§ 9. Gareth Thomas (Clwyd, West)
What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues about the operation of the new deal in Wales. 
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Don Touhig)
My right hon. Friend and I meet Cabinet colleagues regularly to discuss a range of issues, including the operation of the new deal. I am also pleased to have the opportunity to discuss its operation in Wales with the new deal taskforce in Abergavenny on Friday.
§ Gareth Thomas
Has not the new deal been enormously effective in tackling unemployment not only in Wales but throughout the United Kingdom? Does my hon. Friend agree that Labour Members at Westminster and in the Assembly, for which an election will shortly take place, can rightly be proud of that achievement?
§ Mr. Touhig
The new deal has been a huge success in Wales, where 27,000 young people have secured jobs since its launch. Of those, 80 per cent. have retained them for 13 weeks or more. My attendance at new deal taskforce meetings last year encouraged me about its progress.
In my hon. Friend's constituency, long-term youth unemployment has fallen by 91 per cent. since 1997 and the claimant count for Clwyd, West is down by 44 per cent. We can all be proud of that achievement by the Labour Government.
§ Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)
What assessment has the hon. Gentleman made of the statistical evidence 672 that shows that those who undertake the training and education option on the new deal for young people are twice as likely not to get a job at the end of it as they are to get one?
§ Mr. Touhig
It would be a change if the hon. Gentleman and the Conservative party said something valuable and good about the new deal. They opposed it and voted against it. Under the Conservative Government, unemployment between 1979 and 1997 reached 3 million. The Government are doing something about that. We should be congratulated on our success, not criticised. It is time that he woke up to that.