Previous Section Home Page

Mr. Hurd : That was a bit laboured. For his light weekend reading I shall send the hon. Gentleman the

Column 288

Green Paper, the consultants' report and the Select Committee report. Perhaps he will then reach a different conclusion.

Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse (Pontefract and Castleford) : The Home Secretary has conceded that what he describes as the "proper" conditions in prisons are his responsibility and that of the Government. That being so, why have the conditions in Armley prison, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle) referred, deteriorated so badly over the past 10 years? Bearing that in mind, will the Home Secretary explain a little further what he means by the "special expertise" which he feels will solve the problem?

Mr. Hurd : As the hon. Gentleman knows, there has been a substantial increase in the prison population over the years. However, in the past year not only has the remand population fallen slightly ; the prison population has been held fairly steady. But I am not making too much of that because it might change again in the wrong way. If the hon. Gentleman studies the current figures, he will see that there has been some relief from the overcrowding pressure from which we have suffered.

The staff at Armley have done an amazing job in extremely difficult circumstances. The hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle) said that the people there should not be in prison, but it is, of course, the courts that decide whether bail should be granted in certain cases, not me. We are trying to make it possible for the courts to find alternatives to remand in custody in more and more cases. That is extremely important. However, that effort, which clearly needs to be continued and intensified, does not absolve us from looking at any new ideas and new people who may come forward.

As I said in my statement, the proposals will be tested and further work will be done, so the hon. Gentleman should not say that there is no contribution, no help, and no new ideas that can be brought to bear.

Mr. Bob McTaggart (Glasgow, Central) : If the Secretary of State is really concerned about the conditions of prisoners, and especially of remand prisoners, should he not address himself to the fact that many people are held on remand without any limit on time and that the majority of them end up receiving non-custodial sentences? If we attacked that question more seriously, that would do a great deal to alleviate some of our problems. Will the Secretary of State inform the House where the skills of the private sector were obtained and learned? Presumably it must have been in Scotland.

Mr. Hurd : I shall try to deal with both the hon. Gentleman's points. First in effect, he complained about the working of the Bail Act 1976. I am anxious that the Act should work properly and that the number of cases in which people are refused bail and then either acquitted or not given custodial sentences should be kept to the minimum. However, that is a matter for the courts. Our job is to provide as convincing alternatives to remand in custody as we can, and the hon. Gentleman knows that that is what we are doing. Secondly, we know that there are skills involved in escort duties because they have already been tested, and there are certainly skills involved in the design and

Column 289

construction of prisons. In the light of the consultants' report, I do not see any grounds for denying that there could be skills in the management of remand centres also.

Mr. Hattersley : Does not the Home Secretary realise that the weakness of his argument was demonstrated by his denial about the figures for men and women held in prison on remand--figures that were given to me by his Department just over two hours ago? Despite the small reduction of which he was so proud, the fact is that the remand population is now twice what it was when the right hon. Gentleman's Government came to office. If he is really concerned about that, why does he not implement the 110-day rule instead of talking about it? May I ask the right hon. Gentleman again to answer the question : what are the special skills that private contractors have for running remand prisons, other than the willingness to make profits out of human misery?

Mr. Hurd : "Let us test and see" is the message of the consultants' report and it is entirely reasonable. The right hon. Gentleman has taken a dogmatic approach and is denying the possibilities of the proposal in the face of evidence from the Select Committee report and in the face of what has been said as a result of the consultants' work. "Let us test and see", is the summary of my announcement today.

On the right hon. Gentleman's first point, in answer to an earlier question I conceded that there has been a massive increase in the remand population- -as there has been in the prison population as a whole over the past 10 years. What I am saying and what evidently surprised the right hon. Gentleman is that during the past calendar year there has been a sizeable fall in that population. That might be temporary, so I do not want to overrate the argument. However, that fall may show that some of the efforts that have been made to contain and reduce the remand population are working. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act for the first time gave me powers to impose time limits. The right hon. Gentleman knows that I am doing that-- [Interruption.] If he does not, he is ignorant. He knows that I am extending the arrangements steadily across the country and that before he is much older time limits will apply throughout England and Wales. That is progress, which was not attempted--or attempted successfully --by Labour Home Secretaries.


The following Member made the Affirmation required by law : Kim Scott Howells Esq., for Pontypridd.

Column 290

Points of Order

4.21 pm

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. On occasion I have been on the receiving end of colourful verbal strictures from your good self. No one wants to incur your displeasure, Mr. Speaker, but could you nevertheless take time to examine the method and approach that you seem to be adopting in relation to the calling of Opposition and Government Members in Scottish Question Time?

As I understand the proceedings of the House, Question Time is an occasion for hon. Members to put the Executive--that is, the Government--under pressure. It seems to me, Mr. Speaker, that the supporters of the Government whom you choose to call do not do that. Today a Conservative Member was called who had put down no question whatever for Scottish Question Time. When he had put his supplementary he departed the House-- only to return again, such was his interest. He thus prevented many Opposition Members from putting genuine questions, of interest to their constituents, to the Government and putting pressure on the present particularly objectionable Secretary of State for Scotland and his cohort.

Mr. Malcolm Bruce (Gordon) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Minister's reply to the question asked by the right hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) may have misled the House somewhat. The Minister said that the question of metered water rates was for the discretion of the regional councils, yet hehas--

Mr. Speaker : Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman will have to take that up with the Minister rather than with me. It is not a matter for me, and I have no idea whether what the hon. Gentleman has said is right or wrong. What is the point of order?

Mr. Bruce : The related point of order is that the right hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside was called twice, while some Opposition Members were not called once. When the Government are bringing in English Members to ask questions, it seems unreasonable that their Scottish Members should be called twice, keeping Opposition Members from being called at all.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke) rose--

Mr. Speaker : Will it be helpful?

Mr. Bennett : I hope so.

Mr. Speaker : I hope so, too.

Mr. Bennett : Further to the point of order of the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas), Mr. Speaker. You will recall that in questions to the English Department of Health on 13 December the Opposition Front Bench consisted of the hon. Members for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Galbraith), for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) and for Livingston (Mr. Cook). There were three Scottish Labour Members questioning the English Health Department.

Several Hon. Members rose --

Column 291

Mr. Speaker : Order. Helpful, but I think that it would be a good idea if I dealt with this.

Mr. John McFall (Dumbarton) rose --

Mr. Speaker : Order. I am on my feet ; allow me to deal with this. I do not think that I need repeat to the House that we are a United Kingdom Parliament. I weigh the rights of majorities in the House very carefully, but the rights of minorities must also be taken into account. Today 35 Scottish Members were called, and 11 Members representing English constituencies. Four of those had questions on the Order Paper, and one of the questions was about forestry, a matter that concerns the entire United Kingdom and is answered for by a Scottish Minister. It is a very difficult balance, but I do my best to be utterly fair.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to raise a matter of serious concern. Today's edition of The Guardian contains a statement that the European Commission is prepared to bulldoze this country into accepting a gross lorry weight of 44 tonnes. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, the then Secretary of State for Transport making a solemn statement that the current maximum of 38 tonnes would be retained.

Have you, Mr. Speaker, received any notification of a statement from the Secretary of State for Transport to make it clear that the Government will resist any imposition of a new limit by the Common Market? Although the Government have removed the right to a veto on transport matters, they should be here to prevent the arrival of more juggernauts on our already overcrowded roads as a result of the arbitrary fiat of the Common Market.

Mr. Speaker : I have received no such notification, but let me tell the hon. Gentleman and the whole House that we in this United Kingdom Parliament feel that no one should bulldoze us.

Mr. Thomas McAvoy (Glasgow, Rutherglen) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do not want to delay the House unnecessarily, but you may recall that this afternoon the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland said in reply to a question that I had asked with reference to the Minister of State's use of the word "fluctuation" in relation to Alzheimer's disease that what I had said was wrong and untrue--

Mr. Speaker : Order. This is taking time out of the Welsh debate. I cannot be responsible for what is said by the Minister at the Dispatch Box, or any other hon. Member. This is not a point of order for me.

Mr. McFall : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I was present for the entire hour of Scottish Question Time and stood up in vain on six questions, while watching hon. Members with no constituency interests in Scotland being called and departing the Chamber. I had put my name down for the ballot and had been drawn seventh. I subsequently discovered that my question had been transferred to the Department of Education and Science.

Column 292

That question concerned a burning issue in Scotland--the possible closure of the Glasgow veterinary school--and it should have been debated in the Chamber today. If that is not of real concern to the people of Scotland, what is? What advice can you give me, Mr. Speaker, so that--as one of my hon. Friends said earlier--the people of Scotland can genuinely question the Executive on such issues?

Mr. Speaker : Order. I do not know about the transfer of the question, and I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman was not called. Perhaps I may quote to him and the House the wise words of the Leader of the Opposition when I was chosen to be Speaker for the second time. He said that, sadly, in this place no Member can expect to be called on the day that he wants, at the time that he wants and on the subject that he wants.

Mr. Harry Ewing (Falkirk, East) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I shall put my point of order in my best Welsh accent. I know that you are not responsible for what Ministers say at the Dispatch Box, but today I believe that the Secretary of State for Scotland inadvertently misled the House. I questioned the right hon. and learned Gentleman about Shell's proposal to construct a pipeline between Grangemouth and England to pipe ethylene. In his reply the Secretary of State said he understood that there was a pipeline already between Grangemouth and England. But there is no such pipeline. Shell's proposal is a new approach and the Secretary of State inadvertently--I do not believe for one minute that the right hon. and learned Gentleman intended it ; no lawyer ever does anything that he is not sure of--misled the House. I am glad that the Under-Secretary of State is present to carry that message back to his boss ; and I shall look for a letter tomorrow.

Mr. Speaker : I am sure that what the hon. Gentleman has said will have been heard.

BALLOT FOR NOTICES OF MOTIONS FOR FRIDAY 17 MARCH Members successful in the ballot were :

Miss Joan Lestor.

Mr. Ian McCartney.

Mr. Henry McLeish.


Protection of Residents in Retirement Homes

Mr. Nigel Griffiths, supported by Mr. Harry Ewing, Mr. Tom Clarke, Mr. Norman Hogg, Mr. Alistair Darling and Mr. Harry Barnes, presented a Bill to establish the rights of residents who have purchased a retirement home in a complex run by a management agency to appoint the management agency and agent of their choice, to appoint the accountants and auditors of their choice, to have presented audited accounts for any charges levied on them, to restrict the increase in management charges ; and to require developers and management agencies to give full details in all advertisements and promotional literature of all charges : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 7 April and to be printed. [Bill 89.]

Column 293


4.31 pm

Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East) : I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide for the establishment of a Scottish Assembly and Executive and for their functions and powers ; and to make consequential provision. Ten years ago today the people of Scotland voted by a majority of 77,000 to establish a directly elected national assembly for their country. Scotland was, of course, cheated of that assembly by procedural manoeuvring in this place. A cleverly constructed wrecking amendment, allied to the intriguing of Westminster party politicians, was sufficient at that time to ensure the repeal of the Scotland Act 1978 and with it the defeat of the Labour Government who had steered the Scotland Bill on to the statute book.

In the long years since then, Scotland has had extremely good cause to regret that missed opportunity, which briefly opened up in that referendum a decade ago. Clearly, being realistic, my ten-minute Bill will be of symbolic significance only. It cannot and will not put right the many wrongs that have been done to my country by Conservative Governments since 1979, but that is so only because my Bill will never make it on to the statute book.

When Scottish home rule is finally enacted, as enacted it will be, and when, at last, an elected national assembly convenes in Edinburgh, there is no doubt that the prospects for social justice and for economic recovery in Scotland will be transformed for the better. Those who put their faith in the present system of governing Scotland are either blind to its deeply undemocratic nature or not entitled to call themselves democrats.

Scottish Office Ministers, and the army of civil servants behind them, are accountable only upwards, to those above them in the Westminster system, and never downwards, through Scottish Members of Parliament, to the only true source of democratic government in Scotland, the Scottish people themselves.

The particularly Scottish elements in the current machinery of government-- the Scottish Grand Committee, the Scottish Standing Committee and the Scottish Select Committee are either dissolved, patronised or packed with non-Scottish representatives. Those Committees are never allowed to carry out their intended function of scrutinising the Executive and placing a democratic check on the legislative or Executive excesses on behalf of the Scottish people. Those Committees, and with them the ballot box in Scotland, are rendered impotent by a flawed system of parliamentary government which places overwhelming and unaccountable Executive power in the hands of an unrepresentative, albeit an elected, minority. That flawed system of governing Scotland can no longer be tolerated. In the words of the recently published "Claim of right for Scotland"

"Either we advance to an Assembly or we retreat to the point at which Scottish institutions are an empty shell."

The purpose of the Bill is to serve notice that Scotland intends no retreat, but is determined to advance to the assembly for which its people have repeatedly voted. The advantages of an elected assembly for Scotland are many. Through it, for example, the Scottish people would directly control their own unique system of education. No assembly that was accountable to the people of Scotland

Column 294

would ever countenance the scale of university cuts seen in Scotland or the introduction of student loans into Scotland. No assembly based upon genuine democratic consent would consider for a moment the closure of established and successful dental and veterinary schools. No assembly, which relied for its legitimacy on the Scottish people, would promote opting out or subject seven-year-old school children to the trauma of national testing. Yet all of those developments are taking place in Scotland today only because those who control Scottish education are unaccountable to the Scottish people for what they do.

An assembly would likewise transform the prospects for tackling Scotland's endemic housing crisis. The answers to the plight of the homeless, to the despair caused by dampness and condensation, to the problems of overcrowding and the problems of growing rent arrears and indebtness are already known to those who are daily involved with Scottish housing. They understand the need for a programme of public investment in the housing infrastructure. They recognise the importance of subsidising owner- occupation and public renting in a fair and equal manner. They appreciate that choice and diversity in housing must be available to everyone by right, not just to those who happen to be able to afford it. But they do not have the ear of Scottish government, because government in Scotland is not Scottish. If the resources to solve those problems are ever to be released it will be only through an elected Scottish assembly.

It is also important to consider local government in Scotland, which is distinct from local government elsewhere in the United Kingdom. It has its own unique structure, its own unique system of finance and its own separate traditions of public service. All of those are now put at risk by a centralising and authoritarian Government determined to impose uniform controls that will ensure that Westminster runs every corner of the country, imposing a sameness that stems from submission to central Government. Worst of all, there is the poll tax--unwanted, unloved and despised by eight out of 10 Scots--imposed on Scotland in circumstances so undemocratic as to call into serious question the claim of this House to any kind of democratic legitimacy. A Scottish assembly elected by the Scottish people would, as a matter of priority, abolish the poll tax and restore the independence of Scottish local government. For me that in itself makes the case for a Scottish assembly unanswerable. Tonight there are to be Tory celebrations in London and Edinburgh to mark the 10th anniversary of the defeat of the Scotland Act 1978 and to plan for the defeat of any future Scotland Acts. We are told that the Tories will be celebrating 1979 as a turning point in Conservative party fortunes, although, God knows, Scottish Tories have had little enough to celebrate about in the past 10 years--there is little enough about United Kingdom politics of the past 10 years for any of us to celebrate. Local democracy has been all but strangled. Trade union rights have been smashed. The right to dissent and to freedom of speech have been and are being seriously curtailed. A secret and all-powerful state grows more obsessively secret and ever more authoritarian behind a parliamentary facade, which no longer relates to the people and which is now distantly remote from any democratic reality.

Column 295

In those circumstances an elected Scottish assembly would present the most important democratic break-through in post- war British politics. To borrow a phrase from the Scottish poet, Hugh McDiarmid, it would be :

"A flash of sun in a country all prison grey."

The days of Scotland waiting for others to make up their minds about Scottish government are over. At the end of this month the Scottish constitutional convention will hold its first historic meeting in Edinburgh. That convention will bring forward proposals for an assembly which will unite behind it an unprecedented level of majority popular support in Scotland. Other hon. Members may question the level of democratic support behind this ten-minute Bill, but no hon. Member will be able to question the level of democratic support for a Scotland Bill that will come from the work of the Scottish constitutional convention.

There is and there will be an absolute democratic imperative on the House to recognise the will of the Scottish people. If that imperative is ignored and if this House again sells the pass on the Scottish question, it can no longer claim any democratic legitimacy in Scotland and it will deserve to be opposed by democrats not only in Scotland but throughout the United Kingdom.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. John McAllion, Mr. Ernie Ross, Mr. William McKelvey, Mr. George Galloway, Mrs. Maria Fyfe, Mr. Thomas Graham, Dr. Norman A. Godman, Mr. Jimmy Dunnachie, Mr. Jimmy Wray, Mr. Harry Ewing, Mr. John McFall and Mr. Martin O'Neill.


Mr. John McAllion accordingly presented a Bill to provide for the establishment of a Scottish Assembly and Executive and for their functions and powers ; and to make consequential provision : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 17 March and to be printed. [Bill 90.]

Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it possible to record that not a single Back-Bench Tory Member was present during that important debate on Scotland's constitutional future?

Mr. Speaker : That has just been recorded.

Column 296

Welsh Affairs

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.-- [Mr. Heathcoat-Amory.]

Mr. Speaker : In view of the large number of right hon. and hon. Members representing Welsh constituencies who wish to take part in this important debate, I propose to use my power to limit speeches to 10 minutes between 7 o'clock and 9 o'clock. If, due to the restraint of those hon. Members called before 7 o'clock, that proves to be unnecessary, I shall ask the then occupant of the Chair to be flexible.

4.40 pm

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Walker) : Since we last debated this subject a year ago we have, unfortunately, lost two of our parliamentary colleagues, Brynmor John and Sir Raymond Gower. I am sure that it is right to begin by saying that hon. Members on both sides of the House are united in their sadness at that loss. The two hon. Members had many qualities and characteristics in common. Both served their constituents exceedingly well and were dedicated to the prosperity and future of Wales. Both had a great spirit of public service and qualities of compassion and kindness which all hon. Members admired. We regret their passing.

I should also like to congratulate our new colleague, the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells), who has just taken his place in the House. Like him, I arrived at the House after a by-election. I must confess to relief that since then I have had to fight only general elections, not by- elections. For the period that the hon. Gentleman is a Member of the House, I wish him well and the fulfilment of his ambitions in parliamentary life.

During the past year, there have been many events which will affect the future of the Principality. A range of new schemes and enterprises have been set up, all of which will have a considerable impact on the future of Wales. During the past year, the valleys initiative has been launched and the enterprise initiative was launched by the Department of Trade and Industry. Major proposals have been made for housing, to which I shall refer later. The Welsh language development board has been launched and a White Paper on health has been published. Bills on the privatisation of water and electricity have begun their passage through the House. All those developments will have a considerable impact on Wales, and I shall have something to say about each of them.

I realise that the Opposition cannot say that the programme for the valleys is splendid. Understandably, they have to say that if it looks good, it is merely good publicity and public relations but not good in a monetary sense. I perfectly understand that reaction as I spent some years as a member of a shadow Cabinet in opposition to two Labour Governments. I do not think that my record would show me to have been full of praise for anything that those Governments did. This week, one of the Welsh newspapers commented on a report sent in by the Welsh district councils. I have just read the report on the valleys programme, which they had also sent to me. I had replied to them and was surprised by the headlines in the newspaper. I thought that the report was constructive. It analysed what was taking place,

Column 297

devoted several pages of approval to the details of many of the proposals and ended with six major policy priorities, with virtually all of which I agreed.

A great deal is currently being done to overcome the considerable problems- -in particular, the decline of the coal and steel industries--that the valleys have suffered and in some respects are still suffering. I think that everyone, irrespective of political views, will rejoice at the recent considerable new inward investment into the valleys. There has been one investment--often a large one--every two weeks, and many more are being negotiated. That will substantially increase the diversity of industry and commerce in the valleys.

I am sure that everyone is also delighted that Welsh Development Agency factory lettings have been at record levels. In the nine months from 1 April last year to 1 January this year, there were no fewer than two new factory lettings per week. Unemployment in the valleys, although still far too high, has fallen during the past three years by nearly 40 per cent. During the seven months since the launch of the valleys initiative, the fall in unemployment in the valleys has been even faster than the record falls in Wales as a whole.

Mrs. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) : In the past month, unemployment has risen in the Cynon valley, which still has the highest male unemployment rate in Wales. The valleys initiative has not done much to help towns in my constituency such as Mountain Ash, Penrhiwceiber, Aberdare and others which have been devastated by job losses in the coal industry.

Mr. Walker : As the hon. Lady will know, it was the chief executive of her local authority who prepared the report from the district councils in which he listed many factors in the valleys initiative of which he thoroughly approves. As the hon. Lady also knows, unemployment in her constituency peaked in 1986 and is now much lower, although a great deal still needs to be done there. In a recent parliamentary answer I listed all the initiatives taking place in her valley, where there is enormous public expenditure. If she would like to table a similar question on the likely benefits for her valley of the valleys initiative, I shall be only too pleased to answer it. Greater programmes than ever before for work such as derelict land clearance and factory building are now being undertaken.

Under the valleys initiative, the new small loan scheme and the valleys enterprise scheme now operate. Those schemes apply only to the valleys, and already several dozen valley businesses have taken advantage of them. I hope that many others will benefit from them in the future.

One of the most exciting elements is the new enterprise initiative launched by the DTI, under which firms can apply for substantial Government grants so that they can call in consultants to advise them on a range of important issues. No fewer than 360 projects have been undertaken for valley firms in the first few months of this initiative.

Another initiative of considerable importance, not just for the valleys but for the whole of Wales which I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will welcome--and when it is built and completed, support--is the centre for quality, enterprise and design at Treforest. Building is now starting and I hope that the first occupants

Column 298

will arrive at the end of August. This institution will be unique to the United Kingdom, and I am glad that it will be in the valleys. Its object will be to have a major impact on improving design quality so that Wales and the valleys retain their reputation in that respect.

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon) : We await the outcome of the valleys initiative to see whether it will create new jobs and provide new money. If it does, everyone will welcome it. Does the right hon. Gentleman accept, however, that there are old industrial areas outside the valleys--old slate quarry areas, for example--which face problems similar to those of the valley communities? What initiatives does he plan to help those areas?

Mr. Walker : I intend to deal with other parts of Wales later in my speech. I am dealing now with the major new initiatives that we have launched, but I agree that such areas face a range of problems, that some have higher unemployment than the valleys and that action is needed.

The hon. Gentleman says that he awaits the outcome of the initiative and will judge it on the details, and I am happy for him to do that. In the first six months of the initiative, there has been a great deal of new money and, compared with the promises and predictions that I made, there has been more activity on derelict land clearance and factory building and letting, and more money is going in. I intend to deal later with today's announcement by the Welsh Development Agency of the new factory building programme for 1989-90, which is larger than last year's.

The figures for regional aid in the valleys are remarkable. Grants made since the initiative, to the middle of January, have covered projects involving 7,500 new jobs and private investment of about £180 million. The WDA's record advanced factory building programme is well under way. In the current financial year, it involves investment in 450,000 sq ft of new advanced factories. In addition, more than 300,000 sq ft of bespoke factory building has been completed, and more projects are in hand. Total WDA investment in factory building in 1988-89 will be more than £20 million in 1988-89 and about £66 million over the three years of the programme, which is £5 million more than my original forecast. Work is also in hand on more than 130 small local authority factory units, with Welsh Office urban programme assistance.

Mr. Keith Raffan (Delyn) : As my right hon. Friend knows, there is considerable disappointment in my constituency at the Government's decision not to extend the Delyn enterprise zone. Will he give an assurance today that the focus of WDA factory provision in north Wales will shift from south-east Clwyd to north-east and coastal Clwyd? At present there is an imbalance favouring Alyn and Deeside and Wrexham Maelor which we want redressed throughout north Wales.

Mr. Walker : My hon. Friend will be pleased to see the programme announced by the WDA today. I know how long and enthusiastically he has propounded the need for more factories. Today's announcement of the WDA factory building programme for 1989-90 includes plans for three new factories in the Delyn area, which I know will be welcomed by my hon. Friend and his constituents.

A great deal is happening in training in the valleys, where more than 20,000 people are expected to benefit from the Training Agency programmes in this financial year. Other major investments are taking place, too. It is

Column 299

now estimated that £56 million will be invested in the garden festival at Ebbw Vale. I hope that all local authorities, not just that of Ebbw Vale, will support the project, which will benefit the whole of Wales. In all the programmes of the Welsh Development Agency, the Wales tourist board and others, we must ensure that we take full advantage of this enormous capital investment.

Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore) : Returning to the point about the Training Agency and future developments in training, I must point out that that has nothing to do with the valleys initiative, which is designed to reduce unemployment. Since the transition in Ogmore from enterprise to training we have lost about 500 jobs in an organisation of which I am chairman, known as CATO--community activities and training in Ogmore. When and how will those jobs be replaced?

Mr. Walker : I have discussed this with the hon. Gentleman. A decision was announced long before the event that the large sums being spent on training should be spent on schemes in which real training was provided to give the trainees future careers. The community schemes were of great service at a particular time, but it was then important to move over to training in greater skills with proper training facilities.

In the valleys initiative I pledged that £1 million per week would be spent on training in the valleys for the next three years. I intend that to happen, and that the money be spent on training of a quality that will use the skills, talents and abilities of the people of the valleys, because that is the best way of developing industry. This week I met the key people involved in the training organisation. We have invited a group of people to serve on the advisory training board, some of whom have still to say whether they will do so. The board will consist of people of high quality. The previous chairman of the Training Commission, Sir Mel Rosser, has agreed to continue, and I am glad to say that George Wright of the Transport and General Workers Union has agreed to serve on the board. He was on the previous commission and has considerable knowledge of the training needs of the areas. I intend regularly to meet those responsible for training to ensure that that £1 million per week is well spent on improving the quality of training.

During this period there has also been remarkable progress in the clearance of derelict land in the valleys. Record levels of expenditure have been deployed. In 1988-89, expenditure is expected to be £14 million, compared with the original forecast in the valleys initiative of £12.5 million. Schemes involving the clearance of about 400 acres will be completed in 1988-89, and a further £40 million will be spent over the next two years. In all, 2,800 acres are expected to be cleared during the life of the valleys programme, an increase of 300 acres on my original forecast of eight months ago. The urban programme package for 1989-90 includes allocations totalling £18 million of projects to benefit the valleys ; that is a 19 per cent. increase over the record level of allocations this year and about 67 per cent. over the year preceding the launch of the valleys enterprise. The Welsh Office has also announced that it will make available additional funding of £5.5 million for 10 more valley health projects, which are proceeding. The forecast 25 per cent. increase in the number of houses benefiting from

Column 300

enveloping and block repair schemes is taking place ; about 2,000 houses will be treated under the programme in 1988-89.

I could continue with more details. I challenge anyone to find anywhere in the United Kingdom with a population of 700,000 in which there is so much activity on such a scale and enjoying such considerable success.

The enterprise initiative launched by the DTI was important. Wales has a remarkable record during its first few months of that initiative. When I took on my responsibilities at the Welsh Office I discovered that, when major DTI schemes were launched to provide grants and facilities for industry, far from receiving more than its appropriate share, Wales virtually always got less. We endeavoured to communicate with Welsh commerce and industry--with considerable success--and the Opposition will be delighted to hear that in the first few months of the enterprise initiative, applications and grants provided under the scheme in Wales have been 60 per cent. higher than the DTI had predicted. Indeed, applications are better in Wales than in any other region of the United Kingdom, which reflects the vitality in what is happening there.

During the course of the year I announced the setting up of the Welsh Language Board and received criticisms from both sides about it. The English-speaking parts of Wales said that it was monstrous to set up a board whose members were all enthusiastic Welsh speakers. They thought there should have been a balance between English and Welsh speakers. I decided to set up that board because I wanted on it people who were enthusiastic about the Welsh language. They have started their work and made various suggestions to us. They will be making many more suggestions in the coming period. Partly on their advice and partly as a result of the examination that we conducted, I have today announced a record £4.6 million of grants for the Welsh language, a 40 per cent. increase over this year.

This large increase demonstrates the Government's continued commitment to the language and our determination to build on the enthusiasm and good will that already exists to secure its future. Welsh language education will receive £2.7 million, £2 million of which will be allocated to local education authorities, the Welsh Joint Education Committee and other educational bodies, including colleges. More than £700,000 is being given to support the Welsh language educational development committee to meet the cost of curriculum-led developments proposed by the committee.

I also hope that during the year there will be additional proposals which, if approved, can be supported from the £300,000 that I have yet to allocate. In addition to the £4.6 million, I have also made available £160,000 in 1989-90 for educational support grants to be given to support Welsh in the curriculum, and I hope significantly to increase that support in the future.

Next Section

  Home Page