The Hoover situation has really got to me. I have not felt so bad for a long time, as the Secretary of State will know from my correspondence. Yet the right hon. Gentleman says that we are running down our communities. It is blatantly untrue. We are only saying, "Look—as a result of some aspects of Government policy, all the painstaking good work that we have done together has been knocked aside and destroyed overnight." We have lost 600 jobs at Hoover, plus 385 at the Deep Navigation pit. The loss of 1,000 jobs in my patch inside a month has wiped out about two years of work that we have put in with the support of the Secretary of State and the WDA. I hope that he does not repeat that Walker whine.

Photo of Mr David Hunt

Mr David Hunt (Wirral West)

I do not for one moment accept that description of my right hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker). However, as a Merseyside Member and not a Cheshire Member, I live in an area which has more than its fair share of problems and difficulties and a much higher rate of unemployment than that in Wales. I also specifically exempted certain hon. Members from the accusation that agents of doom and gloom could do great damage to the prospects of our country.

The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) made a good point when he asked me what approaches I was making to banks and others whose job it is to look not just at the short term, but at the medium and longer term. I hope that he will recognise that my constant attempts to highlight the medium to longer terms are fundamental to getting through to everyone in Wales that those prospects are still as good as ever.

Photo of Mr Ted Rowlands

Mr Ted Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney)

I also want to refer to the medium to longer term. It is not just a matter of our communities being knocked back as they are being at the moment. No matter what Government are in power, there are cycles in the economy. There are periods when economic activity goes up and down. In my community, I have noticed that, when we bounce back, we do not bounce back to where we were. The revival in any upswing does not undo all the damage. There seems to be long-term, nearly permanent damage to the manufacturing and industrial base of our communities.

I had intended to elaborate on that problem in our communities, but my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) said it all. I was going to say that, if Llanelli was deleted from my right hon. Friend's speech and Merthyr Tydfil was inserted, the same points were true; what my right hon. Friend said about Llanelli is true of Merthyr. However, I am sure that deleting Llanelli would be the last thing that my right hon. Friend or, indeed, my wife would want. We are worried about our manufacturing base which made our communities so distinctive. They have not been rebuilt or regenerated.

We know a lot about washing machines in Merthyr. Sixty per cent. of Hoover's washing machine parts are imported. That happens not because there are companies in France or Germany that are more competitive in providing component parts than companies in the Principality or in Britain, but because there are no companies in Britain or in the Principality making those parts.

I approve of the efforts of Dr. Gwyn Jones and of the Secretary of State to attract inward investment. Welsh Development International is very important. However, we need a WIIDD—a Welsh indigenous industrial development department—which tries to fill that gap in the washing machine industry with 60 per cent. of products from indigenous Welsh production. That is an interesting illustration of the decline in manufacturing capacity and the abilities of our nation.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gower made a passionate speech. Our local economies have been guinea pigs, but hopefully the experiment is nearly over. We were guinea pigs for the Thatcherite economics and the notion that supply economics was all about cutting taxes. The idea was that enterprise would burst out all over the place and create jobs. That has not worked. The supply of goods and of component parts, for example for Hoover washing machines, has been pushed aside. Unless we return to supplying goods, we will not re-establish and rebuild the economies in our communities.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gower also referred to education and training. It was very disappointing that the Secretary of State treated education as though it were just another item to be ticked off as he was passing through on his grand tour of the Principality. He said that he was not going to embark on such a grand tour, but he did. Education did not figure prominently in his speech.

I do not want to repeat the speech that I made in the Welsh Grand Committee in which I advocated strongly that we should fundamentally change our attitudes towards the national curriculum for 15 and 16-year-olds and create new incentives for school leavers and 15 and 16-year-olds through decent early vocational education in schools. I am glad to say that I see distinct signs of conversion on that point from the Secretary of State for Education and Science. There was no mention of it in the speech of the Secretary of State for Wales today, but I hope that he supports the principle. I hope that there will be a fundamental change in attitudes in education for our 15 and 16-year-olds.

We must recognise that such a conversion might cause disruption. I am a trained historian and I have received letters from members of the history working party in Wales which has produced a working party report. However, that report was based on the assumption that history would be a subject compulsory until the age of 16. The curriculum needs to be revised.

As the hon. Member for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Grist) said, we must raise the vision and the dreams of our young people. There are signs that people's dreams have not been as powerful as they might be, but the emerging changes and conversions are welcome.

With de-industrialisation over the past decade has come deskilling. The reskilling of our communities, not just of our young people, is vital. I do not know how TECs are going to deliver. A very successful training consortium in my constituency is now turning away young people because it does not have sufficient places. People are having to travel great distances to acquire training which they could acquire on their own doorsteps, perhaps from the local technical college. The consortia and training schemes have received 100 per cent. approval from the training and enterprise council, but young people are being turned away because there are not enough places. That is nonsense.

The TEC in mid-Glamorgan, like me, is very worried about this. My intelligence about my community is pretty good. If it is not, my wife's certainly is. Between us we know most of what happens. Not enough young people in my community are training in engineering. They are not acquiring the skills that we will need to create the new manufacturing sector and manufacturing base that we hope to see.

Like my colleagues, I do not want to defend employment training. It has been pretty disastrous. Most of it looked like workfare. Much of it involved a pretence and a cruel deception. It was really a revamp of the community programmes.

There is virtue in community programmes. Some groups of young people in our communities will not need or be able to respond to high-tech training. There was a good case for community project work carried out by young people and the young unemployed.

We then pretended that there would be real employment training, but it turned out to be false. That is why people who have been on employment training schemes have expressed such cynicism to me. Employment training must be completely rethought. I do not think that the Government have got it right even now.

One sector of the work force has been totally ignored. I have spent the last few months reading surveys about the labour and training market. The main conclusion of them all is that we do not have enough youngsters to fill all the posts. However, we do have a large group of 30-year-olds and 40-year-olds who are currently in employment but who are either ill-skilled or have no skills whasoever. As far as I can see, there is no training and enterprise council for them. I do not know whether the mid-Glamorgan 'TEC provides such training, but I have not seen any evidence of it in my constituency.

We should concentrate on trying to attract into training the middle-aged, unskilled people in our community who, in the days of relatively high and good employment of the 1950s and 1960s, went into unskilled jobs where there were employment opportunities. How are we going to reach out to that middle-aged, low-skilled or unskilled section of our community? We need such people to be reskilled and to improve their skills if we are to meet the future economic needs of our community.

I must advise the Secretary of State that we talk our communities up, not down. We believe passionately in them. However, I am worried because I can see another recession hitting us. I believe that we shall see a semi-rerun of what happened in 1980 and 1981. Incidentally, I notice with interest that all the figures for comparison now start in 1986. The period 1979–1986 does not exist. It has been eliminated because, if one starts from 1986, the figures look better and one can show that the number of people involved in manufacturing has increased in the period 1986 to 1991. If one goes back to 1979, however, the figures do not look so good. But whether we start in 1986 or go back to 1979, we are worried because we might have another rerun or a semi-rerun of what happened in the period 1979 to 1981. We have been through all that once, and we must not go through it again.

It is not only a question of jobs and wages, or money and prosperity, although all are important. The thing that makes the communities that I represent Welsh is not so much something linguistic or cultural; it is an economic dimension. The economic basis of the communities that I represent created the distinctive identity that all generations of Welsh people who have become Members of the House have sought to express.

Of course we all recognise that change happens. The coal industry closes and restructuring occurs. However, my real worry is that the sum total of all the changes, and especially of the so-called restructuring of communities such as mine in the past decade will be that, one of these days—I hope that it will not be in my lifetime—our communities will not look any different from those in suburban England or anywhere else. We shall have a DIY economy. Everything will look the same, whether one is in Bath or Bristol, Pentrebach or Perth. That would be one of the saddest indictments of and epitaphs to the past decade of Conservative Government. Let us hope that it is coming to a quick end.

8:43 pm
Photo of Sir Anthony Meyer

Sir Anthony Meyer (Clwyd North West)

I share many of the concerns expressed by the hon. Members for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands), for Gower (Mr. Wardell), and for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) about the impact that the changes in the training system may have on some of those who have a special need for training.

As this is probably the last speech that I shall make in a Welsh day debate—no doubt the Welsh Grand Committee still has its treats in store for all of us—I thought that I might look back at the first speech that I made in a Welsh day debate in the House nearly 20 years ago. Having done so, I rather wish that I had not.

There were a few things that I said then that I stick by today. I urged that Britain should get into the European Community. That seemed controversial at that time, but now it is a political platitude. I spoke of the need to lessen Wales's dependence on old-fashioned heavy industry, and to speed the introduction of modern, science-based industry. That has happened, and we all welcome it.

On the whole, however, when I reread what I had to say then, I am dismayed by its smug arrogance. Those were the days when the Government of my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) was convinced that they had found the holy grail at Selsdon Park and that all that one had to do was to tighten the money supply and, hey presto, all our economic ills would melt away. It took them, and me, a couple of years to get that nonsense out of our heads. It took the Government of my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) a little longer. Now, after today's announcement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales, I doubt whether Selsdon Park can even be found on the map.

One of the very few philosophical concepts that I have been able to grasp is that all generalisations are wrong. Just as it is nonsense to argue that all that one needs to do is to tighten the money supply or to push up interest rates and then leave it to market forces to do the rest, it is equally foolish to deny that market forces have a role—and would have such a role even in a socialist society—in allocating resources where they are most needed. That is the lesson that is rapidly being learned in eastern Europe.

However, I am embarrassed to read how sneeringly I referred to regional policy, with a lot of glib talk about how silly it was to make the rich poor in order to make the poor rich. Equally, however, we must recognise that regional policy has given less-than-hoped-for results at a fairly high cost, partly because we are so muddled about it. At one and the same time, for example, we allocate huge resources to building roads in Wales to tempt people to move to, and to set up their businesses in, Wales, and spend equally huge sums subsidising commuter travel into London, to make that a desirable place for people to work. It does not seem to make much sense, although it may make good electoral politics.

If I can derive little satisfaction from studying my own record, I can take pride and comfort from the undoubted progress that Wales has made during the past 20 years. Perhaps I shall carry hon. Members on both sides of the House with me when I say that much of that progress has been due to the pragmatic and flexible use which Conservative Secretaries of State have made of the instruments fashioned for them by Labour Governments. No Secretary of State has made more skilful use of those instruments than my right hon. Friend the Member for Wirral, West (Mr. Hunt).

I recall with absolutely no pride how I joined in the denigration of the 1974 Labour Government's proposals for a Welsh Development Agency. We all talked about the unreasonable hopes that it would excite. But I hope—and believe—that by 1979 I was among those who rejoiced in the L turn—half a U turn—when Nicholas Edwards, now the Lord Crickhowell, and the outstandingly able chairman of another valuable quango—I seem to remember that quangos were regarded as a particularly obnoxious species but I believe, subject to correction. that there was a quantum leap in the number of quangos under my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley—decided to make full use not only of the Welsh Development Agency, the Mid-Wales Board and the excellent Wales Tourist Board, but even of the much more controversial Land Authority for Wales. I rejoice in that.

In my own constituency—or constituencies; I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr. Raffan) would allow me to say that if he were in his place—I have seen great changes, although they have affected what is now my hon. Friend's constituency more than mine. When I came to north Wales, it was almost cut off from England by the narrow, twisting, congested A55 cart lane. Much of my effort in Parliament was then directed to getting it improved. But in my wildest dreams I could never have envisaged the splendid A55 expressway of today.

In those days, the area was almost wholly and unhealthily dependent on three employers—Shotton steel, Courtaulds at Flint, and Hawkers at Broughton, of which only Hawkers, which is now British Aerospace, is still a large employer. Courtaulds has packed its tent and stolen away. I shudder to think what would have happened to the Flint area without the heroic efforts that my hon. Friend the Member for Delyn exerted on its behalf. I hope that those concerned are grateful to him. Now we have new, often science-based, industries that are attractively housed along the coast, along the A55 and in my constituency.

In the past two or three years, I have witnessed what I once despaired of seeing—a renewal of Rhyl's tourist equipment and a revival of that essential industry. The transformation which I have witnessed in north Wales has been going on throughout Wales, as I see for myself when I am lucky enough to travel through the still incomparably beautiful countryside and to see what is happening in Cardiff and Swansea and in so many places in mid Wales. I do not claim that it is all the work of any one Government or party; still less do I allocate praise or blame to central or local government. But that brings me to one area where there has been a deterioration over the past 20 years—the relationship between central and local government.

Even under the last Labour Government local authorities, more often than not themselves under Labour control, were all too often at odds, or at best in gross misunderstanding, with central Government. Under Conservative Governments, there has been rather less of this tension in Wales than in England, thanks to the untiring efforts of the last two Secretaries of State to compensate for the almost overtly hostile attitude of central Government in England to local authorities, even those under Conservative control. Now that creative tension is no longer a Government slogan, my right hon. Friend can carry through his consultations for reforming both the finance and structure of local government in an atmosphere rather more conducive to fruitful agreement.

In 20 years, I have, I hope, learned a little humility and I have come to know, and deeply to love, this geographically small but great-hearted country which has received me so kindly. I have discovered that all four political parties in Wales are genuinely concerned for the well-being of the people of Wales and that all four parties have valuable ideas to contribute. I genuinely believe that my party, the Conservative party—today I am very proud to proclaim myself a Conservative—represents a large and creative element in Welsh life. It has a record of achievement of which it can be proud, and it has an important and permanent contribution to make to Welsh life.

Wales would be the poorer if Conservative representation were reduced to the level of 1966, when there were only three Conservative Members. Likewise, it would not be for the good of Wales or, come to that, of the Labour party, if Labour had a near-monopoly of power.

It has been a privilege, as happy as it was in the first place unexpected, to have represented a Welsh seat for so long. I should like to thank hon. Members on both sides for the courtesy and consideration which they have invariably shown me and my wife. I wish my right hon. Friend and his team of Ministers, but particularly my hon. and very dear Friend the Member for Conwy (Sir W. Roberts) the best of good fortune in their endeavours.

I conclude with a wise saying by my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth, (Sir J. Stradling-Thomas) whose ill health is a sadness for us all. It was after one of my hon. Friend the Member for Conwy's—how shall I say it?—more workmanlike performances in a wind-up speech. I was saying to my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth as we left the Chamber, "It was not one of Wyn's more sparkling efforts tonight." John, much wiser than I, replied, "Ah; but it was not that 364 at the Oval which made Len Hutton the greatest of batsmen; it was the 37 not out in bad light at Old Trafford to save the follow-on". Mr. Speaker, I salute the Len Hutton of north Wales.

8:54 pm
Photo of Mr Dafydd Wigley

Mr Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)

It is an honour and a privilege to follow the speech of the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer), which was well received on both sides of the House. The hon. Gentleman has been a distinguished Member for two constituencies in Clwyd and his contributions to Welsh debates in the past 20 years have been valued by us all, even though we may not always have agreed with everything that he said. Both Opposition and Conservative Members who may not always entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman, undoubtedly have a considerable respect for his honesty and integrity and his courage to stand up for his convictions over those years. It was interesting to listen to him tonight looking back over the years and noticing some of the threads that stand out in Welsh politics.

There is a considerable amount that divides us in the House. Perhaps the divisions in our communities become more apparent in the House. Certainly they are more apparent than the Secretary of State found when he went around Wales and talked to people, whether in local government or elsewhere.

It is 17 years to the day since at least three of the hon. Members present tonight entered the House. As the hon. Member for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Grist) said, my hon. Friend the Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Dr. Thomas) entered the House 17 years ago today. So did the hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Howells). We were elected on Thursday 28 February 1974. A great deal has changed since then, but enormous problems still face us in Wales. They pose an enormous challenge.

A subject that has been paramount in our discussions in Wales in the past 12 months was not given the attention that I would have expected in the speeches of the Secretary of State and the Labour Front-Bench spokesman. It is the poll tax. Week after week, a substantial proportion of the people at my surgeries come to see me about the poll tax or community charge. I am glad that the Government are reviewing their policy. I only wish that they had never invented that iniquitous tax. As several hon. Members have said, it is an inefficient tax. It costs perhaps three times what a reasonably efficient collection system should cost.

But more important than the inefficiency of the poll tax is its unfairness. It is a basically unfair tax. It is unfair to people on low incomes who are just above the threshold for receiving benefit—people who earn perhaps 120 or 125 a week. They have to face the full impact of the community charge. A husband and wife dependent on that one income both have to pay the community charge.

I realise that the charge in Wales is lower than in some areas of England, but so are levels of income in many parts of Wales, particularly in Gwynedd. Individual after individual and family after family come to my surgery about the poll tax. They do not complain about having to pay some charge. They are not up in arms, but in tears, because they do not know how to cope with the financial burden that the poll tax places on them. They do not necessarily want to make a political protest or to default in their payment, but they just do not have the money to pay. To pay the poll tax, they would have to go without something, such as a car to travel to work, new clothes for their children or perhaps adequate food. Perhaps they would not be able to maintain their mortgage payments.

Something must be done quickly about the poll tax. I accept that discussions are being held now and I was grateful that Plaid Cymru had an opportunity to put our points to the Secretary of State for Wales and the Secretary of State for the Environment. But we have been told that it could be two years before legislation to replace the poll tax is introduced, even if there is an election and a change of Government. Something must be done in the meantime to alleviate the burden on thousands of people throughout the length and breadth of Wales. Something must be done this April to provide more generous community charge benefits and to eliminate the 20 per cent. payment which those at the bottom end have to pay, for whom 40 or 50 is more than they can afford. We must do something to help students, student nurses and the disabled, who are missing out on benefits that were available under previous legislation. Something must be done now.

While I criticise the Government for the way in which the poll tax is working, I am also critical of Her Majesty's Opposition for the way in which, when the community charge legislation was proceeding through Parliament, no viable alternative was put forward. One should have been proposed, because we had enough time to think about it. Some of us gave evidence to the Layfield commission in the 1970s. In our evidence and policies, Plaid Cymru is in favour of a local income tax. This is the type of taxation used in many countries. It is used in Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark. Over 90 per cent. of the revenue of local government in those countries comes from local income tax, while in Germany over 80 per cent. comes from that quarter. The same system could be employed here, as we suggested to, and as was proposed by, the Layfield, commission.

Years have passed since Layfield, and we are without a solution. Perhaps, when he winds up the debate for the Labour party, the hon. Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy) will give an undertaking that should we have a Labour Government following the next general election, whenever it might take place, they will not only do away with the poll tax but will introduce, in their first full year in office, not only a new system but one that is immediately income related.

I am not talking of a system with some income-related element some time in the future, but immediately. If we do not have that, but simply have the reversion to a variation of the rates system, we shall find ourselves with the unfairnesses that went with the old system, and I see no merit in jumping from the present frying pan into yet another fire. We must get to the nub of the argument, which is about having a system that is income related.

We have heard much in this debate and elsewhere about the current running through Welsh public opinion—it is near unanimity—to the effect that there is room for a change in local government structures. There is a belief in the Labour party in unitary authorities, amalgamating the district and counties. One could argue about the number, whether there should be 17 or 25. That policy is also held by the Liberal party. My party has advocated it since long before the Local Government Act 1972. I have also heard Conservative Members advocate it.

Whatever the arguments in England, if that type of consensus exists in Wales, why can we not just get on with it now? The Secretary of State could introduce legislation dealing only with Wales. If he talked in a non-party political way with leaders in Wales, he would find not only a sympathy for unitary authorities—I would want to see community councils below them—but a much greater sympathy for an elected all-Wales body. One could call it an assembly, a regional council, as Labour does, or a parliament, as we aspire to. But the idea that 5 billion of expenditure should be in the hands of three Ministers—who appoint 1,200 people to quangos throughout Wales—all at a time when, as the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West said, the Conservative representation is a small proportion of the Welsh membership here—I recognise that my party also has a small representation here—is not a democratic way to run a country. If Ministers were honest in their hearts, they would admit that.

We are moving forward to a new period in politics in Wales when many of the old demarcations are disintegrating and many of the elements that built up the political structures that have existed for the last 50 or 60 years are changing. I refer to social and economic changes, and political changes must go hand in hand. A metamorphosis is going on in the Labour party—I hope that it will be speeded up—but a metamorphosis is taking place in Wales also.

We could have a democratic forum at an all-Wales level in which we would find elements of consensus as well as of disagreement—the sort of element of consensus that the Secretary of State has found on many issues between himself and Labour councils in the valleys of south Wales. It is the sort of consensus that the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West has seen in the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs. There, when addressing matters of relevance to Wales, we put the interests of Wales first and do not get excited about trying to draw blood from one another. I believe in a democratic, elected Welsh body in Cardiff where co-operation in the interests of Wales as a whole could be achieved. We shall, of course, have arguments about priorities and about the balance between intervention and not having intervention by the state, but the democratic benefits of a community that can not only say what it wants but have the responsibility for implementing it are enormous.

The Secretary of State said that he did not want to see hon. Members denigrating Wales. I accept that, and I have never wanted to denigrate Wales. If there are times when better practice can be shown to exist, not only in England but in continental countries, and if they provide examples to which we should aspire—I have given the example of disablement policy in Sweden as being the type of policy to which we in Wales should aspire—we should make such comparisons, not to denigrate ourselves but to establish the best practice available and towards which we should work.

Some public services in Wales are expensive. In other areas we may not get the share that we might expect—for example, in research institutes and so on—but we must never lose sight of the fact that we in Wales also pay out taxes. We shall be paying about 9 billion in the present financial year. The expenditure by central Government in Wales will be about 85 billion, so an amount over and above will be contributed by us to meet the costs of central Government.

The idea should not be put abroad that we depend on handouts from other places. Wales works, pays its taxes and generates wealth, and by and large the services that we need are those to which we are entitled and for which we pay, whether they are for health care, education or employment support. We need improved policies in all those areas.

There has been much talk about training. The National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders is being eliminated in Wales. The training element is to be kept, but there are 200 people in NACRO in north-west Wales who may not be suitable for the sort of training provided by TECs. They may need other support to find work, and nothing will be available for them unless there is a rethink.

This week has seen the appearance of a publication on roads in Wales. The A55 and the M4 are tremendous projects, but there is a desperate need to improve north-south communications in Wales. The Minister travel there and must be aware of that. I hope that we shall see investment in the A470, the A483 and the A487 that run north-south through the middle of Wales and down the west coast. The hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North may accuse me of intruding on his constituency. There is a need for a trunk road link from Aberystwyth to Carmarthen. I know that the hon. Gentleman has been arguing for such improvements.

This week much attention has been paid to railway services. The railway service in north Wales will be emasculated if the present proposals go ahead. There are at present six through trains from Holyhead to London each day but from next October there will be only three. Two of those will leave Holyhead at 4 o'clock and 6 o'clock in the morning respectively. That is not the sort of infrastructure on which we can build a new, modern economy and attract the industry that we want. I invite the Secretary of State to discuss with his right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Transport how this decision can be reversed so that we can have the sort of railway infrastructure that we need.

The Secretary of State spoke about the report of the Welsh Language Board which recently presented a draft Bill. We have had discussions about the need for new legislation for the language for the past five years. I had a meeting in the Welsh Office along with Lord Prys-Davies in 1986. The Minister of State, Welsh Office, was also there, and we discussed two draft Bills. The Welsh Language Board is the Welsh Office's own body and its unanimous finding is that there is an overwhelming consensus in Wales that such legislation should be on the statute book. I hope that we can have a commitment about that.

Welsh agriculture faces desperate problems. I hope that the Secretary of State will not blindly follow the road taken by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, in blindly rejecting the MacSharry proposals, some of which might be relevant to Wales. The Secretary of State for Wales has responsibility for agriculture and that gives him the opportunity to place a different emphasis on policy. I urge him to follow that course.

We have heard much talk about a general election. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) has a secret line to 10 Downing street and knows that there will be a general election on 2 May. That may be why the writ for the Neath by-election has not been moved. Perhaps it is feared that Plaid Cymru will take that seat, and it is therefore proposed to subsume the by-election into the general election.

We are approaching the end of another annual Welsh day debate. Many people in Wales ask why there is an annual Welsh day debate. There is no annual English day, because it is assumed that for the rest of the year the House deals with English affairs. Scottish legislation is in and out of the Chamber almost every week, and next week a couple of days will be spent debating Northern Ireland matters. But we have just one annual Welsh day, and that is why we say that we need a new form of democracy in Wales that will respond to our aspirations and hopes as a nation.

9:08 pm
Photo of Mr Roy Hughes

Mr Roy Hughes (Newport East)

This debate takes place on the eve of the Welsh national day, when, traditionally, we take stock of the nation. The picture is not a happy one, and I did not recognise the Wales portrayed by the Secretary of State when he opened the debate.

Tomorrow, my hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy) and I will be travelling to Paris to support the Welsh rugby team. Sadly, it has become something of a lost cause, but I believe that hope springs eternal in the human breast, and my fervent hope is that, at last, a revival is under way.

For me, there is a linkage—however indirect—between the torpor and malaise affecting our rugby team and the fact that, for nearly 12 years, Wales has been governed by an alien right-wing Conservative Administration. There are historical precedents for this. For example, in the inter-war years, which were a time of severe depression, there was a Conservative Administration throughout, and the performance of our team was equally abysmal. The drift north continued unabated—as it does today—due to the lack of job opportunities in Wales.

Compare that scenario with the glorious seventies, when a Labour Prime Minister, now Lord Callaghan, welcomed the Welsh team to No. 10 Downing street after three consecutive triple crown victories, and we went on to win a fourth triple crown. As I recall the occasion, Lord Callaghan had just met the American President but he said to the president of the Welsh rugby union, "You are the real president." In those days, players went on to the field prepared to die for Wales. Those players included Gareth Edwards, Barry John, J. P. R. Williams, Gerald Davis, supported by the redoubtable Pontypool front row and many more players of similar talent and ability. This weekend, I hope and trust that we shall have turned the corner, because a revival of our rugby fortune is badly needed to restore our country's morale.

For good or evil, Wales is an integral part of the United Kingdom. Accordingly, we have been afflicted by the poll tax which, according to official pronouncements, was to be the flagship of the third Thatcher Administration. In reality and practice, it has proved a nightmare—a disaster of the first order. Administratively it has been difficult, its collection has been equally difficult, and the subsidies to offset its worst effects have been enormous. The Secretary of State for Wales was closely associated with the poll tax, and I note that that well-known pirate, the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), is trying to climb on board to rescue the flagship and is threatening riots if he is not successful. Nevertheless, I believe that the flagship poll tax will soon be consigned to the deep and that the lament will be muted, to say the least.

The Welsh economy is an integral part of the United Kingdom economy. No man is an island, and we are part of the whole. We cannot live in splendid isolation, as the Secretary of State seemed to imply when he suggested, a week or two ago, that the recession is not really affecting Wales. He should tell that to the Hoover workers in Merthyr, the steel workers in Brymbo and the miners in south Wales, who have seen their industries virtually wiped out and all the damage that that causes to our communities. At the same time, imported coal is flooding into this country. Again, the Secretary of State is involved because he is a former coal miner and knows about such matters.

That old enemy of Wales, unemployment, is rearing its ugly head once again. The seasonally unadjusted figure rose to 101,452 on 10 January this year. For years, the official unemployment statistics have been synthetically disguised by part-time jobs for women, many of whom are forced to go out to work just to make ends meet. I have nothing against women working, but many do so because their husbands, the traditional breadwinners, have been forced out of work. People in their 50s and early 60s are no longer required to register as unemployed, and are not counted in the official statistics. Many of them are capable of and willing to do a fair day's work. According to many independent economic observers, unemployment is set to go up and up in the next year or so, which spells bad news for Wales.

Many of the economic indicators portray a dismal picture at present. The trading figures have shown an annual deficit of about 15 billion. Our poor competitive position is reckoned by many shrewed observers, to be directly due to poor training facilities that result in a shortage of skilled people. Yet the Government have now chosen to cut 500 million from the training budget in the next two years. We now know that, to disguise that fact, they are putting out little sweeteners. This week, the Secretary of State for Employment announced that he was putting 125 million back into the budget.

One of the victims of those savage cuts in training is a scheme like that one so vividly outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell)—the CATO training scheme in Ogwr borough. I visited the scheme twice and appreciated the splendid work being done there to help youngsters, who otherwise would have had difficulty in getting into the labour market. The Government are pursuing a short-sighted policy.

Yesterday, interest rates came down 05 per cent., but they are still far too high, at 13 per cent. Repossession of homes goes on apace, as families are unable to meet their mortgage commitments. In industry and commerce, the bankruptcy figures are soaring. That is the reality in Wales and, indeed, in the whole of Britain at present.

Today, there is much concern about the environment, conservation and the preservation of our heritage—quite rightly so. But another important environmental issue lurks in my constituency—the application by an American waste disposal firm, Browning and Ferris, to build a plant in Corporation road in the Lliswerry district of Newport. There has been much concern about that proposal throughout the town and further afield. An action group has been formed and its meetings have been well attended. When I made representations to the Secretary of State, he said that it was a matter for the planning authorities in Newport to decide. In the event, the planning committee of Newport borough council decided unanimously to reject the proposal. Now the ball is firmly back in the Secretary of State's court, following an appeal by the company. He should reject this unwelcome proposal without further delay.

South Wales has already been plagued by the effects of waste disposal. There is the running sore of ReChem at Pontypool. There have also been incidents in nearby areas such as Caerleon, Curmcarn and Pontlottyn. South Wales is in danger of becoming the dustbin of Europe. It is time to call a halt.

The current assessment of Wales is a rather sad story.: There is little to gloat over. In his opening remarks, my hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) gave a lucid exposition and pointed the way to the future under a Labour Government. I believe that, when the euphoria and flag-waving at the end of the Gulf war have subsided, the people of Wales and the rest of the country will realise the mess that we are in after nearly 12 years of Conservative Government. I am confident that, when the time comes, they will turn to a Labour Government to provide the solution to the country's ills.

9:21 pm
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Mr Rhodri Morgan (Cardiff West)

I wish to place on record certain developments which have occurred in the national health service as it operates in my constituency and which affect the service provided for my constituents and for people in a wider area. My constituency is fairly rich in specialist hospitals.

It was announced yesterday that there is to be a 30 per cent. cut in services at the artificial limb and appliance centre at Rookwood hospital. It seems odd to cut those services on a day when the Gulf war is coming to an end and when ex-service men will be coming home. Fortunately, not too many have been injured, but the principle remains the same. Fifty per cent. of that service goes to ex-service men who form the majority of amputees—coal miners, railwaymen, steelworkers and building workers form the rest. Even though the number injured in the Gulf has been small, it is as booby traps and mines are cleared that the classic injuries occur which require the services of the artificial limb and appliance centre.

Vessa Ltd., the contractors to the national health service which in Wales, which operates at Rookwood hospital, announced to the work force this week that the number of technicians is to be cut from 13 to nine. That means that more of the service will be provided by post. People will be unable to go to the hospital and have the limbs fitted personally. That is not such a good service.

That cut comes on top of what the NHS has done by way of economy measures for amputees. Roughly since Christmas, amputees have not been supplied with two artificial limbs—one to wear and one as a substitute when the first wears out. They now receive only one; the NHS no longer supplies a spare. Again, that seems something of a slap in the face for ex-service men who were asked to risk their lives to clear minefields. If they are unfortunate enough to lose a limb—as many did while clearing minefields or removing booby traps in the first world war and in Korea and Vietnam—they will be treated less well than they would have been a year ago.

We can see a further deterioration coming. It is shocking that the NHS fails to provide a first-class service fit for the heroes of the Kuwait campaign, for the heroes of previous campaigns in which people have lost limbs, and for civilians who have lost limbs in the mines, in the steelworks and on building sites.

South Glamorgan health authority has jumped the gun with the closure announcement which may be confirmed by the Secretary of State when he makes up his mind about the six hospitals and the one children's ward at the Prince of Wales orthopaedic hospital in my constituency. We do not know when the announcement will be made, so we do not know whether the six hospitals and the one children's ward will close. The health authority has jumped the gun and decided to spend 160,000 on upgrading two closed wards to accommodate those affected by the closure of the hospital, which the Secretary of State has not yet approved. That is a contempt of Parliament and gets round the established procedures.

What are the public, the patients and the families of the patients supposed to make of the fact that the health authority does not yet know whether the Secretary of State will confirm the closure? The authority is happy to carry on spending 160,000 on a building contract to upgrade wards, the only reason for which is the possible closure of Glan Ely hospital. I am pleased that the employees of Constructors Tern have a job for the next few months. I have many friends in the building industry, and I am glad that they should have some work rather than lying idle. Nevertheless, it is a contempt of Parliament and it implies that something is going on between the South Glamorgan health authority and the Secretary of State which is not as laid down in the procedure. It is wrong to jump the gun.

That is why I am glad to have the opportunity to put those points to the Secretary of State. Perhaps he can write to me to explain the deterioration of the health service and the failure to keep to procedures on hospital closures.

9:26 pm
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Mr Donald Anderson (Swansea East)

I want to say how much I and, I am sure, other hon. Members enjoyed the valedictory speech of the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer). I began my working career, such as it was, in 1960 with the hon. Gentleman as my immediate superior. I learned much at his feet, and I have always held him in the highest regard.

The hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) spoke about the economy. I follow him in accepting that there is a Welsh question. We need not fear to involve ourselves in a debate on the Welsh question. The need for that to be put on the agenda is a result of a number of developments, such as the degree of centralisation over the past 10 years. Objectively, the United Kingdom is the most rigidly centralised country in western Europe. Just as the European dimension will assume a greater relevance, so the sub-national dimension has to be addressed.

I followed with great interest what my hon. Friends said about training in Wales, which is causing deep anxiety, and I hope that the Secretary of State will study the matter carefully. Even under the most minimal definition of the role of the state, one accepts that training is a vital role for the state and we can claim, in European terms, to be the least trained of all the major European nations.

Hon. Members have referred to the transport infrastructure. They have spoken about the lack of quality in our rail services in comparison with those in, for example, France. I will not go down that track, as I have often done in the past. The railways are an example of the way in which we have failed adequately to provide a proper transport infrastructure.

The Secretary of State is aware that I hope to bring to see him in the next few weeks a deputation from Swansea tenants and from Swansea council about the pre-cast reinforced concrete housing in the city. At this stage, I want to urge on him the fact that it is a major question in the city. There are about 1,300 PRC houses in Swansea. Of those, 850 are on the Blaenymaes-Portmead estate in my constituency and the other 270 are on the Clase estate. A consultant's report has suggested that 1,000 of the houses be demolished. On a demographic basis, about one third of the tenants in the estates are elderly people, many of whom have lived there for a long time. The matter is of immense social importance.

There was anxiety when the Under-Secretary stated his view of the role of public sector housing, that by the end of the decade there should be effectively no local authority housing and that all such housing should be provided by housing associations. Was that just the vapourings of the Under-Secretary, or is it fixed Government policy, certainly as regards Wales? It would be helpful to have clarification from the Minister of State on whether that is the view of the Government or whether, happily, it is confined to the Under-Secretary.

When the Secretary of State meets the delegation on PRC housing, he will hear their anxieties at first hand. I know that he will listen intently, because it is a matter of deep concern. I hope that he will consider in a non-ideological way the mix between local authority and housing association provision. The tenants are grateful to the Secretary of State for his ready response in being prepared to meet the delegation. They look forward to a positive outcome from the meeting.

9:30 pm
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Mr Geraint Howells (Ceredigion and Pembroke North)

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for calling me to say a few words at the end of the debate. I want to make a plea on behalf of my constituents who live in Fishguard and Goodwick in Pembrokeshire. No doubt the Secretary of State is aware of the importance of the port of Fishguard to the economy of west Wales. He will be aware, too, that the trunk road through Fishguard and Goodwick is one of the worst in Wales. The big lorries on their way to Ireland find it difficult to go round the bad corners in Fishguard itself.

The people of Fishguard have been told that the bypass will not be built for another 30 years. They have only to go up the road to see the new bypass in Cardigan. I thank the Secretary of State for the excellent job done there on providing a modern bypass. Unfortunately, the people of Fishguard will have to wait a long time. I urge the Secretary of State to carry out a feasibility study to see whether the bypass at Fishguard can be built sooner rather than later.

9:32 pm
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Mr Paul Murphy (Torfaen)

I was glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes) referred to the rugby match in Paris on Saturday. He and I are travelling to the French capital tomorrow. I hope that the wishes of the whole House will be with the Welsh team on Saturday.

The hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer), whom I count as a personal friend and who has made civilised and thoughtful contributions to debates over the years, will be missed by us all after the next election, whenever that may be. He said that it would be foolish to ignore market forces in regard to the economy of Wales. I assure him and his right hon. and hon. Friends that my hon. Friends and I believe very much in a blend of market forces and public intervention.

The speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) was a tour de force. He analysed the decline in manufacturing industry in the Principality. The Minister of State referred in an intervention to the number of jobs in manufacturing; may I take him back to 1979, a more appropriate date, when there were 315,000 jobs in manufacturing, compared with 249,000 today?

If we had been investing in Wales since 1986 at the same level that we invested in 1979, 1,833 million more would have been invested in the Principality's manufacturing base. When we couple that, as couple it we must, with the fact that regional aid has been reduced from some 290 million to 123 million during the past decade, there is no doubt that our economy is more fragile and more susceptible to the current recession than that of perhaps any other region in Britain. That is why 200 men and women a week are being put out of work in Wales. That is why HTV and the BBC are to sack 500 men and women during the next few months. I hope that the Secretary of State will take the matter up with HTV and the BBC, because it will have tremendous implications for broadcasting in the Principality.

As well as those who are unemployed, we must consider those who are in work in the Principality. When we compare the figures for 1979 with those for 1990, we see that 24,000 fewer people are now in work in the Principality. Wales needs more manufacturing and investment, particularly investment in our greatest asset, our young men and women. We have heard some superb speeches today from my hon. Friends the Members for Gower (Mr. Wardell), for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) and for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands), all of whom referred to the fact that we are wasting the talents of our young people in Wales, and that is unforgivable.

The Secretary of State rightly referred to the link between Wales and the German land of Baden Wurttemberg. If that link meant anything, he would go there to see how the Germans train their young people. If we in Wales did only a fraction of what the Germans do, our training would be in a much better position. We have had nothing but schemes, each dafter than the one before. The TECs are in no way representative of our communities. My hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore made a powerful speech on the initiative in his constituency. A Labour Government will retain the TECs, but we shall make the boards of those bodies much more representative of the communities.

Our training agency budget has been halved from 10 million to 5 million. There has been a 40 per cent. cut in YTS and a 15 per cent. cut in employment training. That is why our proposals for "Skills Wales"—for better qualifications to go with the training, for the end of compulsion and for us to give the highest possible regard to the training of our young people—will be high on the agenda in the forthcoming general election. It might well be 2 May, as has been said, but whenever it is, training will play an important part in our election campaign.

My hon. Friends the Members for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) and for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) both referred to local government and the vital role of council services in Wales. When my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) was Secretary of State for Wales in 1979 and my hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside was a Minister, thousands of houses were built. Recreation and leisure centres sprang up all over the Principality. Warden schemes were built for our old people. There were more than 30 in my constituency. Our schools had proper books and equipment.

More than a decade later, after 50 Acts of Parliament which have done nothing but undermine local government in Wales, morale in our Welsh councils is low. They are blamed for everything. Hundreds of local authority officers have been banned from taking part in local government and in politics as a result—local government legislation and councillors' allowances are thoroughly inadequate. Above all, local government in Wales has been underfunded. If the rate support grant had been kept at the level of the late 1970s, an additional amount of nearly 2,000 million would have come into the coffers of Welsh districts and counties.

The hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) and my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, East referred, quite rightly, to the poll tax as it affects Wales. Wales never wanted that tax. A great majority of the Welsh people voted against it at the last general election. The churches, the local authorities and most voluntary organisations are appalled at its unfairness and injustice. We do not know what will happen to it, although we are given to believe that in the Conservative party there is a rearguard action to keep it. The transitional arrangements—the latest version, which the Secretary of State has said is intended to help the people of Wales—is so dotty, so inept, that in parts of Wales the richest will gain even more, and the poorest will get even less.

The Government wish to replace the poll tax with something that we have described as a bed-and-breakfast tax. So far as we can tell, it will be a combination of a property tax and the poll tax—probably the worst of both worlds. It seems to me that the consultation exercise that the Secretary of State for Wales and the Secretary of State for the Environment have asked for will be wholly pointless unless the Government, in the very first instance, make a commitment to do away with the poll tax. The majority of Conservative Members, for electoral reasons, are urging them to do just that, but so far without success. Why should we help them out of their miserable plight when, finally, we have our own plans worked out?

I can tell the hon. Member for Caernarfon that our fair rates scheme will take into account the ability to pay. There will be proper rebates. The hon. Gentleman knows as soon, as the Labour Government occupy the offices in Whitehall and the Welsh Office, we shall regard it as very important to ensure——

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Mr Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)

I understand what the hon. Gentleman is saying, and I have read the Labour party's document. Can he give a categorical assurance that sensitivity to income will be applicable immediately?

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Mr Paul Murphy (Torfaen)

Of course I can give an assurance that sensitivity to income will be taken into account. I can give a further assurance: that as time goes on, and as the Inland Revenue conducts its research, the rating system will be refined and improved still further. All hon. Members know that property taxes are common through the European Community. That is what we shall put to the electorate, and on that basis we shall win the election convincingly.

However, we are not talking just about the fair rates system that we shall introduce. We are making it clear that the poll tax, as it stands, is the direct responsibility of the Government and their supporters in this House. They cannot wriggle out of it. When Ministers line up one by one to dump it for fear of losing their seats, we shall make certain that people know who is responsible for the introduction of a tax which is hated universally in Wales and in the rest of the United Kingdom.

The initiatives of the Secretary of State and of his predecessor—the valleys initiative, the rural initiatives—are, of course, welcomed by Opposition Members, but, as has been said already, the bodies that are being used to implement these proposals—the Welsh Development Agency and the Land Authority for Wales—were actually set up by a Labour Government. They will be refined by a Labour Government, and we shall extend the principle throughout the United Kingdom so that the benefits that we in Wales have had may be enjoyed by everyone, but we are concerned also about the way Conservative Members treat our local authorities.

Comments of the Under-Secretary of State for Wales suggested that the Conservative party now believes that our local authorities no longer have a role in housing. Our local councils, with all the expertise that they have built up over the years, will no longer play a role in providing houses for our people. That is a great sadness to us all, since councils have cleared our slums, have provided houses with bathrooms for all our people, and have given the people of south and north Wales good housing. To deny them their heritage is a disgrace.

About 70,000 people still linger on our housing waiting lists in Wales, and between 10,000 and 15,000 people are homeless. My hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore referred to TECs and I think that it is also a disgrace that Tai Cymru, the body which is supposed to deal with housing in Wales, has not one representative of Welsh local government on its board. Obviously that fits in with the ideas of the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett), who earlier this month was talking about local authorities having no role to play in the provision of public housing in our Principality.

This morning, the Labour party in Wales talked about our new housing policy. We said that we need to use capital receipts to build more houses: we need a crash programme on homelessness, and at least 30,000 homes need to be built.

It seems to me and to my right hon. and hon. Friends that the past decade has left a Tory legacy which will be remembered in the forthcoming election. The Tories have inflicted a wounding recession upon the Welsh people, which has meant record bankruptcies, a return to the high unemployment of the early 1980s and a staggering decline in our manufacturing base. They have imposed an unfair and wretched tax on our people. They have demoralised our teachers and our doctors, undermined local democracy in Wales and worked against, and not with, our local councils. For all those reasons, and for many others, they will be swept away in the election that is most surely not far away.

9:46 pm
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Mr Wyn Roberts (Conwy)

As is usual in Welsh day debates, hon. Members on both sides of the House have voiced their concerns about various aspects of life in the Principality. Naturally our proceedings have been affected by the successful conclusion of the war in the Gulf. We were all sorry to hear of the death of Lance Corporal Francis Evans of Flint, but delighted with the news of the return of HMS Cardiff.

We were all moved by the swansong of my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer). I certainly thank him for his kindly reminiscences and comments, and especially for the reference to Len Hutton, who was knighted in the same birthday honours as me.

Much of the debate has been taken up with the state of the Welsh economy and with rising unemployment. l must cheer up Opposition Members by saying that things are going to get better and not worse. We all know that the rise in unemployment is attributable to high interest rates, which are necessary to squeeze out inflation. However, the remedy is working. Inflation is on the way down, and who can doubt that interest rates will follow? After all, there have been two reductions in interest rates in a month.

Most of us know by now that the cost of reducing inflation is lost jobs, but this time we began from a record high level of employment, so unemployment is certainly not as bad as it was in 1986. In the past ten years, we have built a stronger and more diversified Welsh economy, which is far better able to weather the rough waters of a recession.

One matter was referred to time and time again during the debate—our manufacturing base. As I said in my earlier intervention, since 1986 manufacturing employment has increased by some 41,000 jobs, or nearly 20 per cent. We want to build on that. I do not know where the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) got the idea that we were against manufacturing employment, given that we have been doing everything possible to increase it.

I have high hopes for the future of the Welsh economy. Since 1979, we have established more than 800 new plants, providing 55,000 jobs. A further 29,000 job opportunities have been created by expansions at existing plants. We are not talking about inward in vestment alone. There has been growth in other sectors, too. In September last year, for example, there were 78,000 more self-employed people than in 1979—an increase of more than 63 per cent., bringing the total to 201,000.

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Mr Wyn Roberts (Conwy)

I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman, as he has not been present throughout the debate.

There has also been an increase in employment in the service industries—up by 93,000, or just over 16 per cent., on the 1979 figure, reaching a total of 665,000 in September last year.

Many Opposition Members have made much of business failures. What matters is the net gain in the number of new businesses. The number of businesses that fail is still being exceeded by the number of new ones that are being created. A record number of businesses were operating in Wales in 1990. All will be given new challenges and opportunities as inflation falls further later in the year, and as we advance towards the European single market of 1992.

Let me repeat that I do not know where the Opposition get their ideas. We regard training as a key priority vital to the future success of the Welsh economy. Our training policy is designed to boost the skills of our work force and to provide for our industry. We are making great progress towards the achievement of those aims, not least through the establishment of TECs. I am astonished to hear them so maligned by Opposition Members.

Already, the TECs have secured more employer involvement in training than ever before. With the signing of the Powys TEC contract tomorrow, we shall have a complete network of TECs in Wales, ahead of the national network and two years ahead of the original schedule. The budget for adult and youth training in Wales this year is 128 million, compared with 12 million in 1978–79. Opposition Members have been far too hard on the TECs, which have barely come into existence.

This afternoon, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced the provision of an additional 8 million for TECs to spend on employment training. That is a substantial sum, which demonstrates our commitment to helping those who need help most.

I can tell the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) that that increase takes account of the rise in unemployment, and allows employment training to continue to play its important role in helping the long-term unemployed to return to work. We want to ensure that a wide range of help is provided for those people. I agree that, for many people, help with searching for jobs or securing interviews can sometimes be more effective than training, and the number of places in job clubs and on the job interview guarantee scheme has therefore been increased.

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Mr Wyn Roberts (Conwy)

The point was made by someone on the hon. Gentleman's own side; I am only repeating it, so it is no use his saying that it is silly. We recognise that training has a valuable role to play——

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Mr Wyn Roberts (Conwy)

I will not give way. The hon. Gentleman has not been present at all during the debate. He has ignored us. Why should I give way to him?

The TECs will decide how to use the resources allocated to them and will be able to tailor their programmes to meet the training needs of employers, individuals and the whole community.

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Mr Win Griffiths (Bridgend)

I sincerely hope that it is. I am seeking your advice, Mr. Speaker, because the Minister of State has twice implied that an hon. Member cannot intervene unless he has been present throughout the debate. Is that to be found in "Erskine May"?

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Mr Bernard Weatherill (Croydon North East)

No. Unless the Minister of State gives way, the hon. Gentleman must sit down, but there is no rule about the hon. Gentleman's complaint.

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Mr Wyn Roberts (Conwy)

I shall not repeat the point about not giving way to hon. Members who have not been present because I am anxious to answer the comments of the hon. Member for Ogmore about CATO.

TECs are obliged to ensure that the training providers to which they award contracts meet high-quality standards. The decision whether to award approved training organisation status rests entirely with them, because they are best able to decide what training is appropriate to their area and which organisation will best meet that provision.

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Mr Raymond Powell (Ogmore)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You have just heard a point of order about the Minister not giving way to hon. Members who have not been present throughout the debate. The Minister referred to my speech and to a question that I asked him——

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Mr Bernard Weatherill (Croydon North East)

Order. The hon. Gentleman has been here a long time. He knows that, unless the Minister gives way, he must resume his seat.

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Mr Wyn Roberts (Conwy)

I am declaring my faith in the strength of the Welsh economy, and I extend that faith to the Welsh people and the Welsh scene in general.

That faith is shared by the Government, who invested 2,596 per head of the population in Wales in 1989–90—68 per cent. more than the United Kingdom average. Next year's provision for total expenditure within the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is nearly 5,000 million—an increase of about 10 per cent. on comparable plans for this year.

Per capita expenditure on the national health service will be almost 10 per cent. higher in Wales than in England. The Government clearly recognise Welsh needs and are prepared to meet them.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that next year's gross provision for the Welsh Development Agency will be 60 per cent. higher in real terms than five years ago. Since next year's planned provision was announced in the autumn statement, my right hon. Friend has announced further provision of 42 million in grant towards the community charge reduction scheme, 18 million for local authority capital programmes, including a 7 million contribution to the rural initiative, and 2 million for the Brymbo package. He announced today further expenditure on training, which I am sure all hon. Members will welcome.

Once again, the Labour party is completely without policies, or if it has them they have not been paraded before us today. Earlier this week, it produced something called an industrial policy document—its third attempt to repackage the same policy in three years. This week's package suffers from the same fatal flaws as the previous efforts. It is entirely uncosted and contains no strategy for curbing inflation. It does not explain how promises of immediate cash for industry can be implemented. It reaffirms Labour's commitment to nationalisation—specifically for British Telecom—and relies on the proliferation of quangos, tax distortions and subsidies.

The consequences will be as we expect: declining growth and rising unemployment. I do not believe that the people of Wales want such policies, any more than the good people of Neath want a rugby fan offered to them by the Labour party. They want policies for prosperity, and that is what we shall present them with whenever the next election comes.

It being Ten o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.