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House of Commons

Monday 29 October 1990

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. Speaker-- in the Chair ]


London Local Authorities (No. 2) Bill

[Lords] As amended, considered.


That Standing Order 205 (Notice of Third Reading) be suspended and that the Bill be now read the third time.-- [The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.]

Read the Third time, and passed, with amendments.

Port of Tyne Bill


As amended, considered.

Queen's consent, on behalf of the Crown, having been signified-- Ordered,

That Standing Order 205 (Notice of Third Reading) be suspended and that the Bill be now read the third time.-- [The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.]

Read the Third time, and passed, with amendments.

Adelphi Estate Bill


That the Promoters of the Adelphi Estate Bill shall have leave to suspend proceedings thereon in order to proceed with the Bill, if they think fit, in the next Session of Parliament, provided that the Agents for the Bill give notice to the Clerks in the Private Bill Office not later than the day before the close of the present Session of their intention to suspend further proceedings and that all Fees due on the Bill up to that date be paid ;


That on the fifth day on which the House sits in the next Session the Bill shall be presented to the House ;

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That there shall be deposited with the Bill a declaration signed by the Agents for the Bill, stating that the Bill is the same, in every respect, as the Bill at the last stage of its proceedings in this House in the present Session ;


That the Bill shall be laid upon the Table of the House by one of the Clerks in the Private Bill Office on the next meeting of the House after the day on which the Bill has been presented and when so laid, shall be read the first and second time (and shall be recorded in the Journal of this House as having been so read) and, having been amended by the Committee in the present Session, shall be ordered to lie upon the Table ;


That no further Fees shall be charged in respect of any proceedings on the Bill in respect of which Fees have already been incurred during the present Session ;


That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.-- [The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.]

To be communicated to the Lords, and their concurrence desired thereto.

Private Bills [Lords] (Suspension)


That so much of the Lords Messages [17th October, 23rd October, 24th October and 25 October] as relates to the Avon Light Rail Transit Bill [ Lords ], the Avon Light Rail Transit (Bristol City Centre) Bill [ Lords ], the British Railways (No. 3) Bill [ Lords ], the Greater Manchester (Light Rapid Transit System) (No. 4) Bill [ Lords ], the Greater Manchester (Light Rapid Transit System) (No. 5) Bill [ Lords ], the Llanelli Borough Council (Barry Port Harbour) Bill [ Lords ], the London Local Authorities (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill [ Lords ], the London Underground (Safety Measures) Bill [ Lords ], the Mersey Docks and Harbour Bill [ Lords ], the Midland Metro (Penalty Fares) Bill [ Lords ], the North Yorkshire County Council Bill [ Lords ], and the Standard Life Assurance Company Bill [ Lords ] be now considered.


That this House doth concur with the Lords in their Resolution.-- [The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.]

Message to the Lords to acquaint them therewith.

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Oral Answers to Questions


Mid Glamorgan Health Services

1. Mr. Ray Powell : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales when he next intends to meet the chairman of the Mid Glamorgan area health authority to discuss health services provision in Mid Glamorgan.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Ian Grist) : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State met health authority chairmen on 10 July and more recently at a briefing seminar in Cardiff on 19 October. He intends to meet them again early in the new year.

Mr. Powell : I thank the Under-Secretary for that reply. During the discussions, was the development of phase 2 of the Princess of Wales hospital in Bridgend discussed? In 1983, the Under-Secretary's predecessor promised me that phase 2 would be developed immediately on completion of phase 1. I do not want, as in the summit in Europe last weekend, a "No, no, no," from the Minister. I want a positive reply, because 250,000 of my constituents have been waiting more than seven years and trying to make do with half a hospital. Is not it about time that the Government fulfilled some of the promises made by Ministers?

Mr. Grist : I appreciate the strength of feeling of the hon. Gentleman and many of his constituents on the issue. I also note how pleased they are with their new hospital. The issue of phase 2 is one for the hon. Gentleman's health authority, which has decided not to put it in its current 10-year programme.

Dr. Kim Howells : Is the Secretary of State aware that rumours are circulating in south Wales that the guidelines issued by the various health authorities dictate that if patients over the age of 70 suffer heart attacks, they should receive less priority treatment than those who suffer similar problems under the age of 70?

Mr. Grist : I do not think that the hon. Gentleman should listen to such rumours.

Mr. Win Griffiths : Will the Under-Secretary reconsider his reply on phase 2 of the Princess of Wales hospital? While the health authority has to make decisions on its capital spending programme, the truth is that, despite the extra money being put into the health service in Wales, it has not kept pace with the inflation rate. As a result, the hospital, which was promised in 1983, has not yet been completed. The consultants at the hospital feel that they have been betrayed by the Welsh Office. Would not it be a sign of real faith in the health service for the Government to declare that the extra funding will be provided so that the health authority can go ahead with the hospital?

Mr. Grist : I think that the hon. Gentleman underestimates the extra funding, which has meant that real funding--after inflation--in the health service in Wales has risen by about 50 per cent. under the Government. I should have thought that the consultants

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and the others whom he mentioned would also be pleased with the treatment centre in the old hospital in Bridgend, and the amount that was spent on that.

Mr. Barry Jones : Is the Minister aware that the waiting list in Mid Glamorgan has increased this year by 32 per cent., and that since 1979, Mid Glamorgan has lost 679 hospital beds, which must be lunacy? Does he acknowledge the concern felt by the Royal College of Nursing in Wales about underfunding and waiting lists, when all that nurses want is to be able to deliver their professional nursing care to more and more people? I warn the Minister that people in Wales are losing patience with his health service policies, which will lose the Minister his seat and his Government their power.

Mr. Grist : The hon. Gentleman must have a very cool mind, when one considers that under the previous Labour Government, there was only a 6 per cent. increase in the number of patients treated compared with 34 per cent. under the present Government--and that under Labour, out-patient treatment fell by 3 per cent. As to Mid Glamorgan's waiting list, in the 12 months to 31 March it reduced its urgent in-patient waiting list by 14 per cent.--the number of patients urgently awaiting treatment for one month or more--and its out-patient waiting list by 6.5 per cent., or 1,122. Mid Glamorgan also reduced the number of out-patients waiting three months or more.


2. Mr. Michael : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales when he last met representatives of carers in Wales to discuss matters of interest to carers.

Mr. Grist : I meet and have discussions with carers and their representatives throughout Wales frequently in the course of my ministerial duties--most recently last Friday, at the launch of the upper Afan valley elderly people's project.

Mr. Michael : Is the Minister aware of the concern felt by carers at the undermining of the principles of care in the community? Does he accept that they now receive inadequate support, and will he admit that his strategy for community care is to depend on carers without providing for them? Does he agree that it is inadequate to offer the answers that he has given about care in the community, and that there can be no confidence in a system whose finances are hidden within the revenue support system? There is now real fear of neglect in the community among carers and those for whom they care.

Mr. Grist : I am disappointed that the hon. Gentleman has repeated the parrot cry that he does not trust local councils with the extra money that they are receiving through revenue support grant to provide community care. The hon. Gentleman should trust to the extra flexibility that local councils have to provide community care in the best way possible. The Government are absolutely committed to their community care proposals.

Mr. Skinner : Who is providing the resources?

Mr. Grist : Resources are already being provided. The hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) will also be aware of the increased support announced last week by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security.

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3. Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on the current state of the Welsh livestock industry.

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. David Hunt) : I have had a number of discussions recently with the farming unions, and the Government have taken a number of positive steps to help the Welsh livestock sector.

Mr. Davies : Will the Minister confirm the figures used by the Farmers Union of Wales, which show that farming incomes in the hill areas have reduced by 37 per cent. in comparison with 1986 levels? Does the right hon. Gentleman understand that if the Prime Minister has her way and brings about a further 30 per cent. cut in farm support, it will have a catastrophic effect on the employment, environment and culture of rural Wales? Will the Minister take it upon himself personally to intervene, to see that alternative measures are put in place to offset the worst effects on those who will be hardest hit?

Mr. Hunt : I thought that the hon. Gentleman's own party supported the 30 per cent. reduction in farm support. If there has been a change in policy, the hon. Gentleman owes it to the House to make that clear. It is agreed that there should be such a cut, and discussions are continuing on how it should be implemented, on 1986 levels. As to the Welsh farming industry, I have constantly made it clear that a healthy agricultural sector is vital to the economic, environmental and social future of Wales. We have taken several steps, including advance payments on the sheep annual premium, the suckler cow premium, and beef intervention--the cost of which last week was running at about £6 million. The Government are doing what they can to assist in a very difficult situation.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett : My right hon. Friend will be aware, from his meetings with Pembrokeshire farmers, of the serious concern that is felt in the farming industry at present. Can he give the House an assurance that if the GATT negotiations are successful and there are phased reductions in subsidies during the next few year, they will be properly managed and incremental, and that alternative means of support will be given to farmers, especially in environmental improvement?

Mr. Hunt : Of course, I shall consider carefully what my hon. Friend said. He is right to highlight the serious situation that would arise for Welsh agriculture if we were to enter a trade war and thus see many of our better export markets destroyed. That would be a catastrophe for Welsh farmers. Obviously, I am keeping closely in touch with those negotiations, which I hope will be successfully concluded. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that any changes must be gradual and incremental.

Mr. Livsey : What representations did the Secretary of State make to Brussels, prior to the announcement at the weekend of a cut so that only one third of farmers in the less-favoured areas in Wales will be included? Indeed, two thirds of those recommended by the Welsh Office were excluded. Could he tell us what representations he made to avoid that?

Mr. Hunt : The hon. Gentleman will be aware that I and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food had worked out what we felt to be a reasonable

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bid to the European Community. I have yet to receive formal notification of its decision, but I believe that the bid was realistic and achievable, and I hope that it will be successful. I urge the hon. Gentleman--unless the press report is incorrect--not to contact the French, in particular, to urge support for their attitude to agriculture, because I do not think that that is going down very well in Wales.

Mr. Bill Walker : Does my right hon. Friend agree-- [Interruption.] --that the livestock sector in Wales, in Scotland and in upland parts-- [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker : Order. This is the United Kingdom Parliament.

Mr. Walker : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the livestock sector in Wales, Scotland and other upland parts of the United Kingdom is an essential part of our strategic planning so that we can supply food and resources to meet these islands' requirements? Does he further agree that the problems lie within Europe, where people cannot reach a decision on matters that are fundamentally important?

Mr. Hunt : I am glad that we get that level of support from my hon. Friend, who represents a Scottish constituency. It is vital that everybody throughout the Community realises how important a healthy agricultural livestock sector is for the future of Wales and Scotland.

Mr. Barry Jones : Will the right hon. Gentleman admit that the small family farm is struggling desperately, that financial disaster stares it in the face, and that he cannot expect our people to suffer in silence when they are deeply in debt and cut to the bone? Is not it the case that the right hon. Gentleman has no coherent policy whatever? We want the right hon. Gentleman to use the full weight of his office. We are getting tired of a cosmetic and over-sanguine approach. There is a crisis and he must act now.

Mr. Hunt : I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman about the importance of this subject, but I did not detect that he was putting forward an alternative policy. When he examines the issues, he will see that the important factor to bear in mind about Welsh agriculture is that we must continue to support family farms in Wales. We have very efficient farmers, and that is why we have so much to lose from a trade war. I was sad that he made no expression of his opinion on that important aspect.

Inward Investment

4. Mr. John Greenway : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what the latest figures are for inward investment to Wales.

Mr. David Hunt : I am pleased to be able to tell the House that the inward investment figures continue to be good, and that in 1989-90 about 120 inward investment projects were secured--a substantial increase over the previous year--safeguarding about 6,000 jobs and creating about 6,500 new jobs.

Mr. Greenway : Those are excellent figures and they clearly demonstrate that the Government's policy to rejuvenate the Welsh economy is making excellent progress, but I fear that my right hon. Friend is telling the

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House only part of the story. Can he confirm that that trend is continuing in the current year and prove that the voices of gloom and doom have got it wrong?

Mr. Hunt : I totally oppose the voices of gloom and doom in Wales. It has a great success story and we are proud of it. During the first six months of 1990 Wales attracted 61 inward investment projects, compared with 50 during the same period last year. All of Wales has benefited from 6,500 new and safeguarded jobs, compared with 5,944 last year. I praise all the component partners in that marvellous success story.

Mr. John P. Smith : As by far the largest concentration of investment has come to my constituency in the Vale of

Glamorgan--although I refuse to take all the credit for that--what does the Secretary of State propose for training initiatives to stop the poaching of highly skilled labour in local labour markets?

Mr. Hunt : First, I thank the hon. Gentleman for the praise--I detected it between the lines--that he bestowed on the Government for attracting such major inward investment to his constituency and for working closely with all the component parts of the partnership that we are proud to have in Wales. He is correct to highlight the importance of training, which is why we set so much store on the new training and enterprise councils. It is important to have a local training strategy that is shared locally, and especially one that is private sector led. That will be the success story of the TECs in Wales.

Mrs. Clwyd : I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Smith) has had such good fortune. May I point out to the Secretary of State that, under his predecessor, Cynon Valley had the highest male unemployment rate in Wales ; that under his predecessor's predecessor it also had the highest male unemployment rate ; and it is still rising? What plans does the right hon. Gentleman have to reverse that trend and to attract inward investment into parts of Wales, such as Cynon Valley, which have suffered inordinately under the Government's policies?

Mr. Hunt : Now that I have had the opportunity to visit all the 19 valleys--I know that there are some subsidiary valleys that might object to that designation--I am carefully considering how best to take forward the programme for the valleys. I am aware of the problems in Cynon Valley. I have visited it and met representatives of local authorities. As I have acknowledged on many occasions, there are still pockets of poverty that are providing difficult to eradicate and areas with high unemployment rates that must be brought down--and I know that, in that, I share the hon. Lady's resolve.

Mr. Wigley : Does the Secretary of State accept that Members on the Plaid Cymru Benches do not echo the voices of gloom and doom about the prospects in Wales? However, to ensure that all of Wales benefits from inward investment and also to ensure that it is not confined only to the M4 corridor in the south and the A55 in the north, is not there a need to improve our north-south roads? Will he give an undertaking to review our roads programme with that in mind?

Mr. Hunt : Certainly. We are determined to try to do our best to improve all the infrastructure in Wales. However, I wish to take issue with the hon. Gentleman's

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second point. It is difficult to say to inward investors that we are interested in them only if they come to a particular part of Wales. I know that the hon. Gentleman accepts that. Provided that he joins us, which he does, in monitoring and propounding the success of the whole of Wales, there will be opportunities for all of Wales to share in the prosperity of inward investment.


5. Mr. Raffan : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on the report on the salmonella outbreak in Flint, Clwyd.

Mr. Grist : The report was published on 11 September. It made a number of recommendations on the handling of food poisoning outbreaks. These were incorporated in a Welsh Office circular sent to all district councils and health authorities, also on 11 September.

Mr. Raffan : Does my hon. Friend agree that the main lesson to be learnt from the salmonella outbreak in Flint is the need for one person to be put in overall charge of the handling of such an outbreak? Why has he confirmed the current confusing position, under which the medically qualified officer is employed by the health authority, but responsible to the district council chief executive?

Mr. Grist : My hon. Friend makes a slight error. Our best advice was that the proper officer should be the district health authority's consultant in communicable diseases control. The environmental health officer could be named as the proper officer, but our best advice is that a medically qualified person should be the proper officer.

Waiting Lists

6. Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what review he has undertaken of his Department's policies in respect to waiting lists in Wales ; and what fresh initiatives he intends to take.

Mr. Grist : Since the launch of the waiting list initiative in 1986, over £5 million has been allocated separately to tackle problematic lists and, together with the further £1 million support for the three all-Wales treatment centres, that has resulted in the treatment of an extra 23,000 out-patients and 12,000 in-patients.

I am at present considering how to take forward those initiatives in the context of the new contracting process that will be introduced from 1 April 1991 when all health authorities will need to pay particular attention to waiting lists in the contracts that they negotiate with their providers.

Mr. Flynn : What is the Minister's response to the news that 3,000 additional hospital beds will close before next April to comply with the Government's finance first and patients last policies? Some of the beds are in Wales. Most of them, however, are in London, but they have been used over the years by Welsh patients as an escape route from the disgracefully high waiting lists in Wales. Does it mean that this winter will be the worst ever for waiting and suffering in Wales? Does the Minister have no response except to accelerate the conveyor belt surgery into overdrive?

Mr. Grist : I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman is referring to day case treatment as conveyor belt surgery.

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I hope not. Last year I had a hernia operation and was in hospital for two nights. There is no reason why many cases could not be treated in a day. I should have thought that that was good medical practice. The hon. Gentleman must also know that the number of beds does not denote the number of patients treated. That has increased by 34 per cent. in Wales under this Government, and it has little to do with the number of beds provided.

Mr. Roy Hughes : Is not the Minister concerned about the state of hospital facilities in Gwent? For example, employees and constituents in Caldicot complain about the cut in facilities at Mount Pleasant hospital in Chepstow. There is also considerable criticism of the cuts in facilities on Ingram ward at St. Woolos hospital in Newport. What is the Minister doing about that, particularly as the local authority members of Gwent area health authority have been discarded in favour of local business men? Does not he agree that the local authority representatives would have been more sensitive to what is happening?

Mr. Grist : The hon. Gentleman has put his finger on at least part of the answer : that this is a matter for the district health authority. I believe, however, that the new district health authority membership is much more suited to the new system for running the national health service. Decisions on value for money and outcomes, not necessarily local parochial pressures, will be the test of a good national health service.

Mr. Gwilym Jones : Does my hon. Friend agree that waiting lists are in part a reflection of the success of the NHS? Patients are now queuing up for treatments that previously were not available. My hon. Friend has already said that there has been an increase in the number of patients treated, which is a far better sign of what is happening. Could not that number be further improved if only the best practice in treating day patients were applied universally?

Mr. Grist : Absolutely. That is the Audit Commission's view, too. It is also the opinion of most people in the medical profession. My hon. Friend is right about the increase in the number of treatments. That is why, for instance, Rhydlafar specialises in hip replacements, an operation which, not so many years ago, was looked on as being at the frontiers of medical science.

Our Common Inheritance"

7. Dr. Thomas : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales with which organisations he has been in consultation, and what communications have been received by his Department following the publication of the White Paper "Our Common Inheritance".

Mr. David Hunt : Since the publication of the White Paper I have been in consultation with 22 separate organisations and my Department has received 13 communications. I am placing a list of those in the Library of the House.

Dr. Thomas : I thank the Minister for his reply. Does he accept, following his consultation, that it is important for the Department to have a clear environmental strategy for Wales so that we can make our contribution to maintaining the environmental balance throughout the

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whole of the Principality? In particular, does not he realise how important it is to relate that to the strategic planning guidelines that his Department is developing, which would provide him with an opportunity to introduce the broader environmental strategy that Wales needs?

Mr. Hunt : The hon. Gentleman may be aware that on the day of the publication of the White Paper in Wales I made it clear that I propose to ask for the issue of green belts to be considered by all those concerned. If necessary, I shall expound and expand on it at a special conference that I am calling of all those concerned. It is very much at the forefront of my mind. We certainly intend to set a good example in Wales, and we are well on the way to doing just that.

Mr. Murphy : Does the Secretary of State agree that there is a major omission in the White Paper about the problems of toxic waste in Wales? Does he accept, for instance, that the importation of toxic waste is particularly bad in the Principality, which has become the dumping ground for some of the world's deadliest poisons? Does he agree that the monitoring and licensing of toxic waste sites is a problem, and, in the light of that, is he prepared to comment on the incident yesterday in the Rhymney valley, where there was a serious explosion of cans and drums of chemical waste?

Mr. Hunt : I have been contacted by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) and other hon. Members about the explosion. I am awaiting a full report. I understand that the health and safety inspectorate is investigating and that the local authority is carefully considering the position. Toxic waste generally is obviously an important matter, and it is dealt with fully in the White Paper.

Welsh Development Agency

8. Mr. Denzil Davies : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales when he will next meet the board of the Welsh Development Agency to discuss the future development of the board's activities.

Mr. David Hunt : I am meeting the board of the Welsh Development Agency on 17 December.

Mr. Davies : Will the Secretary of State make it clear that the next chief executive of the agency should be someone with solid experience in manufacturing industry, like the last one? Is he aware that there is considerable fear that the agency is turning itself into a property development agency, especially with the appointment of Mr. Malpas, who I believe is the property development director of Tesco? Every pithead bath now a Tesco? If we have a chief executive with the qualifications that I have suggested, that will go some way to allaying those fears.

Mr. Hunt : The right hon. Gentleman should choose his words with greater care. The vast majority of people in Wales are proud of the success of the Welsh Development Agency. I was sad that David Waterstone decided to move on. It is paramount to have the best possible candidate as chief executive of the Welsh Development Agency. When I consider all the areas and activities of the WDA, I am constantly impressed by how it leads the field in so many different ways.

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Mr. Raffan : What progress has been made by the Welsh Development Agency in helping Delyn borough council find a new tenant for the Laura Ashley factory at Leeswood in my constituency, and what grants, if any, will be available to a potential tenant?

Mr. Hunt : Following my hon. Friend's approach to the Welsh Office, I assured myself just before entering the Chamber that everyone was working as hard as possible to find an alternative tenant. Obviously, a range of financial assistance is available, which is an important part of any equation. As yet, I am unable to report any progress.

Mr. Alex Carlile : Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the future success of the Welsh Development Agency is partly dependent on there being a separate, independent and complementary body for rural Wales? Will he give an absolute undertaking that the Development Board for Rural Wales will continue, and will he consider extending its remit, as its chairman wishes, to include tourism and certain aspects of agriculture?

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