I have had the benefit of consultations with the local authorities, the health authorities, housing associations, enterprise agencies, the Wales Tourist Board, a number of voluntary organisations, the CBI, the TUC, and a range of commercial and industrial firms. A range of constructive and positive proposals have been made, all of which are being fully assessed and considered, I will announce a positive plan of action when those considerations have been completed.
I have always stated that I will make an announcement as soon as the consultation is complete and I have reached conclusions. The programme will affect the Valleys for some years to come, and it is important that the document is carefully constructed. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman will be disappointed with the way in which public expenditure is used to benefit the Valleys.
We hope that the Secretary of State will look fully at all the propositions put to him from the Valley towns, and if he takes a bit longer to consider all the representations, none of us can complain. Will he, however, give us an absolute assurance that when he publishes the scheme he will also publish all the financial details, comparing how much is to be spent in the next three or four years in detail with what has been spent over recent years and also with what we have lost in regional aid over that period—which we trust will be refunded in the next two or three years?
We have been reading carefully the book that the right hon. Gentleman published recently and noting the kind of partnership that he envisages between the public sector and private capital. What amount of commercial capital does he expect to participate in the Valleys initiative? Is he hopeful that the area will be scheduled for an integrated operations programme for the European Community, which will add substantially to the funds made available?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, plans connected with the European Commission are a matter for discussion and detailed negotiation.
As for our relationship with the private sector, I have engaged in many consultations because a range of industries are potential investors in the Valleys in major commercial enterprises and capital investment. The results of those negotiations have been very heartwarming.
Will the Secretary of State give us an assurance that at least his initiative will include sufficient money to cover the serious under-funding of the health services in our Valley communities, and to deal with the backlog of applications for repair and improvement grants caused by the fact that a large number of individual home owners have been waiting for up to four years for such grants?
The Health Service will always face great demands. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the amount now being spent on the Health Service is a substantial improvement, by any comparison, on the amount being spent some years ago. Similarly, a Government who have spent more in one year than the previous Labour Government spent in five years are likely to have a good record on house improvements.
Mr. Alan Williams:
Can we at least have some answers from the Secretary of State? Is it not time to end the cruelties, or is it just dither on the right hon. Gentleman's part? Does he realise that he has trailed this so often and for so long that it is in danger of becoming a rather sad parliamentary joke? Will he confirm that the article in the Western Mail on 17 March was based on authorised Welsh Office briefing? If not, how does he account for the detailed quotations in it? If it was, does he stand by the figure of £900 million that it quoted?
Finally—this is an important point—when it is eventually announced—f it is—may we have a guarantee that it will be announced first in this Chamber?
I shall certainly make an announcement in the Chamber, although I shall also be simultaneously making announcements in the Valleys. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that.
The only publicity of any scale that has built up about the Valleys initiative is the constant neurosis of the right hon. Gentleman, who mentions it in almost every speech. I am sure that he will be delighted if it is a programme of action with substantial results. We look forward to seeing his smiling face rejoicing at such a programme.