§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Burns.]5.19 pm
§ The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. John Redwood)
Yesterday, we celebrated a great figure from Wales's past. St. David believed in being joyful. The Labour party would do well to heed him. I trust that it will break the habit of a lifetime and use the debate to spread some joy and hope.
Today, we herald a great future. In the past year, manufacturing output has surged; big urban renewal schemes are under way; and each manufacturing worker produced 6 per cent. more. Since the end of 1992, 25,000 people have come off the dole. We are leading Europe in exporting televisions and we are beating the world at producing steel. That is not a description of South Korea or Taiwan. That is Wales in 1994, and 1995 will be even better.
The television programme could ask, "How did they do that?" We did it by changing attitudes, by attracting investors, by cutting interest rates, and by believing in Wales. [Interruption.] We hear already how much Opposition Members dislike it. They know that Wales is on the move in the right direction and that Conservative policies are bringing economic success.
The pace of change is pulling the successful forward at an ever-accelerating speed. The danger is that we shall leave behind the less successful—some people, some towns, even some areas. I want to show that all of Wales and all of her people can benefit.
§ Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)
Will the Secretary of State assist the House? Despite all those wonderful benefits that he and his Administration have brought to Wales, why do the wicked people of Wales refuse to give him the credit, and why, after two years of his rule, is the Conservative rating the lowest in history?
§ Mr. Redwood
It is real votes in the ballot box at a general election that count. I look forward to that challenge, as there is much more work to be done and more good news before we reach that happy occasion when more Conservative Members of Parliament are elected to represent Wales, to continue and to support the good work of their colleagues.
§ Mr. Peter Hain (Neath)
The Secretary of State spoke of joy in Wales and of the upbeat view of the economy. How does that square with the report last week that more than 200 people queued through the night at Neath and Port Talbot jobcentres, not for actual jobs, but for application forms from British Steel for jobs that might arise? A 64-year-old woman, a constituent of mine, queued in the morning and found that the jobcentre had run out of application forms. We are going back to the 1930s; we are not going forward to the next century.
§ Mr. Redwood
The hon. Gentleman is right. There are still too many people without jobs. I have always accepted that and I have said that we need many more jobs. Today, I shall be sketching more ideas on how those jobs will arise, but the hon. Gentleman should recognise that Welsh unemployment overall is down to the United Kingdom average, that the UK average is well below the continental 1216 average, and that 25,000 families in Wales are much happier because one of their members has found a job since December 1992, when unemployment was unacceptably high.
§ Mr. David Hanson (Delyn)
In his list, the Secretary of State did not mention wages. Does he accept that people in Wales are still paid far less than people in any other region in the UK? If he will not support the minimum wage that the Labour party wants, what other measures will he introduce today to ensure that wages rise in Wales?
§ Mr. Redwood
Of course we want higher wages, which have to be earned. They are earned by skills and by adapting to more sophisticated manufacturing techniques. That is happening in many parts of Wales, including in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. I shall outline some more measures that we are continuing with and that will help.
§ Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)
If we are doing so well, will the Secretary of State explain a simple situation? How is it that, 15 years into the life of this highly successful Government, unemployment is still 50,000 higher than it was when they came to office? How much longer will it be before they get unemployment back down to the 1979 level?
§ Mr. Redwood
Chronic overmanning and deep structural problems existed in some industries in Wales in 1979, but the good news is that we have done a much better job than many countries on the continent in reducing unemployment. Our relative performance is good, but I want more real jobs, just as the right hon. Gentleman does.
New industry and new services need not pass any part of Wales by on the other side. If the Vale of Glamorgan can have a high living standard and low unemployment—as it does—so can Bridgend. If Caerphilly can, nothing is stopping Merthyr from doing so. It is not written in the stars that some places will do well and others badly. Holyhead has been a bustling port in the past. Merthyr was once the centre of new industry and new technology. Both have promising tomorrows. Today's equivalent of pioneering by puddling in the steel industry is messages by multi-media.
§ Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones (Ynys Môn)
I am grateful to the Secretary of State for taking time to mention Holyhead, which clearly has a bright future. He will recognise the important development that is taking place at the port, with substantial investment, which I hope will be backed with European Union funding. Will he give the House an assurance that the Welsh Office will do everything possible both to facilitate the grant and to make strong representations to the European Commission that that grant should be approved?
§ Mr. Redwood
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman admits that a good future is in prospect for the port. I agree that more work needs to be done and that more investment needs to he made. Of course the Welsh Office will do anything in its power to assist in the way that he suggests and in other ways.
§ Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda)
It is without any great pride that I represent one of the most deprived constituencies not just in Wales, but in the UK. We have 1217 had a lot of talk from a succession of Secretaries of State of this Government about inward investment and improvement, but the real fact is that unemployment in the Rhondda is still running at about 20 per cent. and that youth unemployment is as high as 80 or 90 per cent. What will the Secretary of State do about that? He said that the Rhondda can perform as well as the Vale of Glamorgan, but without practical investment in our valley communities, this downward spiral of depopulation will continue because of the lack of investment in the infrastructure.
§ Mr. Redwood
Of course we need more investment. There will be public investment and private investment. As the hon. Gentleman knows, I have taken action to encourage more of such investment and, like him, I am impatient to get on with the job.
It has taken the actions of the cyber cops in the United States of America to dramatise the Internet. Once a complex idea for computer super-literates, it has exploded into all too earthly life with stories of theft, fraud and pornography on that new ring main of world power. The net and its successors are ways of ensuring that no city, town or hamlet of Wales need be cut off from the next century. Geography does not debar Wales from economic success in a world shifting eastwards. History proves that false, and common sense confirms it.
§ Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)
I welcome what the Secretary of State has said. Does he mean that areas such as rural mid-Wales will gain assistance from the Welsh Office in attempts to include them in the information super-highway? If so, that is a welcome announcement.
§ Mr. Redwood
I have already said that if grant is needed I shall consider carefully how we could give that under the various powers that we have.
The cabling of Newport, Swansea and Cardiff is under way. Applications have been invited to cable the rest of the valleys and the Vale of Glamorgan. Before the year is out, I want to see a franchise for north Wales. Mid-Wales and west Wales should join in.
British Telecom has always said that it wants to be able to offer a full range of services, using its existing cables where possible. It is more than welcome to offer to do that in any unlicensed area of Wales. Recently, I have been talking to cable companies. They are considering using radio links in less populated areas, which might solve the problem. I am told that it is possible to sling trunk fibre over pylons and maybe on to telegraph poles where routes are available. Between those methods, we must find a way to ensure that mid-Wales and west Wales are part of the system.
What matters just as much as installing the cable or making the links is the use that we make of that. Work is on hand to wire Celtic Lakes industrial park so that it can take the whole range of multi-media business services. I hope that other parks will follow. Cardiff bay can become a teleport.
This week, Super-JANET has become something of a new heroine in the House. A sum of £5.5 million is being spent this year by colleges in Wales to turn JANET into Super-JANET and to equip the colleges for the next century with multi-media technology.
§ Dr. Kim Howells (Pontypridd)
I want to ask the Secretary of State not about "SuperTed" or Super-JANET 1218 but about equipping colleges. The biggest education institution in Wales is the university of Glamorgan. Will the Secretary of State ensure that the distribution of the millennium fund takes into account the university's dire need for new buildings and capital projects, which it wants now? I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman agrees that it fulfils a vital role in Welsh educational life and—if he wants to use super-highway terminology—in the interface between industry and education.
§ Mr. Redwood
In so far as it is proper for me to intervene in the millennium fund, I shall do everything in my power. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage, who has more influence than I have in these matters, will be shown the text of the hon. Gentleman's intervention and my response. I hope that Wales proposes many good projects for millennium funding, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is right when he says that education is one service that could benefit. He is also right to say that the university of Glamorgan is most important. I have stepped up capital investment in colleges in the past year or so and I intend to continue to do so as there is a backlog of work to be done.
I want BT to offer enough cable capacity at a sensible and realistic price. I am looking into allegations that there are some difficulties with band width and pricing for some of the links in mid-Wales.
§ Mr. Hain
I apologise for intervening again and I am grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way. I find his remarks about BT interesting. I know that BT would be willing to offer fibre optic cabling in, for example, some of the Neath valleys but it is barred by Government regulation from offering entertainment as well as telephony. Will the Secretary of State consider restricted ring-fenced projects in unlicensed areas which would enable it to do so and thereby bring fibre optic super-highway opportunities to many remote areas?
§ Mr. Redwood
I regret to say that, geographically, much of Wales is still unlicensed, which is why I am trying to drive forward the work quickly. We are now close to a licence for a large new area in Wales. Yes, there is an offer to BT to offer the whole range of services to the unlicensed areas if it were the most sensible prospect on the table. I openly invite BT again to bid on that basis if it would like to do so. Let it not be said that there is a ban on BT operating well in Wales, other than in that small area of Wales which is already licensed under different terms.
Whereas St. David preached from a patch of grass and turned it into a hill, the modern Welsh academic will communicate across a phone line and will, I trust, broaden its band width into a range of new services. Today, I am also offering an additional £3 million for this year for books, equipment and new library space. Libraries are crucial and they, too, need more books and new equipment to carry them forward into the new era. It is time to turn up the lamps of learning.
What has all this to do with the job prospects of the teenager in Tredegar? The answer is, more than one might think. Getting the Welsh economy up to the speed of the new technology will raise the income level of the whole community. It will produce a host of new opportunities extending well beyond software and telephony. The cable investment entails excavating roads, making the cable and 1219 designing and manufacturing the switches and boosters. The system, once installed, needs maintaining and using: a host of businesses are growing and will grow on its foundations.
It should be as easy to entice the schoolboy in Mountain Ash as the schoolboy in Cardiff to make the journey from Nintendo and Gameboy to personal computer and multi-media link. A software generation is now growing up around the world comprising children who are used to writing essays on word processors and solving problems on computers. If English or Welsh is their first language, BASIC is their second. They have an entrée waiting to the world of technology. The Internet scarcely recognises political borders or language barriers.
Ideas flash through the cable, cross the continents and are intolerant of Government control. The information revolution moves at the speed of light. No Government can "invest" in it with an eye to controlling it—that would be like trying to bet on the results of last Saturday's 3.40 at Chepstow when it is already Tuesday afternoon. The shadow Chancellor on the Internet would do to multi-media what successive British Governments did to British Leyland and British Steel in the 1960s and 1970s.
§ Mr. Donald Anderson
What the Secretary of State is telling the House is of great interest, but will he put himself in the position of an unemployed man in Cwmrhydyceirw or an unmarried mother in St. Mellons and ask how relevant what he is saying is to their needs?
§ Mr. Redwood
That, in a slightly different form, was the question that I was asked a little while ago, and which I am now answering. It is very relevant because the scheme will increase prosperity and job opportunities across Wales—in the valleys, north Wales, mid-Wales and west Wales. Many Opposition Members accept that it is a job generator in its own right and that it will serve to raise the incomes of the country. The hon. Gentleman must understand that, as incomes rise, people spend more on goods and services which, in turn, generates new jobs.
Across the Atlantic, Congress has stepped out on a legislative revolution. The Republicans have realised that in this fast-moving technological world, less rather than more government is what is needed. What people are looking for is leadership rather than the self-serving interests of politicians. More should be expected of individuals and families, and politicians should interfere less and be true to their word. The information revolution demands bright, articulate self-motivated people. Their demands of Government are different from those of 1950s factory workers.
The same process of change brings many more lower-paid jobs in services, requiring the remodelling of welfare to encourage rather than impede work for the young and the part-timer. These jobs can and do lead to better-paid opportunities and should not be run down, as they regularly are by the Opposition. A sense of community, of family and of neighbourhood does not require more government to give it voice or substance; it has a value of its own, fashioned by history and quietly rejoicing in its independence.
British Conservatives should take heart from the American revival of conservative beliefs because American fashions in politics are often followed a year or 1220 two later in Britain. The short-lived liberal reaction was seized on by Labour as an augury for its future success. It now looks like an invitation to a wake before the baby was even born on our side of the Atlantic. Americans are discovering that liberal theory does not make for good government. America may be out to reinvent government, but so far there is a failure to reinvent enthusiasm for heavy-handed state control of the old kind.
The Leader of the Opposition is a figure from the past, not the shape of things to come. He is an invitee to the 1960s bring-a-bottle caucus, trying out long trousers over his party's student politics of grievance, grudge and gesture. Already he has disrupted the "happening" with his sartorial approach and caused quite a few hangovers, as I believe the party for Welsh Members did last night.
The traditional revellers' dismay at the changes—the end of clause IV, the acceptance of choice in education and the clumsy ideas about devolution—is ripping the heart out of the customary Labour celebrations. Moss is gathering on the Leader of the Opposition's rolling stones. That, I think, dates him precisely. To a socialist, putting a gag on redistribution or a brake on public ownership is like Christmas without a tree or a present. I sympathise—if I were a socialist, I should be equally disappointed.
What is the point of being a socialist if one does not want to soak the rich and take over the big industries? Labour's dilemma is that it knows where the party's soul lies and it knows that it is against the spirit of the age. It may not be possible to rebuild the mental Berlin wall that kept socialism in.
Lower taxes and curbs on the excessive—
§ Mr. Redwood
I am enjoying myself. I shall give way in a moment.
Lower taxes and curbs on the excessive cost of running big government are just what is needed.
§ Mr. Hanson
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do not very often raise points of order, but I wonder whether the Secretary of State intends to talk about Welsh affairs, given that this is a Welsh affairs debate. Perhaps you could remind him of that and suggest that he stop talking about the Labour party.
§ Mr. Redwood
I shall regard the hon. Gentleman's point of order as an unwanted intervention and say only that I thought that the Leader of the Opposition wanted to be the Prime Minister of Wales as well as of England. If so, his views are of considerable interest to the Welsh people.
§ Mr. Rogers
We were also enjoying the Secretary of State's speech, especially those of us who enjoy a good comic. Does he accept that the Government have created enormous differentials in wealth and that there should be some redistribution? For example, people such as the chairman of Welsh Water are paid £500,000 while some old-age pensioners in my constituency who live in 1221 one-bedroomed flats have to pay £230 a year for their water. Does he not think that there should be some equalisation of wealth?
§ Mr. Redwood
Of course I want everyone to participate in the growing wealth of the country: that is what Conservative policy is about. I also agree that monopoly utilities need strong price regulation. They should not be able to fleece people, so it is important for them to be strongly regulated unless and until they become fully competitive. The market will then set more sensible prices.
Mr. Gingrich has begun by pruning congressional committees and staff numbers, leading by example. It is a good beginning—and it is a warning to the Labour party, which is already waist-high in promises of more Ministries, quangos, Parliaments and assemblies. Labour in Wales signs up to those promises, then tries to plead ignorance or protest innocence when asked about them.
I will try once more. Will the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) tell us in his speech whether, in his ideal Labour world, Wales would or would not acquire a regional development bank,Local structures to assist innovation and transfer of technologyandLocally based and local responsive Agencies to work with Local Authorities to help match needs with resources, to tackle skills shortages, to link capital with opportunities"?Those are the Labour party's words; I would not dream of writing like that.
Would Wales be given a network of small and medium-scale dance houses, a community education forum, a project task force for joint public and private investment, a national investment bank, an "investment in industry" unit, Faraday centres, a defence diversification agency and a business development bank? I see some flickerings of recognition on the face of the hon. Member for Caerphilly at last.
§ Mr. Redwood
Yes, I have done it before; but I did not receive an answer last time. I live in hope.
Would Wales be given a business development hank for small business, a cultural education commission, a network of law centres, a transport authority, an environment audit committee, an environment ombudsman and a general teaching council? I could go on for another hour or so, but I will spare the House the rest of the list. We should pity the poor people who would have not only to pay for that lot, but to obey all their rules.
The hon. Member for Caerphilly has completely lost his way. Like a latter day Don Quixote, he tilts at imaginary policy windmills. In his latest joust in The House Magazine, he attacks me for wanting to privatise Snowdonia—a policy as credible as the assertion that the moon is made of green cheese. [Interruption.] Perhaps the hon. Gentleman thinks that the moon is made of green cheese. I can reassure him: men have landed there and ascertained that it is not.
The hon. Gentleman condemns me for appointing more administrators and managers in the health service when I have introduced strong controls, resulting so far in a reduction of 172 in such posts in Welsh health authorities. He claims that I am busy transferring powers to quangos; 1222 yet he resists practically every proposal that I come up with to switch powers and tasks from quangos to elected local government in Wales. He must explain that to Welsh local government—but, given the standards of Labour local government in Birmingham and Avon, I understand his reluctance to do so.
§ Mr. Redwood
It is all about Wales. All the references to the bodies that I have listed, which are in Labour's policy documents, presumably apply to Wales; but the hon. Gentleman cannot see the connection.
The central ambition of Welsh policy must be to make government work better for the public whom it serves. Governments should show some humility about their own capability in comparison with the actions of families, individuals and the markets. Markets often like to keep Governments guessing, but that does not make them dispensable or anti-social. The origins of many Welsh communities lie in market day, and without fair exchange we would all be a good deal poorer: if I had to rely on what I grew to eat, I would have starved long ago.
§ Mr. Redwood
If we all had to make our own transport, few of us would sport even a bicycle, let alone a car. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) claims to be a good gardener, but I do not suppose that he has built many cars in his back garden.
§ Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)
The Secretary of State speaks of the importance of markets. Will he consider the problem facing Welsh sheep farmers, who will be unable to deliver their sheep to the markets that they have at present if some of the difficulties of recent weeks persist? What are the Government, and the Welsh Office in particular, doing to try to achieve a rapprochement that would make those markets available again?
§ Mr. Redwood
We shall do all in our power to ensure that fair trade is possible. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has done a great deal in that regard, as the hon. Gentleman well knows.
Not all discipline in a society can or should come from Government. I believe in true devolution: in a Wales where free institutions—the family, churches, companies—can and should also be sources of strength and moral consideration. We do not want all leadership to come from politicians, and we do not want so much of life to be politicised. In that regard, we speak for many Welsh people. The latest poll shows that the majority do not want an assembly.
We certainly do not want Cardiff and London to be mere lobby towns, where the politically correct mingle with the glitterati and the hired hands. Lobbyists and spin doctors deserve each other; the politically correct obey the lobbyist, while the politically astute obey the people. The politician who mistakes the popular will for the sectional interest is either a knave or a fool.
§ Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)
Which opinion poll does the Secretary of State mean? Anyone who knows anything about Wales is aware that the reverse 1223 is the case. The right hon. Gentleman is misleading the House. The result of the last opinion poll showed 49 per cent. in favour of an assembly, 25 against and the rest undecided. That is a far cry from the right hon. Gentleman's assertion. Perhaps he would like to tell the House the truth.
§ Mr. Redwood
If we add those who do not know to those who do not want the assembly, we find that they constitute a clear majority. If the assembly were so popular, people would not say that they did not know; they would say that they wanted it. It is Opposition Members who are abusing the figures, because they are extremely disappointed with them.
Recently, Labour in Wales has tried to argue that, far from providing more income for all, the 1980s and 1990s have been good news for the rich and bad news for the poor. Labour Members did not read their Rowntree report carefully enough: as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security has pointed out, it showed that among the bottom 10 per cent. in the United Kingdom are 750,000 people who are declaring zero or negative incomes. They include many accountants, taxi drivers and builders, and a much larger number of students—people whose incomes are currently low to prepare them for much more highly paid jobs when they finish their studies and make progress with their careers.
§ Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)
In his analysis of that opinion poll, the Secretary of State counted the "don't knows" and the "don't wants" as a single group. Less than 50 per cent. of the electorate voted in Islwyn. Why has the Secretary of State not claimed that 3.9 per cent., plus those who did not vote, represents a majority? Why has he not complained about the fact that the Conservatives were not elected?
§ Mr. Redwood
It is tempting to go along with that argument, but I see the fallacy in it. It is very different from the argument that I put. I merely stated that the latest opinion poll did not show that the majority wanted an assembly; that is clearly the position.
The picture is not of two immovable nations, but of change and flux. In a recession, some entrepreneurs hit hard times; some students live on low incomes before doing well for themselves; some families, tragically, lose one or two jobs, only to recover at a later date. Some areas of Wales contain pockets of obstinately high unemployment, where too many families have no job for too long. We should recognise, however, that long-term unemployment is down by 49 per cent. from its peak. Like Opposition Members, I want it to fall much further during the current recovery.
The best way out of poverty is through a job, and the best way to a better job is from another job. Regeneration policies are designed to increase the chances of employment for people in the affected areas. I have asked councils to show passion for the business of regeneration. I do not accept that democratic institutions in Wales that are spending £3.3 billion next year are bereft of discretion or the ability to do good. Listening to what is said by some council leaders, one would think that I was giving them less money next year—not £110 million more, if revenue and capital are taken together, which is what Parliament voted. Moreover, I have certainly not been telling them how all that money should be spent.
1224 Following strong representations to me from the owners of Cardiff airport, the Government are considering whether a new relaxation of the capital receipts rules is possible. We shall make a statement shortly, which I am sure will interest the House.
Parliament sends local government money, and gives it freedom in the choice of its priorities. The debate in recent weeks has been about the priorities that some councils have chosen. I am glad to note that some Welsh counties are now finding the necessary money, and reassuring people that teachers will not be sacked. The money is there, and that is how we want them to spend it.
Strong, confident local government would move on from moaning about the settlement, once it is agreed, to being positive about what can be done with the cash. Within the totals, I expect local government to set out its plans for energising tired communities and repairing rundown places. The Welsh Office and its agencies are there to help. If a council has an ambitious plan which it requires more cash to implement, Welsh Office and WDA money is available to assist.
I am looking for bolder schemes than many on offer. I want the strategic development scheme to back vision; to back a cluster of projects that will make a real difference in an area.
§ Mr. Cynog Dafis (Ceredigion and Pembroke, North)
The Secretary of State has been talking about local authorities and some of the increased powers that have been given to them. He must have in mind the mid-Wales development grant. When will he insist that the anomaly of the Lampeter-Aberaeron tunnel travel-to-work area being excluded from the mid-Wales development grant will end? I understand that it requires the Secretary of State's advocacy to the Commission of the European Union. Will he undertake to ensure that that absurd anomaly ends as soon as possible?
§ Mr. Redwood
I will look into that point and let the hon. Gentleman know when I have investigated it further.
I am also prepared to transfer responsibility for smaller schemes to local authorities as the Council of Welsh Districts has requested. I shall be having further discussions with it on that matter.
The economy is roaring ahead—it is time to harness its energy. The boldest scheme under way is in Cardiff bay. Today I am granting an additional £1.7 million in the current year to the corporation for Bute avenue preparations. Swansea Vale is painting on a broad canvas. In Llanelli, there is a very comprehensive development scheme.
In too many places there is a reluctance to build enough of the types of housing that people want to buy and a caution about encouraging young people to reach for the stars. Many of the new jobs will come from small companies and local enterprise. One cannot rebuild a community entirely from the outside. One cannot bake a good Welsh cake on foreign investment and Government subsidy alone.
The 1960s were not kind to Llanelli. One of the best rugby teams in Wales could not arrest the decline. Steel mills were abandoned, tin plate plants were left open to the elements, there were bare ruined works and mile after mile of coal-stained mud—750 derelict acres behind a polluted coastline where heavy industry once hammered out a living. Today, in place of that, there are 166 new 1225 homes with many more to come, acres of new grass and even a host of golden daffodils. Llanelli is creating a new town in the landscape of Sandy Water park and in the new shops of the town centre. How I welcome that, as, I trust, do Opposition Members.
At the other end of Wales another town by the sea, Holyhead, is welcoming new horizons and is showing how regeneration can happen where there is a will and a way. In the autumn, Stena Sealink announced plans to invest £120 million in its Holyhead service, with a new high-speed service and a £35 million redevelopment of Holyhead port. In February, Irish Ferries announced a new £46 million super-ferry service for its Holyhead to Dublin service, which will double freight output by the end of 1996. In Holyhead, 100 additional jobs are predicted to be created by the end of the century as a result of that investment and I trust that much more will follow.
Cardiff, a city of arcades and architectural magnificence, is building for the 21st century. Walking from Cathay's park to Queen's street takes one past building sites and new developments. The Queen's arcade, the Prudential building and new offices which are rising from an empty lot are all to be seen in the centre of the city. In the bay, the barrage is emerging from the drawing board, Penarth village is growing and the Ely Field, Windsor Quay and Ferryside developments are set to add 1,500 new homes. In the east at Pontprennau, a business park and 1,600 homes are in development. They are capital projects for a leading city.
The Penrhys housing estate is home to more than 2,000 people, but too many are unemployed. By 1986, when John and Nora Morgans came to the estate, it was renowned as having some of the worst social problems in Wales. Since then, with their leadership, the community has built a café, a creche, a launderette and a new church. The Penrhys project has renovated and transformed the centre of the estate, bringing a new village street with health facilities, a chemist and a food co-operative. Graffiti and vandalism have disappeared from the central area and local residents have taken responsibility for ensuring that it is better looked after. It now needs better education and training, to build on the homework club and to work closely with the schools to give youngsters new opportunities to break out of the dead end and into jobs and training. That is what I want to see and I believe that Opposition Members want that as well.
I have spent a great deal of my time since becoming a Member of Parliament working on how less prosperous places can catch the habit of success already imbibed by the more prosperous.
§ Mr. Rowlands
I am not certain how much of his speech the Secretary of State has left—I am just checking. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not much."] In that case, will he make a statement, fundamental to his whole argument, about the training for work programme in the next financial year? Is he aware that the word is going out that there will be a reduction in, if not elimination of, all bursaries for the manufacturing training programme? Will he make a statement, so we at least know where we stand, on what sort of vision he has for training and skilling our young people?
§ Mr. Redwood
We are encouraging many new initiatives in training, which will be even better than the training for work programme. The engineering 1226 apprenticeship scheme, which I have talked about in meetings of the Welsh Grand Committee and elsewhere, will be central to our ambitions for better training in Wales. This year, we have been spending a great deal of money on ensuring that manufacturing equipment is available in the colleges and other institutes, so that the young people can be well trained. That, of course, is a vital part of the process. As the hon. Gentleman knows, I came to his constituency to encourage the work going on there in a very fine, newly equipped centre. I trust that that centre will lead to many well-trained young people being available for, and finding, much better jobs.
From the time that, as a Back Bencher, I went with a camera crew to the Hulme estate in Manchester to denounce it, to the time that I awarded a cheque to pay for its demolition on behalf of the Government, and from my first visit to Cardiff bay to see the scope, to my present job supervising the progress, I have worried away to find out what works well and what does not work. There is the task of physical regeneration, clearing derelict sites, building new homes and modernising factories and offices, but there is a parallel, central task of giving the community confidence in itself and passing on to people belief in themselves and their town. It is often better to employ someone who wants to learn but lacks knowledge than to employ someone who has knowledge and no will to work. It is clearly fatal to employ someone who lacks both skill and a sense of purpose.
When the mainspring of a community goes, it takes some effort to replace it. It cannot all be done from outside. Restore the council homes without restoring pride and they will soon go downhill again. Build the factories without building a will to work and the workers will come from elsewhere. Hope is an essential commodity. It is easily destroyed or driven out and less easily brought back. If a community loses its driving force, it is difficult to recover. Bright children decide to leave as soon as they can to make their fortune elsewhere. Whole families may have to live on benefit, as the entrepreneurs leave or bypass the place. Incomes fail or stay low, leaving insufficient to maintain the fabric or encourage new business. In some inner cities, those with any business nous who remain are tempted into the black economy to continue enjoying the benefits. The community may even fall prey to loan sharks, drug dealers and others, who can turn a difficult case into a hopeless one.
The problems of deprivation in the valleys are not as hopeless as some inner-city problems around the world. As we intrude new cash and new ideas, we must ensure that it rekindles enthusiasm in the valleys. It is no good at all if building workers come in from outside and the graduate jobs go to people from England.
The spring has to be replaced with one of Welsh steel. Sometimes there will be a Government answer to the problem; sometimes the answer has to come from local people. Those who think that the only answer is money are wrong. I have always accepted that money is part of the answer. If only money were the only answer, it would all be so easy to solve. Money alone cannot recoil the spring and create the determination to succeed and the dynamism that is needed.
§ Mr. Nick Ainger (Pembroke)
I am grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way, particularly on that point. He is aware, following his press release yesterday, that there is a distinct possibility of up to 200 jobs being lost at the Pendine defence establishment. He said in his 1227 statement that he is considering extending the West Wales task force. Will he give me and my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Williams) an assurance that if that West Wales task force is to be extended to include the west Carmarthen area, there will be additional finance?
§ Mr. Redwood
I am very happy for it to be extended, but I wanted to consult further with local interests before being categoric about it. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for saying that that is the wish. I am, of course, very happy to discuss further projects and whether we can help financially with them, as I accept that we may need to do so. I would, however, like to see the projects or the outline of the scheme first before giving a categoric assurance.
There is no substitute for leadership—the leadership of an inspired teacher at school, of the careers adviser, of the intrepid entrepreneur, of the councillor with a conviction of success.
Wales was fortunately spared the worst of the horrors of barbaric architecture. However, the fashion penetrated to Montgomeryshire where the Oldford estate stood as an intrusion of slab architecture and slab mentality. Regimented blocks with deck access on the fringe of Welshpool jarred with the people and the landscape. The mistakes of the 1960s have now been pulled down and new houses, roads, off-street parking and individual gardens have been created. That is what the tenants wanted. They were consulted extensively about the changes—a far cry from the "we know what is best for you" days when the estate was constructed. A problem estate has been restored with some pride and hope.
§ Mr. Jon Owen Jones (Cardiff, Central)
On "we know what is best for you" and barbaric architecture, has the Secretary of State any comments to make on the trust's decision about the opera house in Cardiff?
§ Mr. Redwood
The only lines that I have to remember on this occasion are that I have no intention of using Welsh Office money to pay for the project because that would be a necessary condition for it to attract millennium funding. That being so, it would be quite wrong for me to have a public view as to whether I liked the building or not.
I do not want anyone to be roofless in Wales. In Cardiff I have supported contacting people sleeping rough and offering accommodation to them. I want Swansea, Newport and anywhere else with people sleeping out to come forward with proposals to banish the problem. Of course money will be available to help. We must ensure that no one need sleep rough.
Saint David said, "Be joyful, keep your faith, do the little things." There is much to celebrate already including Welsh success in industry, education and culture. There is a need to keep faith and to believe in Welsh virtues and Welsh talents. There is a need for many to recognise that there is a shared responsibility for the little things that need doing.
§ Mr. Llwyd
The Secretary of State is building up to his usual crescendo of shouting and of "winning for Wales". We have heard it all before. However, why has he not mentioned Meirionnydd Nant Conwy? We have a 1228 big problem. The right hon. Gentleman has been all around Wales geographically, but he has not mentioned my constituency. Is that because there is nothing good to report?
§ Mr. Redwood
No, but I assume that the hon. Gentleman will represent his own constituency, as he has done in interventions.
When Henry Tudor pressed on from Pembroke to London, he had a kingdom to win. His dynasty showed that Wales and England united are far greater than the sum of the parts—[Interruption.] I knew that the nationalists would like this particular peroration.
Henry reformed the nation's finances and paved the way for the nation's glory. Elizabethan translations of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer gave the language and literature of Wales a new foundation. The dragon and the lion united went on to create a thriving, successful country that lived by its ships, its wits and its manufactures. The prophecies of the bards were fulfilled. Wales today is winning in the same way.
§ 6.2 pm
§ Mr. Ron Davies (Caerphilly)
I am glad that the Secretary of State enjoyed his speech. We have been entertained by quite a bizarre performance from him. He is obviously more concerned to talk about the Labour party than about his own record of stewardship of the Welsh Office. That is a cause of great disappointment.
In reply to the substance of the Secretary of State's remarks, I want to make two points. First, I welcome, as I am sure all hon. Members do, his comments on cabling. We shall support any initiative that he takes to encourage investment in information technology. Secondly, I am more than happy to debate Labour's plans for Wales at any time and anywhere in Wales.
It is a source of disappointment to me that whenever the Secretary of State has an opportunity to debate our policies, and the Opposition's policies generally in Wales, he turns that opportunity down, as he did last week when he refused to take part in the BBC's "State of the Nation" debate. If it is good enough for representatives of the Labour party, the Liberal party and Plaid Cymru to face the people of Wales to account for their policies, it is a pity that the Secretary of State does not deem it appropriate or good enough for him to account for his policies.
I am sorry that the Secretary of State did not have the courtesy to extend a welcome to the new hon. Member for Islwyn. I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig) will attempt to catch your eye later, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I very much look forward to hearing from him.
It was uncharacteristically churlish of the Secretary of State not to refer to our colleague Neil Kinnock, the former right hon. Member for Islwyn. This is the first time that we have debated Welsh affairs since Neil Kinnock ceased to be the Member for Islwyn and I want to place on record the affection and appreciation of my right hon. and hon. Friends for his work. He is now a European Commissioner and I am sure that he will perform that task with great distinction.
Neil Kinnock represented Islwyn for 25 years and he had the distinction of being the leader of the Labour party. It is right that, during this St. David's day debate and at 1229 the first opportunity since he ceased to represent Islwyn, we should place on record our thanks for his contribution to Welsh public life and our heartfelt good wishes to him in his new role.
§ Mr. Redwood
Of course, I am very happy to welcome the new hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig). Of course, I associate the Conservative party with the Labour party in placing on record our thanks to the former right hon. Member for Islwyn for his public service and the wish for a successful tenure in his new role on behalf of all of us in the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Davies
That is very gracious of the Secretary of State, and I accept his comments in the genuine spirit in which they were offered.
I am sure that the Secretary of State does not want to talk about the Islwyn by-election, because it represented a fairly dramatic low point in the fortunes of the Conservative party, in what can only be described as another dismal year for the Conservative party and for the Secretary of State. Despite the Secretary of State's characteristic bluster, the promised upturn in the economy has not materialised. People in Wales are poorer as inflation is now outstripping pay increases and tax increases are biting ever deeper.
Public services are failing to deliver the quality and extent of provision required of them as funding is cut and the Secretary of State's reforms fail to work. Our democracy is in a shambles. Social divisions are deeper as the super-rich become ultra rich at the expense of the poor and successive Tory privatisations show that all too clearly.
Personal insecurity has never been higher, with negative equity, fear of crime and economic insecurity blighting the lives of hundreds of thousands of our citizens. Presiding over all that is a party whose members, Government and Cabinet are split from top to bottom, and a Secretary of State for Wales who is barely in touch with reality.
In the foreword to "Views from Wales", a collection of the Secretary of State's speeches published last year, he claims that "the Welsh liked him". He wrote that his brand of Conservatism struck a chordway beyond the confines of the Conservative Party in Wales.It must be said that quite a lot is beyond the confines of the Conservative party in Wales. The people of Wales demonstrated in a very funny way their affection for the Secretary of State in the Islwyn by-election on 16 February.
In that by-election, the Conservative party candidate received precisely 3.9 per cent. of the vote. Fewer than one elector in 50 supported the Government and the Conservative party. It was the Conservative party's worst parliamentary election result in Wales since it took only 1.1 per cent. in the Pontypridd constituency in 1918.
At Islwyn, the Conservative party was barely in fourth place. If Screaming Lord Sutch had polled 404 more votes, the Conservatives would have been fifth. They would have been sandwiched between the Monster Raving Loony party and the UK Independence party. It is tempting to speculate that those Tories with Welsh interests could well slip quite effortlessly from one fringe party to the other. However, to be fair to the Secretary of State, he would probably take the hon. Member for Vale 1230 of Glamorgan (Mr. Sweeney) with him down into the UK Independence party rather than up into the more successful loony party.
The Secretary of State's brand of Conservatism has not struck much of a chord, either, with senior Welsh Tories. One of them, the prominent Cardiff Tory and former adviser to the Prime Minister, Marc Cranfield Adams, actually left the party because of the distinctive contribution of the Secretary of State for Wales. On leaving the party, he said:When you see people following a system where the rich get richer at the expense of the poor, if you care you want to do something about it. The reason why I am quitting is because I care. Passionately.It is not only the electors and his own party members with whom the right hon. Gentleman has fallen out during the past 12 months. He has fallen out with the Secretary of State for Health over his short-lived "health initiative". Our very own Secretary of State decided that he had had enough of the men in grey suits running the health service, and he was going to do something about it. It took a very well-publicised rap over the knuckles from members of the Cabinet to remind him that it was their and his own policies that he was attacking. It is their reforms that have seen the number of health administrators rise from 187 to more than 1,000 in only four years.
The right hon. Gentleman has fallen out with the Secretary of State for the Environment over his refusal to issue planning policy guidance on transport, noise and pollution control, and his deliberate attempt to wreck the Government's commitment to the Rio declaration and European directives on flora and fauna habitat. The Independent on Sunday of 29 January quoted Whitehall officials saying that the Secretary of State for Wales was "declaring UDI" by refusing to involve the Principality in a national attempt to reduce fire deaths.
The right hon. Gentleman has fallen out with the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for his refusal to join in the preparation of the rural White Paper, and he has offended the farming unions in the process. He has fallen out with the Secretary of State for Education on the funding of teachers' pay. For good measure, a couple of weeks ago, he showed his own lack of grasp by criticising schools that held balances, when those balances were held in accordance with the advice of his own Government.
The President of the Board of Trade forced the right hon. Gentleman to rewrite his speech on regional aid when the Western Mail of 11 September last year reported him as describing Wales asKeynes by the Sea, dishing out candy floss grants to everyone.Of course, he was developing his perverse theory of "reverse Darwinism" to justify his personalised campaign against regional policy. It is small wonder that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was forced to describe him asa mad professor in his laboratorywhen he attempted to rewrite the Government's budgetary policy.
"Batty", "hypocritical", "inaccurate" and "lacking in political judgment" are words that have been used by the right hon. Gentleman's parliamentary colleagues to describe him this year. It is only 2 March. I suspect that we shall have a very rich crop of adjectives as the season progresses.
1231 Unemployment is the biggest single problem that we have in Wales. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) pointed out in his intervention, we are still 160,000 jobs down on when Labour left office, and 58 per cent. of respondents to yesterday's Western Mail poll identified that as Wales' No. 1 problem. The Secretary of State's response, having seen the damage done by his own Government's destructive policies, has characteristically been to decide that more of the same is necessary.
Investment in infrastructure is down. Regional aid has been cut by 50 per cent. Training and enterprise council budgets have been cut by 7.5 per cent. This week's announcement of the details of the forced asset stripping of the Welsh Development Agency makes it abundantly clear that the public sector or public-private partnerships have no secure long-term future in the right hon. Gentleman's long-term ideological plans.
The Secretary of State will not find a single supporter in major Welsh companies for his free market, anti-European attitudes. He does not even realise the political folly of a Conservative Secretary of State for Wales falling out with his few remaining allies. Even the Confederation of British Industry in Wales has now said, "Enough is enough." It is small wonder that the Conservative party faces an electoral wipe-out as soon as it is forced to face the people.
§ Mr. Donald Anderson
At the risk of stealing my hon. Friend's bull point in his litany of vituperation from the Secretary of State's Cabinet colleagues and others, does he recall that the Prime Minister even went so far as to doubt the paternity of the Secretary of State?
§ Mr. Davies
I am far too sensitive a soul to refer to that episode.
The Secretary of State's whole strategy has been based on a publicity offensive to convince Welsh electors that we are experiencing an economic success and to convince his potential Tory allies in England that he is bringing about a social revolution. That is precisely why he has failed us in Wales. He does not have his eyes on Wales. He has one eye on his place in the Cabinet and the other on the leadership of his party. His aspirations for social revolution would be risible if they did not offend so deeply our own standards, values and aspirations in Wales. The facts deny any claim that the right hon. Gentleman has to economic success.
Whatever he argues about employment figures or growth rates, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the serious, most objective test of the success or otherwise of Welsh Office policies is the extent to which Welsh GDP, expressed as a percentage of British GDP, has grown? Does he accept that that is the best objective test? I am asking the Secretary of State a direct question. He does not accept that the best objective way to assess the success of the Welsh Office is by comparing the success of the Welsh economy, measured in terms of GDP, at the start of the Conservatives' term of office, with the current position. That seems to be the best, honest, most objective test. I can understand why the Secretary of State does not want to accept it.
We now have figures relating to 14 years of Conservative Government since 1979. In 11 of those 14 years, Welsh GDP was lower, as a percentage of United 1232 Kingdom GDP, than it was during the last year of the previous Labour Government in 1979. The latest figure shows a further fall of 1.4 per cent., so we are still worse off now in relative terms than we were in 1979. I can understand the Secretary of State's reticence to accept the basis of that argument, but it is odd, is it not, that he is always prepared to take credit when anything goes right. That does not happen very often, but when it does, he is anxious to take the credit.
There is another great paradox. The Secretary of State is a great devolutionist. He wants policies made in Wales. He is quite happy to develop a distinctive agenda for health, local government or education, but it must be his own agenda. He is quite happy with devolution, provided that it allows him to practise his own maverick right-wing views. Somehow, we are supposed to place the state of the Union in great peril if those self-same decisions that he now takes in secrecy are taken openly and publicly by the elected, accountable representatives of the people whom those decisions affect. The Secretary of State still has to explain why an assembly in Northern Ireland will help to secure the future of the Union, whereas a similar proposal for Wales will endanger that same Union.
No doubt, the Secretary of State will argue that he is answerable to Parliament.
§ Mr. Davies
It is true. I am glad that we have a basis for agreement. However, I wish to examine what happens in practice.
§ Mr. Llwyd
The hon. Gentleman might be interested in a reply that I recently received from the Secretary of State, after I asked him how often he had been to the Council of Ministers on behalf of Wales since he had been in post. The answer is, not once. The second paragraph of his letter stated, "But when I was Minister for the DTI, I went there very often." That is an insult to the people of Wales.
§ Mr. Davies
The hon. Gentleman makes his point very cogently.
I shall examine the Secretary of State's argument that he is answerable to Parliament, because that is his defence of the policies that he operates. Last year, on legal advice, he was forced to accept, against his own previously stated wishes and instincts, the recommendation of the Countryside Council for Wales on the future of eight acres of land at Mostyn docks on the Dee estuary. In order to exact his revenge for that defeat, he decided to cut the budget of the CCW by more than 16 per cent.—more than £3 million—and required it to obey a series of detailed prescriptions. He did not even consult his own quango, let alone other conservation organisations in Wales. Undoubtedly, they would have told him how deeply damaging his ideas were. That was devolution in action, albeit over a decision that never would have been taken in a democratic framework.
§ Mr. Redwood
Devolution in action is what would happen if the hon. Gentleman and Welsh local government wanted some of the functions that they could carry out transferred to them from the Countryside Council for Wales, which is the kind of body that he 1233 normally criticises. Why will he not support me in the true devolution that was the purpose of my plans for the CCW?
§ Mr. Davies
Because devolution as currently practised, and as it has been practised since the Welsh Office was created by a Labour Government, has involved a policy of successively devolving matters from central Government Departments to the Welsh Office. The Secretary of State chooses to use the powers devolved to him by virtue of his office. For example, he chose unilaterally to distribute the budget for the coming financial year for Wales—almost £7 billion in public expenditure—without reference to the people of Wales—
§ Mr. Davies
It is not rubbish. The Secretary of State does not stand for election in Wales and he does not listen to the majority of the elected representatives of the people of Wales, to Welsh conservation organisations, to Welsh local government or to Welsh industry. I doubt if he even listens to his Welsh Back Benchers. He can claim no mandate in such matters.
§ Mr. Redwood
The hon. Gentleman should withdraw that remark. Of course I listen to Welsh public opinion all the time. I meet all the bodies that he has mentioned on a regular basis and I spend a lot of time travelling around Wales finding out people's opinions. I also listen to Opposition Members and Conservative Members who represent their constituency interests. That is the basis of the policies that I put before the House, in a democratic process approved by the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Davies
I am glad that the Secretary of State has said that he is prepared to listen to the views of the people of Wales, because the people of Wales spoke yesterday in the Western Mail poll: only 12 per cent. of them were satisfied with his conduct of government. If he pays attention to the results of that poll, on the basis of his own statistical arguments, why does he not resign and give the people of this country a chance to get rid of him and his crew?
The only defence that the Secretary of State has offered for the form of devolution that he practises is the notion that he is answerable to Parliament. But let us look at what happens in practice. On 14 December 1994, I asked him in the House about his intentions towards the CCW. He refused to answer. He did not even avoid the question; he simply refused to answer it. On 30 January in the Welsh Grand Committee that met in Cardiff, specifically charged with considering Welsh public expenditure, the Secretary of State was again asked that question directly. He specifically refused to give any information whatever, let alone to debate or to try to justify his actions.
The right hon. Gentleman has been asked the question 16 times since he took his decision. Sixteen parliamentary questions have been tabled asking him about the consequences of and the justification for that decision, and 16 times he has avoided answering for the consequences of his actions. The Secretary of State cannot maintain that he is answerable to those elected to the House of Commons to represent the people of Wales.
The decision that the Secretary of State took was a horrendous gaffe, which led to justified public outrage. If he really listens to the people who express views to him, 1234 I refer him to a report in The Independent on Sunday on 19 February—[Interruption.] It is interesting, and I hope that the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, who is supposed to have some responsibility for such matters at the Welsh Office, will listen carefully.
The article said:In an unprecedented move, the leaders of 22 top environment, heritage and scientific bodies, representing a combined membership of 4 million people, have written a joint letter to Mr. Major warning him that his Cabinet colleague's policies threaten to cause breaches of the law.This follows exclusive reports in the Independent on Sunday last month that cuts imposed by the Welsh Secretary were causing severe reductions in protection for wildlife and habitats …The signatories of the letter"—those are the people whom the Under-Secretary wishes to laugh at—include Sir Angus Stirling, director general of the National Trust and chairman of the Royal Opera House, Peter Melchett, the executive director of Greenpeace, Barbara Young, chief executive of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Richard Mon-is, director of the Council for British Archaeology, Dr. Franklyn Perring, president of the Botanical Society of the British Isles, and Colin Logan, chief executive of the Youth Hostels Association.They attack both Mr. Redwood's decision to slash the budget of … the Countryside Council for Wales—which has successfully opposed him over several major schemes—and the way in which he went about it, which they say is 'undermining confidence and generating suspicion'.Is that the action of a Secretary of State who listens to the people of Wales, when he is condemned by such a range of bodies?
§ Mr. Dafis
Modesty prevents me from answering that question.
There is an even better reason for giving the Secretary of State the booby prize than what he has done to the Countryside Council for Wales. In February last year, the Prime Minister published a sustainable development strategy for the United Kingdom. The Scottish Office then announced the formation of an advisory group on sustainable development, which was a very important development, but the Secretary of State for Wales failed to announce the formation of such a body for Wales. Several times in correspondence I have asked him to do so, yet he has still failed to act. That represents a failure even to begin to tackle the enormous challenge that sustainable development will pose to Welsh society and to the Welsh economy in the future.
§ Mr. Davies
The hon. Gentleman is right. Although of course I take issue with the quality of the Secretary of State's decision, I am now arguing about the process whereby that decision was taken, and the fact that, having taken it, the Secretary of State is not answerable to the people whom it will affect and has not even consulted the people for whom he has statutory responsibility. That is 1235 the case that I am making at the moment—although I understand the case that the hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Dafis) is making.
§ Mr. Davies
In previous debates, the Under-Secretary of State has shown a casual regard for the truth, but I hope that today he will demonstrate that he is prepared to be the honourable gentleman that we call him when we use the term by which we address each other in the House.
§ Mr. Jones
I had not meant to bring up that aspect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because the House well knows that the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) cannot usually manage to answer my attacks, so all that he can do is accuse me of lying. That is the height of his powers of public debate. Will he be so kind as to confirm that the article in The Independent on Sunday that he quoted, which I have read too, made no mention of the ludicrous April fools day claims that that newspaper had previously made about Snowdonia being privatised? While he is doing that, will he also confirm that the Secretary of State gave increased spending power to the CCW exactly in line with what it had asked for?
§ Mr. Davies
On the substance of the case, the Secretary of State took two decisions that severely affected the CCW's ability to discharge its statutory responsibilities, to such an extent that the scientists—the people employed by the CCW and charged with advising the Secretary of State—are making it clear that their ability to perform their statutory legal functions is being prejudiced. That is a measure of the financial cut that the Secretary of State has imposed.
The Secretary of State also sent those people a detailed management prescription. I have a copy of that, and I have seen how the right hon. Gentleman, defying the advice given to him by his officials in the Welsh Office—they knew what damage would be done—wrote to the CCW imposing his decisions on those people and overriding their scientific judgement. That is what happened. If the Secretary of State's proposals had been carried through, there would have been a very real threat to the future ownership of our national nature reserves in Wales. That is a fact.
It so happened that enough people involved in the CCW were prepared to blow the whistle. It so happened that the representatives of 4 million people were prepared to draw the matter to public attention. It so happened that enough people were prepared to ring the Chief Whip's office and the Prime Minister's office to ask who the lunatic in Wales was who wanted to privatise Snowdonia. Only as a result of that public outcry did the Secretary of State withdraw his proposals.
The hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North referred to the green ribbon awards for parliamentarians. It was reported earlier this week that the Secretary of State wanted to leave his mark on Wales, and he went to Dyffryn gardens to plant a giant redwood that will last for 1236 3,000 years. I suspect that that tree will last longer than our memory of a Secretary of State who wanted to privatise Snowdonia. The right hon. Gentleman got the booby prize in the annual green ribbon awards, but I do not suppose that somebody who last year publicly fantasised about being Mr. Blobby will find being Mr. Booby too disconcerting.
It is a sad commentary on the whole process when the varied, fragile, precious and unique Welsh environment is in the hands of someone so manifestly unfit to hold that responsibility.
§ Mr. Redwood
The hon. Gentleman should accept that I met the whole board of the Countryside Council for Wales. I granted the CCW the amount that the board said it needed to meet its obligations, and the board members clearly stated that the CCW could meet all its statutory obligations.
§ Mr. Davies
Why on earth have we then had the conflict between the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary? Why did not the Secretary of State give a clear account of his actions when we debated the matter on 14 December, on the 16 parliamentary occasions since then when it was raised, or during the Welsh Grand Committee on 30 January?
I accept at face value what the Secretary of State has said this afternoon because he is an honourable man, and I know that he would not want to mislead the House. I shall seek advice from those who monitor closely the work of the CCW. If the right hon. Gentleman has been in error in assessing the impact of the budget cuts on the CCW, I hope that he in turn will recognise that, and take the necessary steps to restore those cuts to the CCW.
§ Mr. Davies
I see that the Secretary of State is nodding.
We have a clear picture of a Secretary of State who is isolated in Cabinet and adrift in his own party, and whose perception of Wales is far removed from reality. There is a great gulf between the aspirations of the people of Wales and the right hon. Gentleman's own self-serving political agenda.
§ Mr. Wigley
Is not that the nub of the problem? It is not so much that the Secretary of State is not a capable or hard-working man, but that he does not and cannot represent the balance of political will and the aspirations in Wales. Given that the Conservative party has not had a majority of the Welsh seats in 120 years, is not the impossibility for the present system to deliver democracy to Wales seen most clearly? Does not that point underpin the whole argument about why it is necessary for us to have our own democratic Parliament in Wales?
§ Mr. Davies
I fully endorse the view expressed by the hon. Gentleman that we make no personal criticism of the Secretary of State. [Interruption.] If the Secretary of State thinks that I am being unkind now, he should see me when I am being serious.
The case against the Secretary of State is that his ideology is alien to the ideals that we hold in Wales, and the system that allowed him to be appointed, and that holds him to be accountable, is defective. That is the case against him that I have made today. His perception of Wales is far removed from reality.
1237 I believe that there is a growing consensus in Wales, which recognises personal choice and asserts equal opportunity. That consensus wants to build public services and nurture the concept of community. It is a consensus which recognises our identity and wishes to safeguard our heritage. It wishes to operate through a democratic and pluralistic framework. That consensus excludes the Secretary of State and his party, but it will prevail as soon as the people of Wales have a chance to vote for it.
§ Sir Wyn Roberts (Conwy)
The annual Welsh day debate on the Floor of the House is—quite properly—an occasion for state of the nation speeches, although I am somewhat surprised to find Newt Gingrich added to the Welsh pantheon quite so soon.
First, I welcome the hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig) and, at the same time, bid farewell to his predecessor, Neil Kinnock, who was elected to this House in the same year as I was, in 1970. The right hon. Gentleman had a distinguished career here, rising to the leadership of his party, and we all wish him well as a Commissioner in Europe. Of one thing we can be certain: he will never forget that he is Welsh.
The debate has begun interestingly enough. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State opened with a tour d'horizon of Wales, referring to some of the favourable developments in the Welsh economy—the continuing fall in unemployment, the remarkable buoyancy of our inward investment, and so on, which were also mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister at Question Time today. There is not much doubt that if we are able to keep down inflation, the prospects for sound and sustainable economic growth in Wales will remain good. That is important to all of us in Wales, and it is even more important for us than it is for the more prosperous parts of the United Kingdom.
I fully appreciate the remarkable transformation which has taken place in the Welsh economy in the past 15 years or so. We now have a firm foundation for continuing growth, especially in modern manufacturing industry. I am aware—as are other Members—of the long way we have to go to achieve the levels of prosperity attained by certain other parts of the United Kingdom and by Europe.
I am accustomed to hearing Opposition Members highlighting statistics which show that Wales is trailing the league in one aspect of life or another, and I am as concerned as anyone about the reality behind the figures, especially those relating to comparative income levels, and I fully endorse every genuine effort to improve those matters over time. However, having listened carefully to the speeches of Opposition Members over the past few months, so far as I can see it is only the Government who have any real policies of substance to deal with the situation rather than short-term palliatives to deal with current deficiencies and inadequacies in the Welsh economy.
I greatly welcome what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State had to say about the development that he foresees in information technology in Wales. I am delighted to tell the hon. and learned Member for 1238 Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) that the Development Board for Rural Wales is one of the few prominent organisations in Wales already on the Internet system.
§ Mr. Alex Carlile
I share the right hon. Gentleman's welcome for the fact that the Development Board for Rural Wales is on the Internet, but we have yet to hear any policies from the Government that will help to arrest the decline in the biggest industry in rural Wales, which is agriculture, as the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) said. What advice would the right hon. Gentleman give the Government, who have produced nothing on the subject today, as to the policies that they should introduce to ensure the survival—it is now a question of survival—of the sheepmeat industry in upland Wales?
§ Sir Wyn Roberts
I believe that the hon. and learned Gentleman was present yesterday when we heard the chairman of the Development Board for Rural Wales talking about the prospects for rural Wales. The need for development to compensate for the decline in farming, which has been going on for a considerable time, was one of the subjects that he covered. On the present state of the sheepmeat regime and sheep farming, I am surprised that the industry is surviving as well as it is—despite the bans and obstacles to the export of sheep, which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is doing his utmost to deal with at a European level.
The Opposition are fond of recasting existing Government policies in what I would call Sedgefield-speak and then claiming them as their own. Nevertheless, the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) did not mention Labour's attitude to the inward investment which has produced some tens of thousands of jobs for Wales. I do not think that he mentioned it at all; yet inward investment brought some 110,000 jobs to Wales between April 1983 and April 1993 and a further 10,000 between April and December 1993. I heard what the hon. Gentleman said about unemployment and I agree about the importance of that subject and the need to do everything that we possibly can to reduce it. One of the ways in which the Government have been very successful in reducing unemployment is by attracting inward investment. The question is this: why did the Labour party not commit itself to supporting the Government's inward investment policies?
§ Sir Wyn Roberts
Before I give way to the hon. Gentleman, I have two other questions for him to answer.
§ Sir Wyn Roberts
I have two more questions that the hon. Gentleman will have to answer and I intend to press him on this.
Should the Opposition come to office, will the present policy on inward investment be continued or abandoned? We are entitled to know. Secondly, the Welsh Office export promotion policy has brought millions of pounds' worth of orders to small and medium-sized Welsh businesses, enabling many of them to expand and take on more employees. What is the Labour party's policy on that? Welsh business needs to know, and so do its employees. Thirdly, I recall the Opposition, and the hon. Member for Caerphilly in particular, placing some 1239 emphasis on the encouragement of local business formation. We heard nothing about that today. Is that policy extant or is it defunct? We are surely entitled to know.
§ Mr. Davies
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way at last. I wanted to focus my remarks on one aspect of Welsh affairs, which I did, but I must draw his attention to the fact that the last Labour Government started the process of inward investment and established the Welsh Development Agency, which has been so successful in bringing about many of the achievements to which he referred. The right hon. Gentleman bitterly opposed the establishment of that agency when he was in opposition under the last Labour Government.
§ Sir Wyn Roberts
We have still not had an assurance that the hon. Member for Caerphilly will continue the inward investment that the Government have so successfully pursued over the past 15 years.
§ Sir Wyn Roberts
The hon. Gentleman tells me that the answer is yes and I am delighted to hear it. That is the first time we have had any such assurance from the Opposition.
The question of how the continued reduction in unemployment achieved by this Government is to be maintained is a key issue and it is of prime importance to the people we represent. It demands a proper answer from the Opposition and we have certainly not had one today or in any other debate that I have attended. I must warn the hon. Member for Caerphilly that there is a black hole in his economic policy. It is all very well to talk of reducing unemployment, but he must tell us how he intends to do it. It is no use simply assuming that the progress made under this Government will continue automatically, whichever party is in power. The Government's actions are supported by a raft of pragmatic policies which have evolved from experience. The people of Wales should be warned that much that they take for granted may be lost due to the lack of understanding and of a properly developed commitment to the aims of those policies on the part of the Opposition.
§ Mr. Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent)
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the progress made in employment. Will he comment on the Government-sponsored research which shows that in former coal mining areas in south Wales male adult unemployment is about 33 per cent?
§ Sir Wyn Roberts
I well remember 1979, when we came to office, and I know that there was a great deal of overmanning in the coal and steel industries. The elimination of overmanning and the changes in those industries are the answer to the question posed earlier by the hon. Member for Caerphilly. I have already acknowledged that we still have a long way to go to catch up with the more prosperous regions of the United Kingdom and Europe. Of course we have black spots in different parts of Wales, but there are fewer as time goes on.
§ Mr. Rogers
In his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Smith), the right hon. Gentleman missed the point. It is not a matter of reducing 1240 manning in industry. The Government have wiped out an industry in south Wales. It is not a black spot, but a black region. The right hon. Gentleman talks about inward investment into Wales, but does he acknowledge that it was the Government's malicious policy of inward investment in coal from China, Australia and Chile which annihilated jobs in the south Wales valleys? That policy was born out of spitefulness.
§ Sir Wyn Roberts
I entirely disagree with that last remark, which is unworthy of the hon. Gentleman.
§ Sir Wyn Roberts
I will not be drawn into an argument on the viability or otherwise of the coal mining industry. I merely remind the hon. Gentleman that more pits were closed by the Labour Government before 1979 than have been closed since.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Rod Richards)
Will my right hon. Friend give way?
§ Sir Wyn Roberts
No, I want to make progress and change tack.
The Opposition have stated their top priority for Wales: to establish a bond of trust with the people—that is an electioneering euphemism, if ever I heard one—and establish a Welsh Assembly in their first year in office to make all the quangos more accountable. We all know what that will mean in practice. The quangos will be packed with somewhat inferior Labour placemen, as they were when the Conservative Government came into office in 1979. I well remember the state of the quangos then and how some people had to be removed from them because there was no obvious reason why they should be there, other than the fact that they were Labour party placemen. It will be a repeat of the old story: jobs for the boys. We are familiar with that in Wales. The Labour party will appoint its party faithful with a ruthlessness that would have been the envy of the old Soviet commissars. That is what "new Labour" really means.
I wonder whether the Opposition have decided where the assembly will meet. Will it be Cardiff, as per their election manifesto? I am sure that other places will lay claim to the location of the assembly, and the Opposition may have to borrow the National Eisteddfod canopy to shield the assembly until that issue has been decided. Meanwhile, we can be sure that there will be burgeoning bureaucracy and mounting costs, all to be paid for by the British taxpayer—or perhaps the Welsh taxpayer alone, as the legislation may provide.
What strikes me in listening to some of the arguments about a Welsh Assembly is that its populist appeal is pathetic in its false simplicity. Some people think that it will protect them against unpopular taxes such as a future poll tax imposed by central Government; to others, it means that they will no longer have to contribute to Trident. At times, it seems as though all the old left-wing phobias have found a new and respectable focus in the devolution issue, and that the assembly is to become the legitimate forum for the expression of their political neuroses.
The question that bothers me is this: who is to safeguard and promote the interests of Wales as a whole as the local assembly men and women squabble endlessly among themselves for bits of the cake handed down to 1241 them annually by central Government in Whitehall? What if the cake is not so big as the appetites of those who are to share it? I doubt whether it will meet their requirements. There will certainly be no Secretary of State, as we have known holders of that office, if the powers now vested in him are vested in an assembly. So far as I can see, there will have to be a Welsh Government with a premier at its head and a string of Ministers, all answerable to the assembly. The minor parties will argue for a panel and a committee structure similar to that proposed for discussion in Northern Ireland, but I do not foresee the Labour party conceding one iota of power to the minor parties unless it has to.
§ Mr. Ainger
I believe that tomorrow morning the right hon. Gentleman is to meet the president of Catalonia. As president of a region with a delegated Parliament, will Señor Pujol be told the same as the right hon. Gentleman is telling us today?
§ Sir Wyn Roberts
He will know the circumstances of his country as I reckon to know mine. If he asks me, however, I shall tell him certain things that I am about to tell the House. I will draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to those facts in a moment.
I have given an outline sketch of the political scenario that the Opposition have unveiled to the House in their various statements to date. The old, essentially centralist-socialist philosophy encapsulated in clause IV is about to be finally defenestrated—thrown ceremoniously out of the window—and replaced by a hitherto undefined, let alone tested, political philosophy based on social justice as propounded by the philosopher king of Sedgefield himself. If the British electorate fall for it, they will he opting for an inferno—a bonfire not of the vanities of those who fancy that Wales will do better on its own, which it will not, but of the present-day realities, which are that Wales benefits enormously from being part of the United Kingdom.
We cannot get away from those facts. One has only to compare the public expenditure figures per head in Wales with the lesser figures for England to see the extent of the support given to Wales and the still greater support given to Scotland and Northern Ireland. Those figures are available in the statistical supplement to the "Financial Statement and Budget Report 1995–96", Cm. 2821, published last month. The figures show steady growth in public expenditure per head in Wales, from £2,685 in 1989–90 to £3,913 in 1993–94. That last figure compares with £3,458 in England—£455 per head less than the sum spent in Wales. The amount spent in Scotland is even higher, at £4,185 per head, and in Northern Ireland it is £4,781.
The breakdown of that expenditure shows that it is higher in Wales than in England in a range of areas, and higher than in the English regions, too. For example, £809 per head is spent on health and personal social services in Wales, compared with £717 in England. I advise Opposition Members to study the tables in that document.
§ Sir Wyn Roberts
No. Let me ask this key question: how long could a Welsh Assembly sustain that 1242 comparatively high spending? How long could an assembly justify it? What guarantee can the Opposition give me and the people of Wales that the same differential between expenditure per head in Wales and expenditure in England would be maintained in the event of an assembly being established? We might well lose that favourable treatment. It will be eroded over time. That is the price that the Welsh people will have to pay for an assembly.
§ Mr. Alan W. Williams (Carmarthen)
I have not been impressed by what the right hon. Gentleman has had to say against the assembly. Does he accept that the economic arguments that he is making are arguments against independence, not arguments against an assembly?
§ Sir Wyn Roberts
If the hon. Gentleman does not think that our power here at Westminster will decline when an assembly has been established in Wales, he is gravely and grossly mistaken.
§ Sir Wyn Roberts
I have answered the hon. Gentleman. He can make his own speech.
I believe that the Labour party is being very short sighted in reacting as it has to the passing phenomenon of electoral support for the Scottish National party in Scotland—running at about a third of the votes cast in the European elections, I understand. The Labour party has been through its own hell, losing four elections in a row, but it is foolish to imagine that it can ride the nationalist tiger. My guess is that it will cause untold damage to the Labour party in its strongholds in the longer term, but that is a matter for right hon. and hon. Members on the Labour Benches to consider. I leave it at that.
There is a major consideration—[HON. MEMBERS: "Come on."] Yesterday, we debated a major consideration in those matters—our relationship with the European Union. Few of us would deny that Wales has been a major beneficiary economically. Most of the investment from overseas has come because we were part of the Union. In January 1994, no fewer than 343 foreign-owned manufacturing plants had been established in Wales—over 100 more than in 1983—providing about 70,000 jobs. We all appreciate the value of that investment.
The single European market has further potential for good, I believe, for us and for other member countries, and it is in our interests to realise that potential. We should assess the costs of forgoing such development as well as the political costs of further development along the lines of economic and monetary union. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister dealt with the position admirably yesterday, as did the Governor of the Bank of England when he outlined the parameters of the argument with great clarity in his recent speech in Luxembourg.
As a result of that Luxembourg speech and the Prime Minister's speech yesterday, I find the prospect of a single currency, especially the idea of a hard ecu co-existing with national currencies, possibly for a generation or longer, less daunting than before.
What is still fear-provoking is the concentration of power at a Europe-wide level that may be involved, and the lack of control of it. It is the old fear thatPower tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.1243 The history of Europe tends to confirm Lord Acton's dictum, and the European Commission's strength in contrast with the European Parliament's weakness is not reassuring.
We are right to be sceptical, but we should not allow our scepticism to become septic and to poison our minds. Neither should we behave like innocents and think of Europe as a garden of Eden before the fall. We must weigh the advantages and disadvantages of further integration with the utmost care and secure the best deal for Britain. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and his colleagues in the Government will do that.
We celebrated our patron saint yesterday, and I hope that the House will allow me a moment for an historic excursion—[HON. MEMBERS: "Half an hour."] He, too, lived in troublous times. He was renowned for his humility, and we could all do with a generous measure of that virtue. The modern nation state in Europe was far off in Dewi's time in the 6th century, and the first requirement a century or so later was a defence against the Muslim invaders of Spain, France and south-eastern Europe, who threatened Christendom with far greater force and persistence than even the Vikings, who came a little later and struck unimaginable terror along the coasts of northern Europe. So the tradition of the pax romana survived into the holy Roman empire which, with the backing of the mediaeval Church, organised the defence of Europe against the might of Islam.
The subsidence of the threat from Islam, from the 15th century onwards, was one of the preconditions for the growth of the nation state. There were many others, including the discovery of the new world. In our own times, the subsidence of the threat from the USSR may have a great deal to do with the revival of the ambition of small nations for a greater degree of self-government. Defence against external aggression is not the great primary concern that it was as recently as a decade ago, and the great nation states have undoubtedly lost something of their raison d'être. We are now rather more afraid of a trade war than of the traditional form of hostilities, and defence in those circumstances consists in being in a major trade bloc such as the European Union.
In the current debate on devolution in the United Kingdom, which I regard as a major diversion from the main task of improving people's lives and conditions—a task that should be in the forefront of our minds—the issue will ultimately turn on the ability of small nations to support themselves. Scotland is confident that it can do so, but on what is that confidence based? I heard a similar confidence expressed in Quebec in the 1970s, but it weakened as major companies withdrew from that province to the comparative safety of Ontario. I remember, as others do, René Leveque, the premier of Quebec, losing a referendum among his 80 per cent. French-speaking electorate.
There has been a great deal of talk about the German Länder, the revival of which in post-war Germany was insisted on by the French as an antidote to the powerful centralised German state. The establishment of the Länder was meant to be a handicap, but it turned out to be a major advantage. Although large in population terms, they still recognise the value of the Federal Government in Bonn and the cohesion that it provides. Some of the 1244 Länder contribute more to Bonn than they receive from it, but they do not seek on that account to break away from the federal structure. They realise all too well that unity is strength.
I would not argue [Interruption.]—this is my final point—that everything is perfect in the governance of Wales. I should like the energies of our people to be better harnessed, better expressed and better employed. Perhaps the new unitary authorities will contribute to those ends. They are bound to have some type of national forum, and that forum may provide the cohesion required at national level. But a further expensive tier of government is not the answer: it would weaken our power here at Westminster and do nothing to raise the standard of living and improve the quality of life of the people of Wales.
§ 7.9 pm
§ Mr. Denzil Davies (Llanelli)
The right hon. Member for Conwy (Sir W. Roberts) spoke for some time and ranged widely, but I will be charitable and merely say that it is difficult to break the habit of 15 years on the Front Bench and in the Welsh Office.
The Secretary of State spent much of his speech suspended in cyberspace. I do not know where he is now, but his speech seemed to be immune to the laws of gravity. When the Secretary of State was not suspended in cyberspace, he was communing—or perhaps commuting, if that is possible—with his friend Newt on the Internet. There was certainly not much reality in the Secretary of State's speech.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about one thing: there is a lot more grass in Llanelli now than there was in 1979. Unfortunately, grass is not a valuable means of international exchange. I think that we would trade our grass in Llanelli for the jobs—the "real jobs", as Sir Keith Joseph used to call them—in the steel works and in industry that we had throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
The sad reality is that Wales is one of the poorest countries or areas in the whole of Britain—it is not quite as poor as Northern Ireland, but the difference is small. Like the gap between Britain and central states of the European Union, the gap between Wales and the rest of Britain in terms of gross domestic product is widening.
The Secretary of State mentioned the fact that the centre of power in Europe is moving east, and he seemed to think that that problem could be solved by using Internet. The gap in Britain today is not between north and south, but between east and west. Whatever we may think about the single market—we are supposed to venerate it on both sides of the House—we must acknowledge that it will make it more difficult for the western areas of the UK to compete with those in the east. If the Secretary of State thinks that that problem will be solved easily, I will give him an example to consider.
Last year, the Mercedes car company announced the quite momentous decision to build a factory outside Germany. It had never done that before—although it has since built a factory in the United States. In the end, the Mercedes factory was built in France, just inside the Franco-German border, but the company looked initially at locating in Britain.
There are a number of car component factories in Llanelli, but it was extremely difficult for me to conduct negotiations with Mercedes, especially as they were overseen by the Invest in Britain Bureau. I will return to 1245 that in a moment. It proved extremely difficult to persuade Mercedes to look at locating anywhere other than the east, preferably the north-east, of England, because that region faces the continent and is thus closer to the countries of Europe. Our communications in Llanelli and Swansea are not bad—we have good roads, railways and the port of Swansea—but we could not persuade Mercedes to look at our area, and I understand the company's point of view.
Since then, other investors, such as Samsung Electronics, have established factories in the north-east of England. I do not decry those investments; I wish that we could have them. Those investments are going to the north-east because of the aggressive policies pursued by the Invest in Britain Bureau and the North-Eastern development corporation.
The Times of a few weeks ago contained a report about a gentleman by the name of Mr. Foster. He used to work for the North-Eastern development corporation based in Hong Kong and the far east, and he has now been hired by the Invest in Britain Bureau. The Invest in Britain Bureau is now the Welsh Development Agency, WINVEST, or the inward development arm of the Department of Trade and Industry. It is no longer a bureau which seeks investment in Britain; it is being used by the Department of Trade and Industry to channel investment aggressively into parts of England. I think that the Welsh Office and the WDA should wake up to that fact.
I read the London newspapers like the Secretary of State reads the Welsh newspapers, and the press in the capital recently carried a report about the speech made by the Minister for Energy and Industry in which he extolled the virtues of the Thames corridor. Development is taking place along the Thames from Canary Wharf to the sea. He pointed out how a car component factory could be established next to the Ford factory in Dagenham.
That area is ripe for development; it is close to the new City airport, and the thrust of our trade is towards Europe and the single market. As a consequence, I believe that Wales faces an even harder task in attracting future investment to the west of Britain.
We face a further problem in Wales because government—the state—has ceased to be fashionable. Politicians from all parties now decry government. We heard the Secretary of State do that today, and we have come to expect him to hold those views.
Unfortunately, there is a consensus among politicians generally that somehow or other the state is a bad thing. Countries must now have level playing fields. Wales will not get anywhere with a level playing field. We do not want that; we want Governments to intervene to ensure that the playing field is tipped in our favour, because the gap is widening between Wales and England, and between Wales and the countries of central Europe.
There is a constant attempt to decry the powers of government. "Government" is now a dirty word. That was not so in the 1950s, 1960s or 1970s, but apparently we should not put our faith in Governments any more. We are constantly exhorted to follow other theories—I call them false gods. We have been told that the concept of community will replace government and that we should look to that for salvation.
We have great communities in Wales; we are a great nation of communities. But I do not see how the very nebulous concept of community will replace the power of government and the state in performing necessary tasks in Wales.
1246 I recently read a full-page article in The Times written by an American of Italian extraction who was born in Israel, which extolled the virtues of community. It was the most awful drivel that I have read for a long time. According to him, community will perform the functions that the state is no longer allowed to perform. That will not benefit Wales.
We also hear about the dynamic market economy, which apparently we enjoyed throughout the 1980s. It has merely increased the gap between the poorer regions and the rest of Britain. It has kept wages in Wales low compared with those in England.
I do not know why people call it a "dynamic" market economy; I do not think that the word "dynamic" is necessary. We have a market economy which is sometimes dynamic and sometimes not dynamic. Occasionally it is dynamic for a few people—perhaps it is too dynamic for some bankers in the far east—and at other times it is not dynamic at all. It was certainly not dynamic for Wales in the 1980s. The dynamic market economy that the Secretary of State seems to worship was not good for my constituency in the past 10 to 15 years.
We are also told that public expenditure is bad. When the Government came to power in 1979—and even before then, when the Conservatives were in opposition—Baroness Thatcher, Lord Howe and others said how terrible public expenditure and public borrowing was. I am sorry to say that those once heretical views have now become fashionable. It is sad to say that it is not only the fashion in the Conservative party, but the fashion and the consensus in many political parties.
You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will not wish me to mention Maastricht in your presence for a long time, and I shall skate over it very quickly, but the basis of the Maastricht treaty was to reduce public expenditure and public borrowing.
The Secretary of State was waxing lyrical about his friend Newt, but his friend Newt is madder than the Maastrict treaty, because he and his colleagues are now trying to hand over the control of public expenditure in the United States to the Supreme Court. I am a great admirer of the Supreme Court of the United States, which has seen great judges like Frankfurter, Brandeis and others, but neither they nor the present judges would have been very happy to police any possible budget deficit in the United States.
The Secretary of State waxes lyrical about what is happening in America. Let me explain what is happening there. For the past 20 years or more, most working people in America have seen no increase whatsoever in their standards of living. The great American dream has come to a stop for most people in the United States.
There are many reasons for that, and they may relate as much to the global economy as to internal causes, but Newt and his crazy mates are trying to cut public expenditure and get rid of the budget deficit so that they can hand some money back to the great American middle class in tax cuts as compensation for the fact that there has been no growth in their earnings. It cannot work. It is extraordinary desperation. They are trying somehow to give some money back to those people. After year one, it will not work; where will the money come from in years two, three and four?
The Secretary of State tried to put forward his philosophy. We heard much about the Internet, and we accept the importance of technology, but he did not 1247 address the danger that not everybody will benefit from intellectual capital. Only a few people will benefit—not the old capitalists of socialist hatred in the past or the old rentier classes, but the new intellectual capitalists. If I were able to operate a computer programming system called C++, and if I were only 22 years old, I could earn £50,000 a year or more in London today. Very few people can operate C++, and when a new system is developed and then another, the same will happen.
The benefits of technology to which the Secretary of State refers will fall on only 10 per cent. of the population.
§ Mr. Davies
The Under-Secretary shakes his head, but he has not really thought very much about it. Perhaps the Secretary of State has. The benefits of new technology may well fall on only 10 or 15 per cent. of the population, and not many of them will be in Wales.
Research and development investment in Wales is the lowest in Britain, and we are not involved in those developments. I appreciate the Secretary of State trying to get us in, but if I and other commentators are right, the danger in future is that most people will not see any economic growth—only the 40 or 50 per cent. who have been accustomed to it, and a few at the top.
Some old-fashioned rentier capitalists will benefit, because western investment will still be needed to develop the markets and the industries of China and India, and no doubt income will flow hack to Britain as well as income from intellectual capital. What may well happen is that the country's GDP will reduce in proportion to its GNP, and the gap will get wider as more income comes in from outside without producing wealth in Britain. That is why we need government, and we return to the contempt for government.
Only government can redistribute that wealth to create some economic and social justice in a society where most people—not just the unemployed, the underclass or those who do not want to work—will not benefit from the fruits of society and the global economy. The Secretary of State tried to present the problem in a glib way, but I believe that only by actively interfering in the economy can the Government do anything about it in future.
I well remember hearing from Lady Thatcher, Keith Joseph and Lord Howe, and from my right hon. and hon. Friends, that the British economy would benefit from lower rates of taxation and that we should abolish progressive rates of taxation which were inhibiting as the rates were too high.
The Government have abolished the progressive system of taxation. We now have a top rate of 40 per cent. and it has not done my constituents or the Welsh economy much good over the past 10 or 15 years, because the gap between Wales and other parts of the economy has grown wider. The idea that we can benefit from a lack of progressive taxation is again trying to make us worship false gods. All the emphasis is on inflation. We must not say anything about inflation. Of course we are all against inflation, but the whole emphasis on inflation as opposed to every other economic policy has not done the people of Wales much good, either.
How much do entrepreneurs or small and medium-sized business persons in Llanelli have to pay the National Westminster bank or the Midland bank in Llanelli for a 1248 loan? It is probably 10 per cent., or 4 per cent. above base rate, yet the bank suffers a decline of only 2 per cent. in the value of the money it lends—perhaps even less than that. The banks are able to borrow money and suffer very small losses through inflation, and the business man who is supposed to invest and create growth has to pay 10 or 11 per cent.
I agree with those who say that we must not look outside but create our own economy. Why are only banks allowed to beat inflation? Sometimes they try too hard or are too foolish, and we see what happens. Why should a business man in Llanelli have to pay 10 or 11 per cent. to borrow money when inflation is only 2 per cent.?
Why is it the fashionable political consensus that central bankers can determine all the levels of growth and investment in the economy, when the Government are concentrating everything upon inflation? It has not done, and is not doing, my constituents much good.
Finally, I must mention the single currency. The Secretary of State waxed lyrical about all the growth in manufacturing. There has been some growth in manufacturing, and I welcome it, but he will be the first to admit that one of the main reasons for export growth is that the Government were ejected from the exchange rate mechanism.
I was pleased to see in the newspapers today that the Spanish Finance Minister is beginning to get worried because there is 25 per cent. unemployment in Spain. He was foolish to have said that it would not really matter if Spain were also shunted out of the exchange rate mechanism, because the peseta is now down on the floor.
I was a member of the much-reviled Labour Government of 1975–79. I was the Treasury Minister who, after considerable consideration, took the decision not to enter the exchange rate mechanism—and not merely for political reasons, but because of some brilliant analysis and destruction of the idea by Treasury civil servants. It is no thanks to the Government that we have an increase in manufacturing.
We are now talking about a single currency; the right hon. Member for Conwy touched upon it. Why does nobody ask the Welsh about the single currency? We have had a single currency since Henry VII or Hywel Dda. I am not sure what the currency in Wales was before the Act of Union.
I have spent much of my political life in the House for 20 years—and so have my colleagues—trying to fight the centralising tendencies of single currencies. That single currency was in London. Am I now being told that I must give up that battle and fight against the centralising tendencies of the ecu or whatever it will be called in Brussels? What hope is there for the Welsh economy on the western periphery of the empire if there is such a central currency?
All those concepts that we are being asked to pursue are false gods. We should return to the simple, old-fashioned idea that Governments should try as best they can in a global economy to keep the levers of economic power to themselves. They should not be afraid to use them democratically and face the democratic consequences of doing so, instead of shunting power away to quangos and communities and indulging in other sorts of escapist notions. At the end of the day, the people who sent us here want us to exercise power, and they want to hold us to account for it.
§ Mr. Walter Sweeney (Vale of Glamorgan)
I join other hon. Members in welcoming the new Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig), not only to the House but to his first debate on Welsh affairs. I wish him every joy in representing his constituents, in the footsteps of his illustrious predecessor.
In every debate on Wales, I listen to Opposition Members and wonder which country they are talking about. It does not seem to bear much resemblance to the Wales that I see when I go home to the Vale of Glamorgan. We are used to hearing gloomy messages, such as those in the speech by the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies). He talked down the Welsh people and the Welsh economy.
The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) seemed to depart from his usual script, because instead of concentrating on running down Wales, he concentrated on running down the Secretary of State for Wales. When will he realise that it is not through running down Wales or the Secretary of State, but through building and developing policies for the future of Wales, that we can hope to see a better future for its people? That future will be built on the successes of the past 15 years.
Perhaps the Labour party cannot bear to face reality. I should like to address some aspects of that reality in terms of Wales as a whole and from my vantage point in the Vale of Glamorgan. By any standards, my constituency is a marginal seat, which means that it may serve as an economic and political barometer of Wales. First, I should like to look at the economy.
Conservative policies have secured record inward investment. Between April 1983 and April 1993, more than 11,000 new projects have invested nearly £5.5 billion in the Welsh economy, creating or safeguarding nearly 110,000 jobs. The Ford plant at Bridgend, and Bosch near the M4 on the edge of my constituency, have provided extra jobs in the Vale of Glamorgan.
The expansion of Dow Corning and Cabot in Barry are good news for the chemical complex there, and for jobs. The British Airways aircraft maintenance base near Cardiff-Wales airport has provided new, highly skilled jobs. RAF St. Athan, the biggest employer in the vale, is doing magnificent work in aircraft maintenance, using a successful mix of RAF and civilian staff.
Conservative Governments have created a climate for investment. The number of days lost through strikes in Wales has fallen from an average of 1,590 working days per 1,000 employees in 1979 to 10 in 1989. Welsh unemployment is now in line with that of the rest of the UK, and is below the European average.
§ Mr. Llew Smith
The hon. Gentleman compares the days lost through strikes in 1979 with those lost at the present time. Would he care to compare the number of days lost through unemployment in 1979 and those that are lost at present?
§ Mr. Sweeney
I agree that there has been a substantial increase in unemployment, but there has been an increase throughout the European Union. Over the past 20 months, there has been a steady fall in 1250 unemployment throughout the UK. Britain has been leading the way and setting an example for the rest of the European Union.
In education, Wales has made considerable progress. More young people are obtaining better grades in GCSE and A-level examinations, and more are going on to further education. Sixty-one per cent. of our 16 to 18-year-olds continued their education in 1992–93, compared with 45 per cent. in 1987–88.
Local management has enabled schools to have more control over their budgets, and those which have advanced to grant-maintained status have proved popular and successful. There are now 15 such schools in Wales. My only regret is that many more schools which could benefit from grant-maintained status are not doing so, because of misguided, doctrinaire, left-wing campaigns against them.
So far there are no grant-maintained schools in my constituency, but elsewhere in the Vale of Glamorgan, in Penarth, the schools that have acquired that status are demonstrating how worth while it can be. I look forward to seeing many grant-maintained schools in my part of the vale in the near future.
I particularly welcome the Secretary of State's recent announcement about more resources to provide extra places in popular schools. That is a fundamental, central part of Conservative policy. We believe in encouraging parents to send their children to the best available schools in their neighbourhood, and it is clear that at least some Opposition Members understand that very well.
Spending on the national health service has increased by over 70 per cent. in real terms since 1979 to more that £2 billion in 1994–95. That amounts to £716 for every man, woman and child. Our health reforms have cut waiting lists and increased the number of patients treated. Since 1979, general practitioners have increased by 337 and there are nearly 6,000 extra nurses. The number of in-patients has gone up from 350,000 to more than 500,000. We have halved the infant mortality rate, and men are living some three years longer and women some 2.8 years longer than they were when the Government came to power.
In the Vale of Glamorgan, the Llandough hospital trust is providing various sophisticated day care treatments. The complaints for which those treatments are used once required hospitalisation, but day care means that people do not suffer the trauma of going into hospital and staying overnight. It also means that beds are released for patients who need in-care treatment. In Barry a brand new neighbourhood hospital is virtually complete and will provide a high standard of service for the people of Barry.
More people than ever own their own homes. Home ownership rose from 59 per cent. in 1979 to more than 71 per cent. in 1993, which is higher than anywhere else in the UK. That is good news, and we should be singing it from the rooftops instead of running down Wales all the time. Nearly 102,000 public sector tenants have bought their own homes, giving themselves the freedom of choice and pride of ownership that that involves.
1251 In local government, we have succeeded in introducing unitary authorities, which will provide more local accountability and more efficient local services for everyone in Wales.
§ Mr. Sweeney
The hon. Gentleman says that there is no evidence for that, but we must wait and see. The shadow authorities are due to be elected on 4 May, and a year later we shall see the success of that Conservative policy.
In my region, we look forward to the new Vale of Glamorgan county borough council with joyful anticipation. The Vale of Glamorgan will be slightly enlarged, which will contribute to the efficiency of that new authority. We will he free from the domination of the Labour-controlled, Cardiff-based South Glamorgan county council. Local government reorganisation is a cause of celebration. By the time that we next celebrate St. David's day, the new shadow authorities will he close to taking over full control of local government. People will recognise the success of that Conservative policy.
We have invested nearly £2 billion in improving the motorway and trunk road network in Wales, completing 25 miles of motorway and 154 miles of trunk road. [Interruption.] I notice that some Opposition Members are not listening. They should be aware of such good news. Those are the achievements of a Conservative Government.
Effective transport links are a vital aspect of the competitiveness of Welsh businesses. I welcomed the assurance of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State some months ago, in response to my question in the House, that he would entertain a bid from South Glamorgan county council for funding for a good road between Culverhouse Cross and Cardiff-Wales airport. I hope that South Glamorgan was listening to that, and that it will put in a realistic hid that will attract support from the Welsh Office.
Judging from my postbag and my surgeries, the biggest concern of my constituents has been the crime level in the Vale of Glamorgan. It is good news for Wales that, thanks to recent legislation, the crime level has at last turned downwards. I particularly welcome the announcement of my right hon. Friend, in conjunction with the Home Secretary, of a big increase in funding for the police, which is to be paid directly to the police. That is good news for my constituents, and we truly appreciate it.
There is a great deal of good news for Wales. Let us take the message back to Wales that we are proud of Wales, of the Welsh people, of our Secretary of State and of our Government.
§ Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)
I join in the welcome that has been given to the hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig). He follows a man who was popular in the House and unpompous in his attitude to all hon. Members, even when he was leader of his party. I am sure that the hon. Member will prove a worthy successor.
We heard the Secretary of State for Wales give some welcome assurances about the information super-highway, especially in relation to the fact that it will 1252 reach rural mid-Wales. That has much wider implications than merely allowing a few people to move into rural areas to work as derivatives traders, or in similar enterprises. It has yet to impinge on farming, the biggest industry of rural mid-Wales, which faces a critical situation.
I welcomed, as did others, the statement by the chairman of the Welsh Development Agency and of the Development Board for Rural Wales, Mr. Rowe-Beddoe, in this building yesterday. He said that close attention was being given to the possibility of bringing into Wales significant meat processing facilities that are currently not available. I hope that action will be taken quickly on that promise. I invite the Secretary of State to remember that significant meat processing facilities already exist in Wales. For example, Edward Hamer International Ltd. in my constituency has such facilities. It is run by Edward Hamer, a tough, hard-headed and experienced business man. I hope that efforts will be made to build on such indigenous businesses. We should not merely look outside for possibly another disastrous and failed Fortex-type enterprise.
Like the Secretary of State, I welcome the destruction, for it was needed, of the Oldford estate on the edge of Welshpool. I am not sure that he can claim much credit for that. That move arises from a partnership between Clwyd-Alyn housing association and Montgomeryshire district council, which the Secretary of State has seen fit to abolish, despite a decision to the contrary by the Standing Committee that dealt with the matter, but I do not especially want to reopen old wounds.
I welcome the Secretary of State's commitment to what sounded like the rough sleeper's initiative, which has been successful through the efforts, for example, of the Salvation Army and of the Salvation Army housing association in Mile End road, Whitechapel. One should bear in mind the fact that a large number of people were not sleeping rough in Wales before the Government came into office, but now a large number are. Tonight, I do not want to debate whether a cause and effect relationship exists there, but I hope that a full commitment is made to removing homelessness from the streets of Wales.
It would be tempting to use this debate to address a host of concerns about various aspects of Government policy, but I want to deal with just one issue, which is of wider relevance, but has a particular and important relevance in Wales. The Government's policy on community care funding is evidence of their talent for frustrating the democratically expressed views and wishes of the people of Wales for a decent level of service from local and national Government. It is important to test promises against reality. The Government's promises on community care and the reality of the funding that is being delivered are different.
Increasing evidence exists that community care in Wales is underfunded, undervalued by the Government and variable in its application in different parts of Wales. I would not cry "crisis" if none existed. The critical realities of community care in Wales warrant the immediate attention of the Secretary of State. He could start by reviewing his failure to cover the transitional cost of the shift to community and council organisation of care. He could then realistically appraise growing long-term demand.
1253 It is not a problem of substantive policy. Community care is a policy with sound aims, but we should not lose sight of the significant group of people who will always need institutional care and who seem not to be fully catered for in current policy. For me, a particular constituency interest is involved in that context.
There is no comfort in a policy of community care if there is no corresponding policy of investment in its implementation. Demographic changes are well documented as a sign of need and demand. In the United Kingdom, the number of people aged over 85 amounted to approximately 900,000 in 1991 and that number is expected to rise steadily to 1.2 million by 2001. The number of elderly people living alone has risen from 35 per cent. in 1971 to 45 per cent. by 1991. The dependency ratio is rising dramatically across the country. That should be reflected realistically in Government policy. It is a particular problem in rural Wales, where people tend to live longer.
Today, the British Medical Association published its report, "Taking Care of the Carers". It has cogently brought to our attention the growing number of unpaid carers—a group of people whose position is often ignored by the Government. It is estimated that, nationally, unpaid carers provide the equivalent of a huge £34 billion worth of care. That is an astonishing amount when compared with the cost of institutional and professional care, which amounts to £10 billion. Less than a quarter of care is being provided by the state and local authorities; three quarters of it is being provided by volunteers.
It is estimated that there are 340,000 unpaid carers in Wales, of whom just over half are main carers, that 80,000 care for more than 20 hours a week, and that there are 485,000 people whose lives are limited in some way by long-term illness and who need some care. That is the scale of the problem. Government policy relies—reasonably to some extent but, unfortunately, too much—on the love and affection of those carers, who are often wholly unrewarded for the devotion that they give to those for whom they care.
Of the eight counties in Wales, four have projected overspends on their community care budget. In more than half of the counties, planned development of the service has been cut when it needs to be increased. Extremely tight limits have been placed on the costs of care packages, and the limits have been based on cash, not need. That cannot be right. Eligibility criteria have been tightened and charges for care have been increased. These are not the actions of financially irresponsible councillors but are sometimes cruel economies which have been caused by Government policy.
The figures are self-evident. Clwyd projects a £500,000 shortfall on its community care budget. Powys has introduced new eligibility criteria for services under the new social care plan and has implemented cuts in the provision of social domiciliary services that are especially important if people are to remain independent in remote rural areas. Residential and day care services have also been cut. The cuts in day care have given rise to many complaints by elderly constituents and their families. Despite those cuts, Powys still faces a possible shortfall of £300,000 on its budget for 1995–96.
I am advised that in Gwynedd there is an estimated shortfall of £500,000 in 1994–95, and it has had to borrow money from next year's budget. In South Glamorgan, there is an estimated shortfall of £1.3 million and the cost 1254 of care packages has been cut to the bone. In short, in all eight counties there is a tight squeeze, not on the basis of need but on the basis of obedience to central Government.
A recent and, I think, objective report by the Assembly of Welsh Counties on the implementation of community care in Wales has shown where the blame lies. The assembly acknowledged successes where it was appropriate to do so but also highlighted the failure of the Welsh Office to take realistic account in its funding settlements of the additional costs of the implementation of community care.
The total funding so far announced for community care in Wales is no more than the amount spent in 1992 on supporting people in residential care. Taking into account the implementation costs for community care, the result is a chaotic, variable and inadequate service. The Government must have realised when they decided to go for a community care policy that it was bound to be more expensive. Having made the policy decision, they failed wretchedly to fund the policy. If a policy merits being introduced—as I said, I support many of its objectives—it must surely merit the necessary investment.
The reality is that achieving the aim of providing choices and individual care packages looks very unlikely when some authorities are struggling to find the money. As an example, I cite the plight of small care homes in the private sector which have two or three residents. The owners are placed in the hopeless position of not even having funding for respite care, so they cannot have a few days' holiday and come back refreshed to look after their residents.
The community care settlements for Wales no longer have an adequate element of infrastructure funding—the money required to make the system work, as opposed to the money required to purchase the care that people need. That is despite the constant warnings of Welsh authorities that care in the community needed to be phased in over a number of years.
The Welsh Office should also examine the mismatch between health and social services authorities in respect of payments for care. While the Government's recent guidelines are at least an attempt to deal with the issue, reliance on the decisions of individual health and social services authorities means that different areas have different arrangements for the payment of care. That leads to the breakdown of sound common standards and fuels the anxiety and uncertainty felt by those who need care. They feel that they are merely numbers in a national lottery of care.
In rural Wales in particular, where there is a very high level of owner-occupation, uncertainty about payment for community care is leading people to believe—in some cases wrongly but, I fear, in some cases, rightly—that they will have to sell the family home or the family farm, family institutions which, in rural areas, might have existed for centuries.
If the Secretary of State does not wish to deal with such matters; if he is saying that he cannot afford to provide the money for decent care services or that he has no commitment to invest enough in the future of community care, he should make it clear that that is his view. If that is not his view, he should summon up from somewhere 1255 the leadership and imagination that he so strongly advocates as a general principle in The House Magazine this week, and of which he spoke earlier today.
§ Mr. Redwood
The House should remember that, in the current year, an additional £86 million was made available for care in the community, and that will rise to £124.4 million next year. That was the original planned amount even though inflation—I am glad to say—is much lower. I was recently pleased to visit the many new nursing and residential care homes being built on the back of the money that will be available in future for the people who need those places. I agree that some people need institutional care, and I have asked that we do not lose sight of that fact.
§ Mr. Carlile
I am grateful for the Secretary of State's final remark, to which I shall return in a moment. However, I remind him that the gap between grant and need was £20.7 million for 1993–94 and £38 million for 1994–95 and will be £71.8 million in 1995–96. Local authorities have no prospect of filling that gap. The Welsh Office has outlined a grant rise of £25.2 million for 1996–97, which will increase the overall funding for community care to £149.6 million, but that has to be set against the £346 million originally assessed to be the long-term additional cost of implementing community care in the period to which I have just referred. Although funding is being increased, it is falling ever shorter of what the Government knew perfectly well was needed. The mismatch to which I referred is therefore proved.
The Secretary of State holds the old-fashioned view that care of the elderly is the responsibility of families first and, where no alternative is available, possibly of the community. Of course families should take more responsibility for the care of the elderly if they can, just as they should take more responsibility for the actions of their children, if they can. But that philosophy—if it be his philosophy—is that of the poor law and workhouse for those who do not have loving, caring and responsible families.
Finally, I shall deal with those who require long-term institutional care. There are two excellent mental handicap hospitals in my constituency—Brynhyfryd near Welshpool and Llys Maldwyn at Caersws. Some people have been transferred between those hospitals in unsatisfactory circumstances. Some have been transferred from them, and have lost the standard of care that they received before. There has been one sad fatality as a result. Many face great uncertainty. We should not transfer, for instance, adults with serious mental handicaps from institution-based care to the community if adequate community resources do not exist. There is no sanctuary in the community if the community means isolation, limited support and poor staffing.
The patients and former patients of those hospitals—especially the least independent—provide a benchmark for the way in which the care in the community policy is working. If so, the verdict of the carers, of the energetic advocates of the residents' interests and of their relatives is one of bewilderment, uncertainty and, in some cases, anger. Surely a policy that leaves experts and the lay public alike in that state of mind cannot be judged a success. I appeal to the Secretary of State to re-examine both its funding and its implementation.
§ 8 pm
§ Mr. Don Touhig (Islwyn)
As I rise to make my maiden speech in this St. David's day debate, I am conscious of the privilege of standing here as Labour and Co-op Member of Parliament for Islwyn. I am privileged to follow in a great tradition—from Sir Charles Edwards, who was elected in 1918 and became a Labour Whip, to the much-respected Sir Harold Finch, who became a Welsh Office Minister in 1964 and was an acknowledged expert on miners' compensation. I am, of course, also privileged to succeed Neil Kinnock, my immediate predecessor.
Right hon. and hon. Members have already paid tribute to Neil Kinnock and his service in the House. I echo that tribute. Neil Kinnock was a great leader of the Labour party, and a fine and hard-working constituency Member of Parliament. He is held in high regard and a great deal of affection by the people whom he represented in Islwyn for 25 years. The fact that he did not become Prime Minister is one of the great political and social misfortunes to befall our country in this, the last part of the 20th century.
My constituency comprises a series of small towns and villages scattered along the mountains and valleys of west Gwent. Its people are warm-hearted and friendly, generous and good-natured. They possess a strong feeling of community and belonging, forged by generations who have known struggle and hardship. They are proud of their own and their children's achievements, which have often involved considerable sacrifices, but, like people everywhere, they want the best for their children and grandchildren. They want work, not benefits; they want opportunities to enrich their lives through education; and they want a decent standard of health care.
Those benefits are not available to a great many of the people who sent me to the House of Commons. We have 2,000 people unemployed in Islwyn; one third are under the age of 24, and one third have been unemployed for more than a year. The day after the Islwyn by-election, 80 job losses were announced at Hawker Siddeley in Blackwood. We have schools struggling to deliver education with budgets that have been squeezed because the Government have held back funds for public services. As for our health service, a hospital adjoining my constituency recently appealed to the public not to come to the casualty unit because there were not enough doctors to treat emergency cases.
My predecessor stood here to make his maiden speech in 1970 during a debate on health. Nearly a quarter of a century later, I too wish to speak about the national health service and the care that it provides for my constituents. A man from Gwent dreamed the dreams and gave us all the vision that became the NHS—Aneurin Bevan: he did it with drive and energy, in the face of the fiercest opposition from the Conservative party. He succeeded because all right-thinking people agreed that if our claim to be a civilised society had any legitimacy, no sick person should be denied treatment because he or she was unable to pay for it.
In his book "In Place of Fear", published in 1952, Bevan wrote:A free health service is a triumphant example of the superiority of collective action and public initiative applied to a segment of society where commercial principles are seen at their worst".1257 That, 50 years on, the present Government have eroded the ideal of a free and accessible health service and once again allowed some of the worst aspects of commercialisation to creep into health care is proof of how far they have turned the clock back.
In his maiden speech, my predecessor said:Public confidence in the National Health Service will be eroded by governmental neglect and by the garish shop window of private health schemes."—[Official Report, 13 July 1970; Vol. 803, c. 1183.]Ministers make much of so-called reforms of the health service, but—speaking for those who use it, as opposed to the Conservative Members who legislate on how it should be funded—I can tell the Secretary of State that he and his party have lost the confidence of the people of Wales, who do not trust them to care for our health service.
A few days ago, the Under-Secretary of State wrote to me—and to other Welsh Members of Parliament—about the NHS's responsibilities to meet continuing health care needs. He said that health authorities had been issued with new guidelines that confirmed that the NHS had a clear responsibility to arrange and fund a range of services to meet the needs of people who require continuing health care. Would that the Minister was so diligent in ensuring the availability of adequate funds for primary health care.
A lady whom I shall see in my surgery on Saturday morning has been suffering pain for a long time. She needs an operation on her spine, which has been postponed four times because the providers of the funds cannot reach an agreement with the hospital where the operation will be performed about the mechanisms of treating her and providing the money.
Similarly, if the Minister had been diligent the wife of a good friend of mine would not have been in considerable pain for some time. Her family recently had to make a difficult decision. She was told that she would not be able to obtain an appointment to see a consultant for six to eight weeks, and that if she needed treatment it could not be delivered for a year to 18 months. She was also told that she could be treated privately. The pain has been considerable, and the family has now decided that she will become a private patient. She saw a consultant on Tuesday this week, and will be admitted to hospital tomorrow morning to have the treatment that she so badly needs: and the Conservative party says that it is not delivering a two-tier health service!
On Wednesday, The Times reported that four fundholding general practices in London were sharing nearly £ 1 million of budget savings that they had made on drug provision and health care. Last night I talked to an old friend of mine, Dipak Ray, a respected GP in Pengam. He said that there might be some justification for making savings on drug provision—but savings on hospital care? Who is suffering as a result of that?
I understand that on Monday the Public Accounts Committee heard of another fundholding practice in Essex that had used £30,000 of savings in its budget—a budget given to those GPs for health care—to open a health shop selling woks. The GPs offered patients £1 off the cost of a wok if they brought in their own frying pans. It reminds me of the pantomime about Aladdin and his lamp. I recently attended a performance of that pantomime at Cefn Fforest junior school in my constituency.
1258 I am sure that hon. Members know the story of Aladdin and his lamp, and how the wicked Uncle Abenazer managed to get possession of the lamp by offering new lamps for old. The Secretary of State is a modern-day Uncle Abenazer, peddling cranky economic theories to fund our health service, which he offers in exchange for the values of a free health service accessible to all.
In Gwent, we have 17 GP fundholding practices. The Welsh Office has recently announced a change in the guidelines and now GPs with just 4,000 patients may apply to become fundholders. Under the guise of giving GPs control of their budgets, the Welsh Office is continuing to develop a two-tier health service.
In Islwyn we have no general hospital. Recently, a plan for health care in the Islwyn area showed that in 1993–94, 30,000 people from the constituency went to their nearest general hospital out-patient department, some 15 miles away from Blackwood at Newport. The No. 1 priority identified in that health plan is the need for a hospital at Islwyn with in-patient, out-patient and minor casualty facilities. Gwent health authority proposed a neighbourhood hospital for Islwyn in its "Gwent 2000" document some years ago. I hope that the new health commission will honour this commitment, for which I have launched a petition and gained support throughout the constituency.
In Islwyn, the percentage of babies with low birth weight is higher than anywhere in Wales. Islwyn has the lowest vaccination rate in Gwent for children under two years old and for pre-school vaccination boosters. Islwyn has the highest level of untreated dental disease among children. Breast cancer, the commonest cause of death among women between 45 and 54 years old, causes great concern. Although the number of cases may be comparatively small, their incidence has considerable impact on families. Unfortunately, there is a great lack of knowledge among the public about how to cope with those difficulties. People do not seem to know where to get help.
The Islwyn Cancer Link group, which is run by a voluntary team of women who operate from a portakabin, is doing the job that should be done by the health service in Islwyn. It is so desperately in need of funds that the mayor of Islwyn, Joyce Morgan, has made Cancer Link and raising funds for it her charity this year. We are returning to flag days to raise funds for the health service.
In Islwyn, people over 65 years old already form 15 per cent. of the population. That number will increase to half the population by 2026 and population projections show that the proportion of people over 75 in Islwyn will be the highest in Gwent by 2006. We must begin to prepare care for those people.
There is an increasing incidence of asthma among the young and an increasing death rate from respiratory diseases such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema among men. Known cases of Huntingdon's disease are four times the national average and there are twice the number of deaths from the disease than are expected in a constituency the size of mine, yet there is only limited genetic counselling available.
Those figures are given as an updated audit on the state of health care in the constituency of Islwyn. Health service resources should be available to the patient when he or she needs them. Provision of health service care is the responsibility of the community and its Government. Refusing people treatment when they need health care 1259 because of problems with organising funding or if they cannot go private is acting like those who passed on the other side of the road to Jericho. It may make sound economic sense to the Conservative party, but it is morally indefensible for the Government of Britain to behave so at the end of the 20th century.
§ Mr. Cynog Dafis (Ceredigion and Pembroke, North)
I warmly welcome the hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig) and thank him very much for his important speech and his critique of Government policy on the health service. I enjoyed my occasional stay in Islwyn during the campaign, saw something of the hon. Gentleman and appreciated the spirit in which the campaign was fought. My one regret is that, during his maiden speech, there were not more Conservative Members present to listen to what he said.
§ Mr. Dafis
Indeed, but more should have been here to listen to the hon. Gentleman's speech.
I want to speak about the education service in Wales, especially about what is going on in Dyfed. Three weeks ago, I attended a packed meeting—so packed that some people had to be excluded—at Trinity college Carmarthen that was convened by the federations of school governors in Dyfed and the parent-teacher associations. It was attended by parents, teachers, school governors and councillors united—I emphasise—in anger at the crisis facing schools as a result of cuts in county funding.
The catalyst for the meeting was the Welsh Office's refusal to fund the teachers' pay rise of 2.7 per cent. The immediate objective of the meeting was to urge Dyfed county council to use some of its reserves to fund the shortfall. It was said that unless Dyfed dug into its reserves, about 150 teachers would be dismissed in September, there would be cuts in the schools' budgets of 2.8 per cent. despite an anticipated increase in pupil numbers and one third of Dyfed's schools would find themselves in budget deficit.
The immediate objective was achieved. The following day, Dyfed county council agreed to release £1.3 million from its £4 million reserves to fund the 2.7 per cent. pay award over what had been originally intended. The meeting recognised too that there was an underlying and severe funding problem that pre-dated the teachers' pay award of 2.7 per cent. Underlying that crisis, there was something much deeper.
Since 1993, Dyfed county council has found its budget squeezed in an intolerable fashion. In 1994–95, for example, the budget was increased by 1.75 per cent. in a year when inflation ran at more than 2 per cent. In 1995–96, the increase will be 0.4 per cent., when inflation is anticipated to be between 3 and 4 per cent. On top of inflation, of course, which is crucial, the county council in particular, along with other local authorities, has faced additional responsibilities and demands—many of them statutory. It has found itself facing the results of demographic changes—an increase in the number of elderly people and the associated cost—and an increase in the number of schoolchildren.
1260 I shall cite one example of the additional statutory requirements faced by a county such as Dyfed—indeed, by all counties in Wales in recent years. The Education Act 1993 created a statementing procedure for special educational needs that local authorities are obliged to implement. The increase in the amount of statements over recent years is worth noting and is very significant. The number of statements has increased from 646 in 1990 to 2,117 in 1995. In other words, it has more than trebled, which requires resources and involves costs. That constant increase has been driven, first, by parent demand—parents' awareness of what could be available to them and their awareness of their rights in that regard—and, of course, by statutory provision.
In 1993–94, Dyfed budgeted £5.4 million for special educational needs. It actually spent in that year, because it was obliged to, nearer £6 million. In 1994–95, the budget was set at £6.167 million, but it is likely to be £6.76 million. The 1995–96 budget has meant that Dyfed has had to cut education spending by 3 per cent.—£4.5 million. That cut in education is the lowest proportional cut across the departments of the county council.
I want to give some examples of what is being cut. People have been perfectly justified in demanding additional resources for discretionary awards in further education. However, Dyfed is having to cut £150,000 in respect of discretionary awards. Over recent years, community education has increasingly been becoming a Cinderella. That is regrettable. However, Dyfed is having to cut £100,000 from its community education.
Dyfed is also having to cut the repair and maintenance of school buildings by £1.4 million. That is a hopeless approach to housekeeping. Dyfed is also having to cut £100,000 from in-service teacher training. In doing so, it loses the opportunity of GEST—grants for education support and training—funding from the Welsh Office of a further £150,000.
More important than any of that is the fact that there is no provision in Dyfed's budget this year for inflation in school budgets for non-pay items—books, materials and equipment. At a time when we are talking about the need to raise education standards, the basic materials are now being cut because there is no provision for inflation.
The lack of provision for inflation means that schools will have to fund a significant part of the teachers' pay rise from their own budgets. They will have to find that money from their reserves—some schools have reserves, but others have deficits and no reserves—or from a further cut in the funding for books, materials and so on. The euphemism used in that regard is efficiency savings.
When the basic provisions in schools are cut, the situation becomes critical. At the very best it means that a school's parents and supporters will have to raise funds to make up the shortfall. They are raising funds now, not for additional luxuries that one might think it reasonable for parents to contribute to, but for the fundamental necessities of education in schools. That is entirely unacceptable because it is an unfair burden. Parents find that they must contribute constantly to all kinds of causes. It is also pernicious because it is inequitable. Parents in some areas are clearly better able to make up the shortfall than parents in other areas. Inequity is increasingly becoming a feature of the school scene.
That state of affairs has led governors in Dyfed, not councillors, to ask for a meeting with the Secretary of State for Wales. I do not know whether he has received 1261 the request yet. If not, he will receive it soon and I hope that he will agree to the meeting. Tomorrow, representatives of people in Dyfed will hand in 2,000 letters to the Welsh Office in Cardiff and a petition will be presented in the near future.
People are very angry. I have rarely felt such anger among people in respect of the implementation of policy. There is deep anger, resentment and hostility towards the Government. People now understand perfectly what is happening. They understand what is afoot. They understand the hidden agenda, which has been exposed to all and sundry. The agenda is to undermine and remove local authority responsibility for schools. The intention is that that should be achieved by a combination of Government-imposed financial constraint and privation and the promotion of grant-maintained status, complete with inducements. These are the pincers the Government are using in order to bring their aim to fruition.
Part of the process involves obliging local authorities to dip into their reserves to reduce those reserves to perilously low levels. That weakens the position of local government in the process of reorganisation.
The Government are zealous in their promotion of grant-maintained status. Last July, the former Minister of State, the right hon. Member for Conwy (Sir W. Roberts) announced new measures in relation to GM status that meant that governors were obliged to consider the issue annually; the issue had to appear on the agenda every year. There was always an increased aid package for schools considering becoming grant-maintained.
The former Minister of State's successor, the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West (Mr. Richards), the hammer of local government, is even more fanatical in his zeal for GM status. In September, he announced that information packs were to be sent to schools—and these are his words; I would not use them—outlining the advantages and opportunities offered by grant-maintained status.Those information packs include significant inducements. Special purpose grants, capital grants and transitional grants are on offer. Those grants are significantly more generous than anything that could be available from a local education authority. For example, an 80-pupil school would, if it opted for and obtained GM status, receive a total of £53,400 in its first year. That is quite an inducement and it is difficult to resist.
Dyfed county council has calculated the difference between what the Welsh Office would provide in that way and what the local education authority would be able to provide. If all schools in Dyfed were to become grant-maintained, the difference between what the Welsh Office is offering as an inducement and what Dyfed can offer would be £14,936,000. That is a nice sum which Dyfed could use to combat its shortfall.
An extrapolation of that concept on an all-Wales basis shows that the Government are offering £124 million if all the schools in Wales were to choose GM status and the Welsh Office agreed to that. It is worth asking what would happen if that occurred. Would the Welsh Office be prepared to foot such a bill?
Significant inducements are on offer and all that is happening at the same time as local government reorganisation. Local authorities will soon have to prepare and present their service delivery plans for the new 1262 unitary authorities. Those plans are the descriptions of how they are going to deliver services, and that includes education.
How can local authorities possibly decide how to deliver education services? How can they decide the size of the establishment which will be available or which they will have to recruit? How can they decide how best to collaborate with adjoining local authorities to arrange the delivery of services if they cannot even be sure how many schools they will have to service?
It is quite clear that it is the Government's intention—I believe this; it is not just rhetoric—to achieve their aim of making GM status the norm and having all schools in Wales grant-maintained by creating disorder in the existing system. When the Conservative party presents itself as the advocate of social order and the orderly implementation of policies, it is astonishing to find a Conservative Government employing tactics of the worst kind of anarchism to achieve their aim. They believe that if they undermine the present system, they will be able to create their new Jerusalem according to their own values and model. The greatest deceit is that that is done in the name of choice and diversity.
I was very disappointed to hear the leader of the Labour party recently defend the grant-maintained sector as providing a welcome element of choice. Of course, we know that choice exists for those who can afford it and for those who are themselves chosen. Grant-maintained status and its development are really about selection. That is what it will inevitably lead to, and that is implicit in the Education Act. The reintroduction of selection at 11-plus is its intention. In part, grant-maintained status is a vehicle for that. The statement of the Labour leader clearly shows the need for distinctive Welsh policies and for the power to legislate in Wales, whatever party is in power in London.
Hardly any aspect of policy demonstrates more clearly the need for Welsh self-government than education. The so-called reforms of the past decade have been designed in a way that, at best, is inappropriate for Wales and they are certainly incompatible with our values and aspirations. That is true of the encouragement of competition between schools, the design of the curriculum, which is inappropriate to the Welsh situation, and the setting up of two parallel systems of public sector schools and then letting them fight it out to the death. That is what the Government are imposing.
§ Mr. Richards
The hon. Gentleman said that the design of the national curriculum for Wales was inappropriate. Does he mean, therefore, that making Welsh a core subject in the national curriculum was inappropriate for Wales?
§ Mr. Dafis
The hon. Gentleman would be surprised if I answered yes. I am referring not to that but to the structure of the curriculum and the fact that the curriculum has not been designed on the basis of the knowledge that pupils in Wales should receive. I am referring, too, to one very simple fact: that the design of the curriculum, which is uniform across England and Wales, ignores the fact that we have an additional subject in Wales, to use rather old-fashioned language, which takes up four to five 1263 lessons a week, yet the content of all the other subjects is designed for a curriculum that does not include that additional subject. That is a perfectly good example.
§ Mr. Richards
The hon. Gentleman must know that the orders for the national curriculum in Wales are designed for Wales and are different from those for England—in Welsh subjects.
§ Mr. Dafis
I anticipated that that would be said. Of course, we have some variation in the orders in some subjects. We have what is called a Curriculum Cymreig. It is totally inadequate. What we need in Wales is a curriculum based on Welsh values and Welsh ideas and the knowledge that is appropriate to our needs. We need something much more radical than the present curriculum. By the way, we also need to strengthen the powers of ACAC—the Curriculum Assessment Authority for Wales—which is little more than a subsidiary of the London-based body, the Schools Curriculum Assessment Authority.
I think that I have made my point about what the Government's agenda is. The good news is that the Government's agenda is now well understood. The Government have been rumbled good and proper. The people of Wales are enraged by the combination of subterfuge and bullying that now occurs. Matters have reached the stage at which, as the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) mentioned, the Welsh Office was actually afraid—I use that word advisedly—to send a Minister to an important BBC television debate on the state of the nation, which was broadcast on Tuesday. That is an extraordinary state of affairs—the Government were not prepared to be represented in such a debate.
It is infuriating that the situation in Wales is being driven by a Secretary of State who has the democratic mandate of the people of Wokingham only, who, within the Cabinet, has led the drive for public expenditure cuts, and who is now leading the drive for tax cuts before the next election. The Secretary of State is the arch-proponent of competition as a motive force of public sector services, including education. The Secretary of State, of course, has been overwhelmingly rejected by the Welsh electorate.
While that mayhem is occurring, the real education issues in Wales that should be occupying our minds are largely unaddressed. We should debate how to raise school standards in Wales—standards need to be raised—without recourse to the irrelevant market mechanisms that the Government regard as their only instrument. What examination and assessment system is likely to contribute to raising standards in Wales? We need to look carefully at the ideas that have been put forward by the Institute of Welsh Affairs in its recent document on the Welsh education system.
How best can we deliver education for 16 to 18-year-olds within an integrated framework instead of the present mish-mash in which education for that age group is funded from two different sources and in which we have the ridiculous competition between further education colleges and school sixth forms and so on? What structure should there be for a truly Welsh national curriculum? How can we best expand the advantages of Welsh-medium education and knowledge of the Welsh language so that they become available to all?
1264 Those are the real issues. They remain undiscussed because we do not have a democratic forum in which to debate them. Those issues will remain unattended until we have a self-governing Wales that sets its own priorities and is charged with the task of building our own national future. The achievement of a self-governing Wales is now being assisted daily by the Government's opposition to it. Every time they open their mouths, they strengthen the case for Welsh self-government, but the achievement of it must be the central theme of Welsh politics.
§ Mr. Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig) on a remarkable contribution, which I would have expected from him. He represents a constituency with a fine tradition and a fine past. If things go well in the next couple of years, he will also represent a constituency with a fine future. We all look forward to that day.
If the Government had been in office for only the past 15 months, I could understand their refusal to accept responsibility for many of the problems that we face in communities throughout Wales, but they have not been in office for 15 months—they have been in office for 15 years. Because of that, they must accept responsibility not only for the problems but for the devastation that they have inflicted upon our communities.
That devastation shows itself in many ways. It shows itself, for example, in poverty levels in communities such as mine in Blaenau Gwent. I am continually reminded of that devastation. Indeed, I was reminded of it at a meeting last year with the local authority, the Welsh Development Agency, the training and enterprise councils and the Department of Employment. In response to a question that I asked about the wage levels for all job vacancies on one day in Blaenau Gwent, the Department of Employment replied that the average hourly wage rate was just over £3. How would the Minister advise people in that situation on bringing up their families in decency and dignity, with that money? I go one further: I ask him to visit my community in Blaenau Gwent and to tell those people how to bring up their children when faced with hourly wage rates of £3.
That problem is not peculiar to my community; it is happening in working-class communities throughout the United Kingdom. I am sure that all hon. Members could give many examples of wage levels below £3 an hour. My hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) gave such an example some weeks ago, when he referred to a vacancy that was advertised in the local jobcentre. It was for a security guard, who was to be paid the grand sum of £1.80 an hour, and who was advised to bring his own guard dog. That is not an isolated example. Such jobs crop up in Blaenau Gwent and in the communities that my hon. Friends represent.
We can see how bad the situation is, but for the unemployed it is even worse. May I allow some of those unemployed people to speak, and try to explain to the House the feelings and frustrations that they experience every day of their lives? I shall do that through a document which some of us produced a year ago, and which contains what some of the families facing the problems of unemployment say.
1265 First we hear from an unemployed couple with one child at home. Father, aged 49, is on invalidity benefit, suffers from spondylitis arthritis and has not worked for 11 years. He said:The Hoover's broken, it'll cost about £70 to repair so we'll just have to go without. We don't go on holiday—just day trips. We don't go out, we don't drink … We have got into debt, but we learnt from that. If we want something now we sit down and talk about it. You've got to watch every penny … I think we go from day to day. We feel a bit depressed. It affects your whole life—it's monotonous. Some days we get up thinking if only something was different.Next comes a single parent aged 23, with three children, living on £90.60 a week. She said:It's a struggle to live. I don't manage on the money. I've got a lot of debt but I get help from my mam and aunties. We never go on holiday.The next family consists of an unemployed couple with a son who is also unemployed. Father, aged 62, had been unemployed for 10 years. He worked on the buildings for 30 years, often on low pay, and he said:People like us will get into debt. The social will only give you a loan and then you have to fight for it. We put in for a £70 loan for a cooker and they wanted £8 a week back off us. Well we didn't bother—we couldn't afford to pay that… We went on holiday once—we paid for a caravan—that's in more than 30 years of marriage…I came from Manchester and people who did well gave back to the community. They built the library and created parks but people don't do that now … I'm not optimistic for me, nor for my grandchildren. The chosen few will be getting all the resources and all the others will get left out.In many ways, that sums up the frustrations felt by the people who face the problems of unemployment and the linked problems of poverty.
We are all aware that we cannot measure unemployment by the statistics provided by the Department of Employment, because it has been proved time after time in the House that those statistics have been fiddled on a regular basis for the past 15 years.
I was interested to read the results of a survey sponsored by the Government, on unemployment in the former coal mining areas of south Wales. The survey said that male adult unemployment stood at 33 per cent. When I put the figures to the Secretary of State some weeks ago, he did not deny them, and agreed that there were still pockets of unemployment. The south Wales coalfield is not a pocket; it is a vast area experiencing vast problems.
Perhaps the Minister would like to comment on one pocket of unemployment in my constituency. In our study of poverty, we interviewed families in one street, and the results were staggering. The survey said:Of the 58 households, we were able to interview 54, making a total of 91 adults and 86 children. Of those 91 adults, 22 people were working, 60 people were out of work, of whom 13 were single parents, five were retired and four classed themselves as housewives. At least 16 people were suffering from some kind of disability or illness. Of the 86 children, 57 came from homes where no one was working.In 40 of the homes at least one person was without work, in 32 homes all the adults were out of work, including single parents, and in 15 of the homes at least one member was working.When I see so many people unemployed, it always serves as a reminder of how crazy the system is. For example, we are going through one of the worst housing crises for decades, yet we have hundreds of thousands of building workers on the dole. Our national health service has been devastated and has long waiting lists, yet there are nurses and other people with tremendous skills on the dole. That is just crazy.
1266 When the right hon. Member for Conwy (Sir W. Roberts) was talking about the coal industry, he said that it had been necessary to respond to the problems of overmanning. The response was novel. I have never known anyone else who has responded to the problems of overmanning in an industry by totally wiping out that industry.
When we discuss poverty, we are not talking about unemployment and low wages alone. We are also talking about bad housing, poor health and an environment that is often savage. For example, the 1991 census revealed that 41 per cent. of all households in my constituency have a member suffering from long-term sickness or disability. That compares with a proportion of about 33 per cent. for the rest of Wales. Blaenau Gwent has one of the highest levels in England and Wales.
A Gwent health survey for the years 1985–89 confirms that the most deprived parts of the county experience he worst health. Again that is true of Blaenau Gwent, where deaths from lung cancer, respiratory disease and heart disease are all above the national average, and even the county average.
In the face of such problems, one would have thought that the area health authority for Gwent would be composed of people who had devoted their lives to the health service and knew what was required to make it better and to respond to the health needs of the people in my community. But that is not so. The area health authority is made up of building specialists, roofing experts, former gas purchasing officers and even fruit farmers. But where are the people who have devoted their lives to the national health service? Would not that service have been far better managed over the past decade or more if nurses, ancillary workers, doctors and consumers had had a greater say in its running and the business people out to make quick money had had less of a say?
While I am talking about health, may I ask the Minister when he sums up to explain why student nurses attending the purpose-built centre at Caerleon have had to move to Llandaff hospital, where the facilities are inferior, in order to continue their studies? The costs and the travel time for nurses in my constituency are now much greater, and their examinations are only a couple of months away. That is another loss for Gwent and another disincentive for people contemplating nursing as a career. Will the Minister also explain why those nurses had only five days' notice of the move?
Another way of measuring poverty in an area is to examine its housing stock. The 1991 census shows that housing conditions in the borough of Blaenau Gwent have improved, but remain poor. For example, 2.6 per cent. of pensioner households do not have their own bathroom or inside toilet. More than 40 per cent. of housing was built before 1990, almost all by the private sector, and much of it is in poor repair.
Much of the public housing also has its problems, for two main reasons. First, there is a high percentage of prefabricated concrete council housing. Secondly, most council estates are on hillsides, where the conditions make homes hard to heat and where homes need regular maintenance. Government policies and low income among owner-occupiers have made it increasingly difficult to maintain or improve the quality of the existing housing in the borough. At the same time, homelessness and the demand for homes are growing.
1267 I have heard many Ministers extolling the virtues of a dynamic market economy. If it is a dynamic market economy, why are we faced with the problems that exist in my constituency? Why are millions of people unemployed throughout the United Kingdom? Why are we experiencing the worst housing crisis for decades? Why are the differences in wealth and income growing? Finally, if the economy is so dynamic and successful, why is it that the Government will soon be dumped from office?
§ Mr. Ted Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney)
I would have loved to chase at greater length aspects of the Secretary of State's speech, which, in some ways, was extremely revealing. Where did he turn to for his economic and social models? The United States. That was a very interesting choice.
The shape and character of the communities for which the right hon. Gentleman now claims to speak are based on anything but American styles of society. The economic and industrial experience shaped social cohesion and it was often the battle against capitalism which gave the distinctive character to the communities that I and my hon. Friends represent. We are now told that the economic, and presumably social, model to follow is one that has led to a huge and growing underclass and a largely alienated population who are turning more to guns and drugs than to any form of social values. Is that the model that the Secretary of State wants us to follow?
I want to make health the focus of my remarks. It is to the American-style model that the Government have turned to find a health model. We have in the purchaser-contractor-provider system a half-baked version of the American health system. One of the characteristics of the American system is that it is extremely expensive in administrative terms. Everything that I have read suggests that 15 per cent. of the costs in the United States go on the contracting, accounting and administration of the health service.
The NHS has always been inexpensive in administrative terms, with only 3 per cent. to 4 per cent. of costs going on administration. But the figure is now rising progressively. We should be worried that the right hon. Gentleman is seeking to apply American models to our services, and in particular to the health service.
I shall pay the Secretary of State, who is a curious mixture of a man, a compliment. The right hon. Gentleman did something that few Secretaries of State would have done. He came up to see a hospital that was under threat of closure, and talked to the people involved. That was much appreciated. The meeting on that occasion was revealing and illustrative in many ways. The Secretary of State was greeted by the chairman and chief executive of the area health authority and by the accountant unit manager of the district. They were on one side.
On the other side were the people whom I wanted the right hon. Gentleman to see and who represented the views that I was expressing. They included the nurses at Mardy hospital, the people interested in maintaining the fabric of the building, the carers and the patients. The 1268 Secretary of State was hearing two separate voices, and he will have to make up his mind on which he wishes to listen to.
One of the growing consequences of the right hon. Gentleman's reforms—he cannot wash his hands of it—is the increase in the number of men in grey suits. The growing need for accountants, negotiators and contractors is a consequence of the purchaser-provider model that the right hon. Gentleman is trying to impose on the NHS.
I am pragmatic in most respects. I have heard all the arguments, claims and counter-claims about expenditure, and about the huge amounts that the Government claim to have spent on the health service. Like the Secretary of State, I have talked to the people who are trying to deliver the service. In one way, half of what I have been told proves the Government's case. Those involved in the service have said that they never thought about costs, or about the way in which they ought to have utilised their resources in the most efficient manner.
That is certainly a factor in the matter. But while we might accept the diagnosis, the Government's prescription is equally senseless. Top specialists now spend more of their time accounting for the service than delivering it, and more time administrating than administering the service. The hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Dafis) referred to a similar situation in education. In that area also, the prescription is half-baked.
The purchaser-contractor-provider concept is now a problem rather than a solution. While that is bad enough—it is absorbing energies and costs that ought to be delivering front-line services—it is now also distorting clinical judgments and affecting the delivery of the service.
I shall illustrate that in a couple of ways. First, an elderly person who was suffering from advanced lung cancer was admitted to a district hospital, although it was not a hospital that I represent or, indeed, even in Wales. Her family were told that she was terminally ill but not acutely ill, so she should be discharged from the hospital. The semantics of that are interesting.
I can just about understand something like that happening, because the prognosis was that the person did not need the acute facilities of a major district general hospital. But the family were told that they should make arrangements to send the patient to a private nursing home, which would cost about £300 or £400 a week, because she was terminally ill and not acutely ill. Those are the distinctions which are creeping in and which have grown in the service. We are counting costs more than thinking about the quality of service to patients.
This week the Department issued a revealing document as a result of some health ombudsman cases in Leeds. Let me read out what it was necessary to tell the health districts and authorities not to do. The document that the Secretary of State has just published states:In addition patients who have finished acute treatment or inpatient palliative health care in a hospital or hospice, but whose prognosis is that they are likely to die in the very near future should be able to choose to remain in NHS funded accommodation".I support that. The very fact that such advice has had to be issued shows that it cannot have been happening.
Terminally ill people, as in the case that I have just described, have been pushed out of hospital. Why? Because of the cost argument and the implications for beds in district general hospitals as opposed to elsewhere. 1269 Fancy having to issue such a document in 1995, and having to tell the people providing the service that that is the guideline that they should follow. It is a powerful illustration of the corrosive influence of contracting and purchasing and of the way in which they are affecting our service.
My hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig) made a powerful speech. It was almost the speech that I would have liked to make on health.
I shall give the Secretary of State another illustration. Let us turn from the Mardy to the Prince Charles hospital. We are trying to save money. Opposition Members understand the need for minding costs and being efficient. We also understand the need for new technology. One of the consequences of new technology in eye surgery is that everyone can be treated on a daily basis. Patients do not need to stay in a hospital, which sounds ideal. But in practice, 80-year-old patients are having to get up at 5 am or 6 am to turn up at the hospital by 8 am for day surgery. They are discharged by lunchtime or early afternoon and told to put drops in their eyes. I am 55 and my hands are shaky enough—I could not put drops in my eyes—so imagine telling 80-year-olds to put drops in their own eyes and to come back the following day and the day after for new dressings. That is the other side of the coin of driving through this contracting and purchasing model, and everyone is conscious of it. Service and the concept of care are becoming less important than cost. We need to strike a balance, but at the moment it is being struck the wrong way.
We can all quote cases. On Saturday, a chap whose shoulder was destroyed in an accident came to see me. It means that he cannot work. He went to the hospital in Newport—not to the Prince Charles in my constituency—and was told that he would have to wait six months for an operation. He cannot go back to work and will become a dependant of the state. He was also told, however, that he could meet the same surgeon and have the same operation within a few days, if he paid his £1,000 or £2,000. That is an illustration of the corrosive influence of the growing queues—people are profiting from protracted pain.
I do not think that the Secretary of State wants that sort of national health service. I have had extensive correspondence with him, his predecessor and with junior Ministers who have dealt with health, including the Under-Secretary of State. I have seen them about more than one patient and told them about my worries and concerns and about the corrosive influence of this evil business of private patient care and the national health service beginning to mix—the so-called green book guidelines and all the rest, and the fact that people can drive a coach and horses through them. That is the sort of worry that we have over a major area of public service and care.
Frankly, there is an alternative model. The Secretary of State has tried to produce one and now I shall. Whether in education or health, in hospitals or schools, unlike Wokingham, London and other suburban areas, we do not have the choice in my constituency. The services are near monopolies. There are only one or two general practitioners whom we can go to and only one hospital. Our children are likely to go to one primary or secondary school. The Government try to use the concept of competition, contracts and that type of model to attack the concept of the monopoly. I understand why, if there is a 1270 monopoly, one must make it very accountable, both in terms of cost and sensitivity to the public, but the Government have got their model wrong. They are trying to graft a competition model on to what, for the vast majority of people, is a monopoly service, whether it be the health service or schools.
Instead of contractors and providers and all these corn-petition models, we should try to adopt another system. I have a couple of recommendations for health. Let us pack up the nonsense of purchaser-contractor-provider. By all means have a powerful, lean and hungry bunch of people, who can act as health auditors. The Government have taught us the power of regulation in gas and electricity, which has delivered power to consumers. I must admit that we were poor supporters of consumers in many curious ways. The regulator is an interesting model to follow. The concept of regulation can be used in both health and education as an alternative to the purchaser-provider model and the pretence of competition, which exists in neither health nor education in most of our communities.
We could also borrow from local management of schools, which has worked in education, devolving responsibility downwards, by putting sisters and matrons back in charge of hospitals. I now meet chief nursing officers whom I have never seen in uniform as they no longer work on hospital wards. I come from a family of sisters and matrons and know that, when sisters and matrons were responsible for the accounts, they were the best and meanest at them. We need neither accountants nor trusts at the top, but responsibility should be devolved back to where it belongs.
Above all, for philosophical reasons we must change the language. Let us talk about a public service and engage people who want to serve. I do not want my health service or hospital run by a chief executive who demands a car, performance-related pay, share options or some kind of bonus in order to activate him into being committed to the show. Patients should not be referred to as clients or customers. Let us put the concept of service back where it belongs—in the service, whether it is education or health. We must get away from the ethos of contracts, money and commercialism driving the system, but by all means retain a tough regime in terms of cost. That is the model which my hon. Friends must promote as a distinct and clear alternative to commercial values, competition and the corrosive influences that the Secretary of State and others have brought into our health and education services.
§ 9.6 pm
§ Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)
I suspect that the Secretary of State shares many of the values which my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) has just set out in terms of community and service. Our argument against the Secretary of State is that his ideological impulses push him in the opposite direction and lead to results which are wholly contrary to the values that I believe he espouses.
I join my hon. Friends the Members for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney and for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Smith), and the hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Dafis), in paying fulsome tribute to the maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig). He comes from the valleys and brings with him 1271 much of the breath of the valleys. The examples that he gave show that he will represent powerfully the constituency of Islwyn.
St. David's day is our annual Welsh day and this is the only opportunity that we have to review the state of the nation. In my brief contribution I shall try to sermonise on two headlines in yesterday's Western Mail. The first may be a little partisan. It says:Tories in Wales face wipe-out at elections".The second is a charming little headline which reads:John Redwood wants the dragon to roar".With regard to the first headline, the current 12 per cent. support for the Conservative party in Wales illustrates a fundamental contradiction in Welsh politics: although the Labour party has consistently had about half the popular support, for the past 16 years the Conservative party has ruled Wales. Are the Government and Conservative representatives in Wales not embarrassed by that? Have they sought to combat the inevitable frustration and potential alienation of the Welsh people? Are they aware of the sensitivities of Wales? Have they tried to promote community and a sense of Welsh identity? The record is patchy.
On language, the Government have a pretty good record. Here I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Conwy (Sir W. Roberts): on the whole, he handled with great sensitivity an issue which could have been explosive in Wales. The package, which continues to evolve, will—for a time, at least—meet the general consensus in Wales.
Overall, however, the Government's record is not good. They have sought in many ways to emasculate the local elected representatives by means of increasingly severe financial constraints and have also sought to attack their personal competence for the work. The Secretary of State well knows the record of the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West (Mr. Richards), in that respect and I shall not repeat what is well known to Members of the House. The Government have also sought to bypass the elected representatives by creating and encouraging a series of quangos, which are a form of outdoor relief for friends and relations of members of the Conservative party and create disillusion and frustration in Wales.
Nationally, the political maturity of the people of Wales is attacked by the Government by injecting into the argument about devolution—I well understand that there are cogent arguments on both sides—the suggestion that an elected assembly in Cardiff would inevitably, as night follows day, lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom. Surely Wales is more sophisticated than that.
§ Mr. Anderson
Indeed. The right hon. Member for Conwy will shortly visit Catalonia. Does the fact that Catalonia has an elected assembly, which encourages the language there, of itself inevitably entail the break-up of Spain? Has not every one of the motor regions with which Wales is linked—Lombardy, Baden-Wurttemberg, Rhône-Alpes, and so on—at least some focus at regional-national level where people can feel that their problems are tackled more sensitively than at the overall national level? Why must the Conservative party try to 1272 frighten people with a Domesday scenario, saying that the heavens will fall, the Rhine will overflow and the United Kingdom will break up if we, like every other country in Europe, have an elected regional assembly? Surely the argument can be conducted on a more elevated level.
On the theme of Welsh identity, Government policies have eroded the sense of Welsh identity of institutions in Wales in many ways. Let us take the privatised utilities. Some, like Welsh Water, encourage Welsh identity, but others are moving their centres of operation increasingly away from Wales; one thinks of the gas industry in that respect. British Rail, which remains a nationalised undertaking, is moving increasingly away from Wales.
I wish to mention to the Secretary of State one further institution—the traffic commissioners. I hope that the Secretary of State will, in his usual courteous way, seek to inquire into that problem and perhaps respond to me. The Secretary of State may be aware that, five years ago, we fought successfully against the threat to move the traffic commissioners away from Cardiff. I understand that that threat has now reappeared, and I hope that the Secretary of State will try to fight for their retention. Will the Secretary of State inquire into the matter and try to provide an assurance that south Wales will continue to have its own licensing authority and traffic commissioner, notwithstanding what may or may not appear in the review of traffic area offices currently being carried out? Large and small institutions are moving away from Wales. I welcome the arrival of the Chemical bank and other groups in Cardiff, but they do not underpin the financial structure. Such moves are relatively shallow and fragile. I hope that we will seek to develop institutions—both private and public—as a focus of Welsh identity in Cardiff rather than stand by and watch as they are increasingly dragged away from Wales.
Having described the erosion of many institutions, I thought that there had been a great change when I read the headline,John Redwood wants the dragon to roar".Had there been a Damascus conversion? Was the Secretary of State donning the cloak of Wales and seeking to promote Welshness? Alas, no—he was making a rather petty attempt at parading his anti-European feelings. The Secretary of State has many virtues. He is intellectually rigorous. As my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney said, he will look at things in person and he has an open-door policy. However, he must recognise that his political views are those of an English nationalist and that his ideology is not consonant with the interests of the Welsh people. It is no wonder that the polls show only 12 per cent. support for the Conservative party in Wales.
The Welsh people sometimes feel like the African leaders of the 1950s who pleaded, "Please, let us make our own mistakes." The Secretary of State is out of touch with our radical traditions and the forces which have helped Wales to develop its own sense of identity. He will always put market-based solutions first, even if they are against the interests of the Welsh people.
One example is the likely announcement about a cardiac unit at Morriston hospital. The Secretary of State will be aware that there are strong suspicions that he has been pushing for the BUPA solution, which constitutes a vote of no confidence in the in-house bid from Morriston hospital. I shall be delighted if the Secretary of State will 1273 confirm that there is no foundation to the rumour about the unit going to BUPA and that the in-house group will win.
§ Mr. Redwood
I should like to reassure the hon. Gentleman that I am not pushing for any solution. There will be a proper assessment of the relative strengths of each case and the right answer will be reached. I am not trying to bias the assessment in any way and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will accept my reassurance.
§ Mr. Anderson
I hear the Secretary of State's reassurance and I hope that that is true.
The Secretary of State was most eloquent about the super-highway and the virtues of computer technology. Of course, Wales cannot be exempt from such technology, but we should not be beguiled when the fact is that in many ways computers can destroy jobs.
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in Morriston announced last year that the Government's expenditure of £12 million on a new computer would mean the loss of 700 jobs in an area of high unemployment over a two-year period. That sector is not subject to competitive pressure and the decision does not make sense. The Secretary of State must be aware that a job means a personal identity for many individuals. I am not arguing for inefficiency, but the Government can help to provide identities for people by creating new jobs in depressed areas.
Finally, I make an appeal to the Secretary of State on the subject of drugs. He has been most eloquent about the drug menace and the evil men behind it. However, a key project in my county—the west Glamorgan drug prevention unit—is to close this month. The Home Office has withdrawn funding and the people there are already dispersed. In the current financial year the Government are spending less than £400 million on drug prevention. Yet the Secretary of State's only response—again, he will correct me if I am wrong—was that on 20 October last year he announced with a flourish that he would he establishing a small new team of officials to take practical steps for prevention and cure. My understanding from experts in west Glamorgan is that the rest is silence and there has been no evidence of any action on behalf of that group. Experts in the field tell me that nothing has been heard of it; yet one knows the extent to which drugs can lead to crime and destroy lives. On the face of it, it seems to be a example in which saving public money has been put ahead of the social needs of the country.
Finally, what is the audit of Wales on this annual Welsh day? Clearly the Government are divided, and in many ways they are alien to the people of Wales. They are insensitive to Welsh needs and that insensitivity leads to frustration and impotent anger on the part of our people. The Government are not a good model for democracy. Yes, the dragon will indeed roar: it will roar at the next election, both within Wales and outside, and I am confident that those poll findings or something like them will be confirmed.
§ Mr. Alan W. Williams (Carmarthen)
I shall be brief as I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) wishes to wind up for the Opposition. I wish to make a few comments about unemployment in my constituency.
1274 Earlier this week, an announcement was made by the Ministry of Defence about Pendine. We are delighted that it has been reprieved and we thank the Welsh Office for lobbying on our behalf. Virtually all the work at Pencline will continue, but with a very much reduced work force. The current 340 jobs will be reduced to 110, partly because of a slim-down and partly due to some of facilities at the port being used to support the work there. There could be job losses of around 200 at Pendine over the next two years.
A Welsh Office press release issued yesterday promised to examine the possibility of Pendine becoming part of the west Wales task force area. I hope very much that when the discussions are followed through Pendine will become part of that initiative and so will Whitland, which is adjacent and where 150 jobs were lost last November. We also want extra finance because 400 jobs have been lost in an area where it is impossible to replace them.
My second point is about Capel Hendre near Ammanford. The Amman valley is an unemployment black spot with something like 15 or 20 per cent. unemployment in many villages. We now have an excellent industrial estate at Capel Hendre, thanks to the Welsh Office, the Welsh Development Agency and Dinefwr borough council. We now want to attract a big inward investor bringing something like 500 jobs. I make a plea to the Welsh Office to carry on its good work at Capel Hendre and to find a customer for that site to create 500 jobs to revive the Amman valley in my constituency.
§ Mr. Rhodri Morgan (Cardiff, West)
Let me start, as several of my hon. Friends and the Secretary of State have already done, by complimenting my hon. Friend the new Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig), although he is not in his place at the moment, on an outstanding maiden speech. Let me also repeat the kind and courteous references that he made to his predecessor, a personal friend of mine and our party leader for nine years from 1983 to 1992. I was particularly pleased to hear my hon. Friend following a proud Gwent tradition by laying so much emphasis on the national health service, as did many Opposition speakers, particularly my hon. Friends the Members for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) and for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson).
The speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn, however, has to take pride of place tonight. Not only was it a very good speech, but my hon. Friend won a unique by-election victory. The Government percentage of the vote at that by-election was probably below the ruling interest rate. That record may stand for some time.
My hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn spoke about the important issue of GP fundholders, the loose cannons in the system. We have an estimate that about £7 million of fundholders' so-called savings are currently sloshing around in the national health service. It is up to the fundholders to decide what to do with that money, whether to expand their premises, or so on.
It is doubtful whether that money represents savings because it is generally produced by fundholders prescribing cheaper drugs for their patients. That is fair enough, but non-fundholders are also prescribing cheaper drugs and they are not allowed to keep the savings from that. The degree to which fundholders are getting on with the job of prescribing cheaper drugs is no greater than that 1275 of non-fundholders, but fundholders are allowed to keep the money, which is now a large sum. According to Welsh Office figures, it was £4.7 million last year and it is probably about £7 million this year. That is a dangerous new feature and we need to get hold of it. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn mentioned that issue.
As good parliamentarians we need to be sure that we know what is happening to that £7 million that is sloshing around the system. Ministers should possibly take more responsibility for finding out what is happening to that money. The Secretary of State's speech did not contain a great deal about health, although Opposition speakers tended to emphasise it. There has been some reference to waiting times and I think that the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Sweeney) said that waiting times had come down. That is contradicted by an article in this morning's Western Mail which was based on the publication yesterday of waiting times information produced by the Secretary of State's Department.
We are concerned about those figures because the Government are giving their Back Benchers the impression that waiting times are going down. We are at a critical moment because in four and a half weeks, on 1 April, the Welsh health service will be put to the test of last year's initiatives by the Secretary of State, by which he caused all consultants to offer a maximum waiting time of six months for a first out-patient consultation. That is what the right hon. Gentleman said last year, but now that we are getting close to 1 April, the message seems to be slightly different.
It seems that some consultants in Wales are already booked up to the year 2000. That applies especially in long-wait specialties such as orthopaedics and there are out-patient waiting times for consultations of more than two, three or four years. In at least one case that I am aware of in south Glamorgan, the waiting time is more than five years. Anyone who gets an appointment now will keep it in the new millennium. However, four weeks from now we shall be expected to believe that the maximum will be six months.
As I have said, booking dates now are for the year 2000. How we can get from that to a booking date in October this year for anybody coming into the system on 1 April I do not know. It is a bit of a mystery to us all. What is to be done is partially revealed in the waiting times initiative which lists all the consultants and the length of their waiting times. Under the heading "Patients choice" the document states:This bulletin does not include details of consultants who are unable to meet the existing patients charter guarantees on maximum waiting time.
§ Mr. Morgan
Of those published, 29 consultants are listed in only two specialty areas, orthopaedics and ophthalmics. Those 29 consultants have waiting times of two years for treatment and the waiting time for 12 or 13 consultants for a first out-patient consultation is more than two years. The Government reckon that in four weeks that waiting time will be down to six months. They have left out all those whose waiting times are longer than that. They have simply taken the long-wait consultants out of the system. They do not publish their names so that we 1276 do not know that the guarantee is a load of rubbish. The consequence of the Secretary of State's action is that it will pay every health authority in Wales to have a duff consultant in each specialty. He will have a short waiting list so that they will be able to say, "We have met the patient minimum time guarantee because this consultant"—whom nobody wants—"can be offered in less than 26 weeks." The consultants whom everyone wants to see still have waiting lists of two, three, four and, in one or two cases, five years plus. That is the problem that everyone has when seeking some credibility in the Secretary of State's alleged guarantee of a two-year waiting time.
§ Mr. Redwood
Is the hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that a successful and popular consultant should have to work even longer hours so that he is available more rapidly? Surely the hon. Gentleman understands that the guarantee is that, for every patient, there is a consultant of a decent standard, who is capable of seeing that patient and of giving him the necessary treatment. It is never possible to say that one specific consultant will always be available next week.
§ Mr. Morgan
The Secretary of State confirms my hypothesis that for every half dozen consultants in a specialty in a major hospital, there will be one tail-end Charlie or Charlotte, who is not a popular consultant and who will therefore have a short waiting list. The average waiting list will not differ from what it is today—104, 150 or 300 weeks. The position will not be any different, despite the sales pitch that the Secretary of State put on it. The Secretary of State has that problem. It is no wonder that he did not touch on the state of the health service in his speech.
Nor, strangely enough, did the Secretary of State do much in the way of an attack on devolution, which we had half expected. We did hear a weak, half-hearted attack on devolution by the right hon. Member for Conwy (Sir W. Roberts). He did not mention the dreaded words, "the Ulster framework document", but perhaps good reasons exist for that. That document contains proposals for a non-tax-raising, devolved assembly that covers a wide range of central Government powers—everything barring defence, central Exchequer tax-raising powers and foreign policy. Those proposals offer a wide range of devolved powers, which are well beyond what has been proposed by Opposition Members in relation to Wales and to Scotland.
In general, all we heard were half-hearted suggestions that Labour was interested in breaking up the United Kingdom, but nothing could be further from the truth. No amount of wriggling by the Government can avoid millions of people in Wales drawing the conclusion that, if such proposals are good enough for Ulster, they are good enough for Wales.
Given the choice in Wales between Secretaries of State from Worcester, from Wirral, West or from Wokingham and a body that will be accountable to the people of Wales, no doubt exists as to which option the people of Wales would choose. It must be said of the Secretary of State, and I say it with great courtesy, kindness and respect, that he is our trump card in arguing for a Welsh Assembly. If he wants to know why, he should read his speech in Hansard tomorrow. Most people in Wales will have concluded that he is not from the same planet as them. It is no wonder that the Conservative party lost its 1277 deposit in Islwyn or that the Secretary of State sought solace 3,000 miles away in the rantings and ravings of Newt Gingrich, the Republican House of Representatives Speaker.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Conwy, who said about Newt Gingrich and the Secretary of State's reference to him, "What's it got to do with Wales?" He was right about that. I enjoy finding things on which we agree. Newt Gingrich is a friend of the shock jocks, the rednecks and the roughnecks. I never thought that "John Redwood" would become "shock jock redneck".
As was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, not satisfied with moving 3,000 miles away, the Secretary of State then moved off into cyberspace and tried to interest us all in the idea of Super-JANET suddenly landing in Cardiff bay, possibly to meet SuperTed. Many people, however, will find his alternating between cyberspeak and penny-in-the-slot, pseudo-philosophical, right-wing, mid-Atlantic, think-tank gibberish extremely unappealing. That was not what people in Wales wanted to hear. It was like a trainee accountant on crack.
I think that it is fair to say that the Secretary of State realises that what people in Wales are interested in is why, after 16 years of Conservative Government, their incomes are still 15 per cent. lower than the average income in the UK, whether one measures it by family expenditure or by gross domestic product. Incomes were 15 per cent. behind in 1979. Despite the so-called economic miracle, they are still 15 per cent. behind and they are falling, according to the latest statistics. That is the bottom line. The Secretary of State was very interested in the bottom line in his previous careers in merchant banking, industry and the City. For the people of Wales, the bottom line is: why are they still so far behind?
Why is there talk of an economic miracle when it is difficult to find one in the streets of Wales? The Secretary of State goes in for philosophical rantings that are meant to appeal primarily to audiences in the home counties and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East said, possibly to a kind of English nationalist audience.
In any event, the Secretary of State's rantings are certainly part of the battle for the leadership of the Tory party after the Government's defeat at the next election. They are meant to state his position and are nothing to do with Wales. They are grandstanding for the readers of The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph, and the Daily Mail—the Murdoch, Conrad Black and Rothermere newspapers. They are the audience that he is trying to reach and he is using us as a way of doing so. If he did not have Cabinet status, he would not be able to make such speeches or get noticed. It is a case of "Welsh Cabinet Secretary Makes Major Attack on Single Parents in St. Melions". His comments are tuned up to be a great philosophical statement about the need for community and family.
The same happened with the popular schools initiative. It was meant not to go down well in Wales but to appeal to an audience that reads the right-wing newspapers. The Secretary of State is positioning himself and getting ready for the future battle for the leadership of the Tory party. However, such issues are not of great interest to us in Wales.
The Secretary of State does not have to go very far to find out why his party is so far behind in the polls. It is because we are so far behind in the economic stakes and 1278 because he is not on the same wavelength as the people of Wales, who overwhelmingly support the Labour party, not him.
§ Mr. Morgan
My hon. Friend refers to the latest opinion poll, which confirms what most of us know simply by living in Wales. I am sure that the Secretary of State knows that to be the case from the blank faces of Welsh audiences when he starts making one of his philosophical speeches. That is why he makes many of his speeches not only in his constituency of Wokingham but in Reading, in Woking, in Guildford and in Winchester, which are so similar in their social character. Speaking in such places makes it easier for him to get his press releases through on the Friday night drop to the newsrooms of The Sunday Times and The Sunday Telegraph. He can then develop his obsession and appear on "The World at One" and the other heavy political Sunday programmes to prove his philosophical right-wing credentials.
The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) said earlier that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State had been appointed under a defective system. If there were a Welsh Assembly and, apparently, a different system, how would the Secretary of State be appointed?
§ Mr. Morgan
I am grateful to the Minister for bringing up that point. It is eight years since the people of Wales had a Secretary of State who represented a Welsh constituency. They have had Secretaries of State who represented Worcester and Wirral, West and the present Secretary of State represents Wokingham. They have not been represented by the right hon. Member for Conwy. It was a shock to the system for all of us that he was missed out—perhaps it was because his constituency does not begin with the letter "W". In any event, it was awful for the people of Wales to realise that they were not going to have a Conservative Secretary of State who represented a Welsh constituency. Perhaps the Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West (Mr. Richards), thinks that he is still in with a chance and can alter that, but if he does not realise that the system is defective, he has another think coming. An overwhelming proportion-90 per cent.—of the people of Wales acknowledge that the system is defective.
Many of us were amazed at the extent to which the Secretary of State quoted Newt Gingrich as the inspiration for his philosophy. One could say that he wants to station himself as mid-Atlantic, right-wing American and anti-European. However, I can tell my parliamentary colleagues that that is all a bit of a con. In fact, he has a secret second life as a pro-European. I have here a pamphlet that refers to him as "European Redwood". That is almost a contradiction in terms. It is like referring to the sincerity of the Home Secretary, or to the Prime Minister's authority. What are we being told? It could be said that the Secretary of State has two junior Ministers who are two planks—obviously, I shall not use the word "short" in this context—and it could certainly be said that "European Redwood" goes against the grain.
I raise the matter only because the Secretary of State raised it himself. He had a wonderful photo-opportunity down in Dyffryn gardens, planting a seedling that will still be there in 3,000 years—by which time the Conservatives might have gained more than 5 per cent. of the vote in 1279 valleys by-elections. I must tell the Secretary of State, however, that although that seedling was planted on Tuesday, an army of death watch beetles came down from Islwyn on Wednesday and ate it.
The Secretary of State pointed out that St. David was a successful missionary for Christian values many centuries ago. I can only tell him that he himself is the most unsuccessful missionary for Newt Gingrich's values who could be imagined. We are talking of a man in America who does not believe in the welfare state or in any public involvement in the health care system. The Secretary of State, however, tells us that he wants to sell those ideas and still make us believe that the national health service is safe in his hands.
If the Secretary of State wants us to believe that, he had better not keep talking the language of Newt Gingrich to the people of Wales or in the House of Commons. If he does, the people of Wales will reject him and his party at the next election, and at every by-election before that, as they have done consistently ever since the secret ballot was introduced.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Gwilym Jones)
I appreciate the concern expressed by the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) about the fact that we may have to do something different, or we shall risk defeat in the next election. I take that very much to heart. We always appreciate a wind-up from the hon. Gentleman. It is a wind-up in every sense of the term: there may be no substance in it, but it is invariably hugely entertaining.
This is our traditional Welsh day debate. It is traditional in the best sense. There has been many a repetition: comments that have always been made are trotted out once more. I must, however, express my pleasure at the fact that nearly all Opposition Members welcomed some of what they heard—especially what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said about his aims for communications. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) went further, welcoming various other developments. I hope to touch on those later. The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Williams) acknowledged the efforts of all of us to encourage the process at Pendine; I thank him for that.
It has been a traditional debate. Reading the report of last year's debate, I noticed that the result of an opinion poll had just been announced then as well, and that the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) trumpeted that as our worst-ever opinion poll result. [HON. MEMBERS: "This one is worse."] No; the latest opinion poll result is better. It shows an improvement for us of some 10 per cent. I should be consoled by that if I am worried about the poll.
The most traditional feature of our Welsh day debates, however, is the increasing number of hon. Members who try to tempt the hon. Member for Caerphilly to enunciate a policy, usually with the least possible success. The most successful of them today was my right hon. Friend the Member for Conwy (Sir W. Roberts), who, by means of a series of interventions, dragged out more policy from the hon. Gentleman than he had revealed in his 33-minute speech.
1280 That, too, is traditional. I note that last year the hon. Member for Caerphilly spoke for 32 minutes. A minute before the end of his speech, the hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Dafis) asked him to say something about a policy. The hon. Gentleman probably remembers the response that he received as well as I do. The hon. Member for Caerphilly said:I thought that the hon. Gentleman was going to invite me to attack my own party. I can assure him that I have enough friends without having to launch an attack on my colleagues."—[Official Report, 3 March 1994; Vol. 238, c. 1111.]That was the hon. Gentleman's sole contribution to policy last year, and he almost managed to put his consistent duck on the record this year.
This has been a traditional debate in other ways as well. We have had rant, lament and a statesmanlike—elder statesmanlike—contribution from my right hon. Friend the Member for Conwy. We also heard a maiden speech from the hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig), who is now returning to his place.
I have a fellow feeling with the hon. Member for Islwyn. I have the closest of connections with Crosskeys in his constituency and with other parts of the western valley. I readily appreciate what he said about his constituents wanting the best for their children and their grandchildren, especially when he said that they want jobs and not benefits. Those are the people of Islwyn whom I know as well as he.
Having listened to the hon. Gentleman, I felt that in him we had a most appropriate hon. Member to follow in his predecessor's footsteps. I reject the spurious calculations of the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn), which somehow suggested that the hon. Member for Islwyn had not been elected. I am sure that the hon. Member for Newport, West does want to pursue that.
The hon. Member for Islwyn devoted his speech to health. My hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Sweeney) also made significant reference to health, but he dwelt on the facts such as the considerable increase in the number of patients being treated by the national health service in Wales. There is not only a dramatic increase in the number of patients treated, but a most marked increase in day surgery. The figures do not convey the lesser trauma involved in the treatment of patients under day surgery and how they are able to return home to their families far more quickly.
Good progress is being made on introducing the new total waiting times patient charter guarantee in April. Health authorities and GP fundholders are reporting shorter waiting lists and waiting times. The reduction in out-patient waiting lists in the last three months of 1994—more than 6 per cent.—was especially striking. The latest forecasts of health authorities and GP fundholders show that very few out-patients will wait longer than a year and virtually no in-patients or day cases will wait longer than 18 months by the beginning of April. I expect further progress early in 1995–96—the second year of the three-year waiting time initiative.
§ Mr. Rowlands
Time and again our constituents see a consultant and are told that they cannot be seen for another six months, yet when they pay the same consultant some money they are treated within a day or two. Does the Minister find that as offensive as we do?
§ Mr. Jones
As the hon. Gentleman knows, he and I have met to discuss such problems and I fully share his 1281 apprehensions of any improper queue jumping through the use of national health service facilities. Like the hon. Gentleman, I hope that any such case can be tracked down and tackled properly.
The hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) mentioned cardiac treatment in Morriston. Hon. Members will know that there has been considerable interest in our development programme for specialist cardiac treatment, which is centred around the University hospital of Wales. I am delighted to announce that, following detailed evaluation, a new cardiac unit is to be developed by Morriston hospital NHS trust. That has been a difficult decision because we had received a number of innovative proposals. We are most grateful to all those who contributed. The Morriston team's proposal will provide top quality as well as offering the best value for money. It will be fully funded by the Welsh Office. We are convinced that the right option for the people of Wales has been chosen.
The Government attach the highest priority to the completion of the investment programme, which is making a significant contribution to the fight against cardiovascular disease. I expect everyone involved to co-operate in ensuring that the centre is completed as soon as possible.
§ Mr. Donald Anderson
I thank the Minister for that announcement. There will be great delight in west Glamorgan that the flirtation with the private sector has been overruled and that there has been a vote of confidence in the in-house bid.
§ Mr. Jones
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his thanks. I think that he understands that a decision has been made on the best application. I believe that the Government and Opposition Members, particularly the hon. Members for Islwyn and for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) are united in wanting to see the NHS in Wales continuing to go forward, continuing to expand and continuing to improve.
The hon. Member for Swansea, East also mentioned drug abuse and prevention. In England, a Green Paper on drug abuse has just been published. It was said that Wales and Northern Ireland would produce their own strategies. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that we are drafting and aim to produce a consultation document very soon. That is in addition to my right hon. Friend's announcement on 19 October that he would establish a Welsh drug and alcohol unit which will be responsible for implementing the strategy which is now being developed.
The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery referred to the funding and quality of community care. My right hon. Friend was able to tell him about the extra sums that have already been provided. We intend to go further than that: in 1996–97, we will add a further £25 million and in 1997–98 we will add an additional £19 million on top of that. The annual figure will then be an additional sum of almost £170 million.
The closest attention is being paid to how that money is being used, not least by the carers who can see the situation at the sharp end. Very possibly the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery went to meet the carers, as I did, at their function in the House last week. I can understand their calls for the money to be ring-fenced in Wales as it is in England.
1282 However, that money is not the full extent of the financial support that we provide. The Welsh Office also has grant schemes which amount to £4.5 million in the current year for projects for older people and those with disabilities. In addition, total funding for the mental illness strategy is £5.5 million this year. That includes £1.1 million to local authorities across Wales.
Funding in that regard is used by local authorities to offer practical support for individuals with mental health problems and it includes the enhancement of day care services and facilities, night time cover, supported accommodation and social worker posts for resettlement teams. In addition, there is our much respected mental handicap strategy the total funding for which this year is almost £56 million, almost £49 million of which goes to local authorities across Wales. That encourages the development of new patterns of local community-based care with increased choice for better quality and more independent lives for individuals.
With regard to the importance of resettlement, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I are at one with the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery in the belief that care should be right for each individual. We will need a range of forms of care, involving some forms which have already been developed and some that we will probably need to develop further. I had an opportunity to visit the charity RESCARE in Manchester last year when I had responsibility for such matters. I saw the imaginative way in which it was developing slightly larger homes than we are at present used to. We must try to do all that we can to ensure that each individual has the right care.
The right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) asked what the Government have done for Llanelli. I must point out that, under the strategic development scheme this year, we are providing no less than £1.25 million for servicing new industrial land, commercial renewal grants, pedestrianisation and improvements to the centre to complement the new retail development. There is also the valleys private finance initiative. The local authority identified the Llanelli development as the key economic development opportunity and we are marketing it aggressively together with the Welsh Development Agency and the local authority.
The hon. Members for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Smith) and for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers), in interventions, expressed readily understandable feelings about excessive unemployment in the valleys. However, I totally reject the point made by the hon. Member for Rhondda when he suggested that spite had motivated the Government's approach towards the coal industry.
We all have to face up to the realities of life, but no Government seek to create unemployment in coal or any other industry and certainly not for ridiculous motives such as spite. That would be as incorrect and as futile as to suggest that Lord Callaghan sought for similar reasons to close down Eastmoor steel works in Cardiff or that the former right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent, Michael Foot, closed down the Ebbw Vale steel works. It would 1283 be just as ridiculous for the hon. Member for Rhondda to suggest that Michael Foot was acting as someone's agent in that regard—
§ Mr. Touhig
I believe that the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton) made remarks about getting his own back on Wales by closing the pits and changing all the constituencies. I wrote to him during the Islwyn by-election, but I have yet to receive a reply.
§ Mr. Jones
Knowing my hon. Friend, he will not be shy about giving the hon. Gentleman a reply. I will leave him to do that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan stressed the need for good road links. I readily appreciate his comment about South Glamorgan council and a proper updated link to Cardiff airport. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has today updated his plans for future improvements to the trunk road network. Fifteen schemes totalling £267 million are programmed to start before April 1998, improving nearly 47 miles of road. The plans take forward the strategy set out in "Roads in Wales: 1994 Review".
Resources will continue to be focused on the major strategic routes: the A55, the M4, and the A465. We attach great priority to the Heads of the Valley road, and we have consulted on route options for dualling between Abergavenny and Hirwaun. It is intended to publish a preferred route by midsummer. Plans for scheme starts next year include the A40 Whitland bypass, the M4 Magor-Coldra widening, the A550 Deeside park interchange, the A40 Fishguard western bypass, and the A470 Lledr valley stage 1.
We continue to attach high priority to ensuring that roads in sensitive areas are managed in such a way as to protect the beautiful environment of Wales. We will shortly commission a study of the A5 on the mainland to help to determine how best to ensure that it does not develop in ways that encourage through traffic. We wish to see a logical and cohesive strategy developed for the future management of that section of trunk road that takes full account of the beauty of Snowdonia and the need to preserve it for future generations.
The hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Dafis) will be interested in the matter of St. Dogmaels, which I visited with him during the summer recess. I can now announce that supplementary credit approval of up to £500,000 will be issued to assist Preseli Pembrokeshire district council in meeting additional costs that it has sustained relating to its response to the St. Dogmaels landslide and the investigations that it has commissioned into its mechanism and possible corrective measures. That is in addition to assistance towards the cost of proposed surface drainage works eligible for grant aid under the Land Drainage Act 1991, which are due to be undertaken over the next two years. I am writing to the local authority to provide it with full details of that assistance.
1284 We have inevitably heard many references to the vexed question of devolution. Perhaps it should more properly he referred to as centralisation; taking powers from local authorities in Wales and giving them to a Welsh Assembly—the ultimate quango. [Interruption.] Of course, Opposition Members may crow at the results of the BBC Wales-Western Mail opinion survey, which was published yesterday. The poll purports to show 47 per cent. of those surveyed in favour of some form of assembly for Wales. Opposition Members will say that that is a huge swing in favour of an assembly.
We all know that polls taken in isolation produce unreliable results. We must remember that last year's opinion poll involved a sample of 1,500. This year's poll involved a sample of 521. Thirty-five per cent. were highlighted as wanting an assembly that was independent of Westminster. That means 86 people—that is all. How representative is that?
Have Opposition Members forgotten the real test of opinion, when 1.2 million people voted on 1 March 1979? The results were clear then. It was not a case of 86 people out of a total of 521. True, almost 250,000 people voted in favour of an assembly, but almost 1 million decisively rejected it. That is a far more reliable test of public opinion.
§ Mr. Jones
No, I cannot give way.
At least we have a policy from Opposition. They say that, some time, they will define what sort of assembly they will put forward. It is their only positive contribution. It is a job-creating policy, is it not? At least it is meant to be a job-creating policy for the old dinosaurs of the Labour party whom they mean to accommodate in a Welsh Assembly. That will be the only job-creating aspect of it.
§ Mr. Morgan
Will the Minister give his views of the Ulster framework document proposals for a devolved assembly to Northern Ireland?
§ Mr. Jones
Not in the time available.
The proposed Welsh Assembly will be a home for the old dinosaurs of the Labour party—rewards for their records of non-achievement. They are just like the Simpsons on Channel 4—underachievers, and proud of it. Those who failed to get into this place or into the European Assembly would be sent to it.
§ Mr. Jones
Yes, it is the ultimate quango. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Conwy said, we would be back to the bad old days—every quango stuffed with Labour placemen. Do we not recollect that the 30-odd members of the Trades Union Congress shared 140 quangos between them—about four per head? That is not bad going, but that is the way things were.
The assembly is the Labour party's latest answer, and it is the only job creation proposal that the Labour party has, unless we want to take in the long list of crazy proposals that my right hon. Friend read out in his speech. We noticed that again there was no answer from the hon. Member for Caerphilly to the question whether he would have all those regional development banks, Faraday centres, defence diversification agencies, general teaching 1285 councils and all the rest of the loony list that is being dragged out. It is all job creation for the boys—or rather, for the boyos.
§ It being Ten o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.