1. Mr. Llwyd : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will discuss with Welsh local government organisations the level of representation the planned unitary authorities should have on health authorities ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Llwyd : How does the Minister square last week's appointment of Mrs. Lynette George to the chair of Derwen health trust in Dyfed with the Welsh Office's recent pronouncement that membership of quangos would be open to all and that there would be wide and extensive advertisement of appointments? Does he accept that the appointment was not advertised in the local newspaper that serves Dyfed, Powys and South Gwynedd and that Mrs. George is the wife of a previous Tory parliamentary candidate in Ceredigion? Does he also accept that the process is a complete sham and is wholly unacceptable to the people of Wales, who are not so easily fooled?
Mr. Jones : I am surprised at the hon. Gentleman. He should be aware that there is extensive advertising for all public appointments in Wales and that that has resulted in many people putting their name forward for our register of such appointments. I resent his implication about that particular appointment, not least because Mrs. George is well acquainted with health matters and is presently a member of the national health service trust for Ceredigion.
Mr. Sweeney : Does my hon. Friend agree that it will be easier to deal with that question when the Opposition have resolved their differences about the future shape of local government and, in particular, the dispute about the boundary between Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan, about which my constituents are extremely concerned?
Mr. Jones : I know from my hon. Friend about his constituents' opposition to the proposal. I am also aware, as I think he is, of the way in which the imperialist ambitions of South Glamorgan are hotly resented by the Labour parties in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan. I have sympathy for the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies), who has continuing difficulties in obtaining agreement among his comrades.
Mr. Rogers : The Minister must be cuckoo if he thinks that merely asking people to put their names forward for authorities introduces an element of democracy into the system in Wales. What matters is not the people who put their names forward but the selection of the people who are appointed, and that selection will remain in the hands of Ministers. There is no democratic accountability or relationship with the new local authorities that have been set up, so will the Minister accept that we do not like his system and wish that the people appointed were more accountable?
Mr. Jones : Accountability never stops because my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State remains answerable at the Dispatch Box to all hon. Members for his actions, including appointments and the activities of those appointed. We welcome recommendations and suggestions from everyone so that we have the broadest choice and my right hon. Friend always tries to appoint the best person to every post.
Mr. Jones : Is the Minister aware that the excellent newspaper Gair Rhydd which, by the way, features the Secretary of State prominently in this week's edition, will be endangered and will probably have to close as a result of the proposals? What proposals does the Minister have to safeguard the important work of Welsh student unions, which translate so much into Welsh so that there can be equality between the two languages in Welsh institutions? How does the Minister propose that that work will be done in future?
Sir Wyn Roberts : I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the Education Bill does not prevent students or student associations from undertaking any activities, including those that he described. There is no reason why such activities should cease. Students should consider different methods if the Bill prevents them from using such funding. For instance, activities could be funded from personal subscription, fund raising by students or sponsorship from the private funds of universities or colleges, as well as from public funds.
Mr. Murphy : Does the Minister agree that the development of Welsh language courses in colleges in Wales is not a core activity, as defined by the Bill? Does he believe that it will add to the financial burdens of the majority of the 130,000 students in Wales and that the reforms will totally ignore the special characteristics of Welsh further and higher education and will plunge Welsh student unions into administrative chaos?
Sir Wyn Roberts : I do not agree, because our proposals will not reduce the resources provided for universities and colleges, which will continue to decide for themselves the total funding that they make available for their student
Column 513unions. Clause 22 allows for flexibility in different parts of the United Kingdom. That will permit variations to reflect any differing circumstances, including those in Wales.
Mr. Jones : I share my hon. Friend's impression of the cost- effectiveness involved. I seem to recollect that during the past financial year, more than 420 voluntary organisations have been assisted in that way and that since the Government came to power, support for voluntary organisations has increased threefold.
Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones : The Minister will be aware that many voluntary organisations, which run village halls and other community centres in Wales, were disappointed last year when no money was made available under the usual scheme. Does he propose to reinstate that scheme for the present year, so that many excellent local facilities can be properly resourced?
Mr. Jones : We try to consider all applications for financial assistance. I remind the hon. Gentleman that during the two-year period, we set aside £2.5 million for the community revival strategy and that, under the strategic development scheme, voluntary organisations will attract 16 per cent. of the total, which is almost £6.5 million.
The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. John Redwood) : Low interest rates, the promotion of Wales as a great manufacturing and service centre and low inflation underpin our policies to promote Wales vigorously and get unemployment down, and they are working--in the past month alone, there were 1,800 more people back in work.
Mr. Jones : With the massive number of 127,000 jobless Welsh people, will the Secretary of State pledge that the Government will protect national and constituency interests in the aerospace industry, bearing in mind the outstanding GATT negotiations and the airbus project? Will he step up his efforts for manufacturing jobs and attack single-parent families less? Will he also work harder to tackle unemployment and engage less in Cabinet intrigue?
Mr. Redwood : I am promoting Wales vigorously--far more vigorously than are Opposition Members. As a result, a lot of investment is coming to this country and our national policies are working, at a time when unemployment is rising on the continent of Europe.
Column 514Unemployment in Spain is at 22 per cent., in Germany at 10.5 per cent., in France at 12 per cent., in Italy more than 10 per cent., in the United Kingdom below 10 per cent. and in Wales less than 10 per cent. and falling. Of course I will do anything in my power to carry on the recovery in Wales, because we need more jobs and we shall get more jobs by following Conservative policies.
Mr. Richards : When my right hon. Friend visited Pilkington Optronics in my constituency last Monday, did he get the impression that it was a company bristling with optimism and ideas? Does not that augur well for the future of manufacturing in Wales, which has been helped not least by my right hon. Friend's decision to give the green light to the Rhuddlan bypass?
Mr. Redwood : I agree with my hon. Friend and I am grateful for his kind comments about the bypass scheme. I saw Pilkington Optronics and I saw other companies there at the leading edge of technology, with extremely good manufacturing activities, going for the best in the world and making sure that they win the markets accordingly. On Saturday, I had the privilege to see the Welsh rugby team sweep magnificently to victory. It was winning for Wales, just as the industrialists of north-east Wales are winning for Wales. I am sure that all hon. Members present will want at least to send our congratulations to the Welsh rugby team.
Mr. Roy Hughes : In regard to the proposed reorganisation of local government in Wales, does the Secretary of State appreciate that many employees in that service are apprehensive about their future employment prospects? Bearing in mind the tremendous service that local government has given to Wales for so many years, will the Secretary of State give an assurance to those employees today that their future is secure?
Mr. Redwood : I can assure the vast majority of people working in local government in Wales that their futures are safe. Their employers will need them even after the change of responsibilities and the introduction of the unitary councils. The vast majority are providing services to the public and they will be as needed in three or four years' time as they are today. However, if there is waste and bureaucracy, we hope that that will be sorted out during the transfer to unitary status. Sensible councils will plan ahead so that they do not need to sack people but can use natural wastage to make the necessary adjustments.
Mr. John Marshall : Has not the Welsh economy benefited from the inward investment that has taken place because of the low corporate tax regime that the Government have encouraged, because the Government refused to leave the European Community, as advocated by the Labour party in 1983, and because they refused to sign up to federalism and the social chapter, as it advocated in 1992?
Mr. Redwood : I agree that our low income tax rates and our low corporation tax rates have been important in attracting investors to Wales and other parts of the United Kingdom. What is more, were there ever to be the type of assembly that Opposition Members seek, with powers to impose extra taxes, laws and regulations on Wales, that would drive those investors away. That is why we do not want such an assembly. We want Wales to be open for business and winning in the world.
Mr. Ron Davies : It seems that we have a developing tradition of English Members of Parliament who become Secretary of State for Wales being overcome by their own hype. I do not think that any of us in Wales would share the present Secretary of State's views that he made much of a contribution to the marvellous victory that we had on Saturday over Scotland.
Does the Secretary of State realise how dishonest he is being in ignoring last week's devastating news of nearly 1,000 job losses in Wales, most notably at BP Baglan bay and at Wella in Llantrisant? The continuing pattern in Wales is the replacement of full-time jobs with unskilled temporary employment and, despite wages being the lowest in the United Kingdom, unemployment is more than the national average. The number of vacancies is down and unemployment is falling at a slower rate than in the United Kingdom as a whole.
If the Secretary of State wants to get back to basics, why does not he start doing the job that he is being paid to do--arguing for policies that will get Wales back to work? Does not he realise that his petty squabbles with the Prime Minister about personal morality are bringing him into contempt and ridicule and that the people of Wales have to pay the price?
Madam Speaker : Order. If I heard correctly, I understood the hon. Gentleman, in his earlier remarks, to accuse the Secretary of State of being dishonest. I believe that he did so and I should be very grateful if he would amend that comment.
Mr. Redwood : I am obliged to you, Madam Speaker. The text of my remarks will show clearly that I was praising the rugby players for their victory. The victory was theirs and theirs alone, although the whole of Wales takes great delight in their success. It is my job to lead the Welsh team in the industrial and commercial area to equivalent success.
Mr. Redwood : It was a long question, which included rugby as well as jobs. Of course I saw that some unfortunate job losses were announced over the past month. I also saw many job gains announced. I am pleased to say that the gains outstripped the losses and that unemployment fell. I saw the Royal Opera house announcement, the Calsonic announcement, the Greenberg Glass announcement, the Europressings announcement, the Cardiff Carbides announcement and many others. We need many more such announcements and I will press on to get many more. If there are areas of especial trouble, Welsh Office assistance will, of course, be there in especial quantities.
Mr. Evans : Does my right hon. Friend share my view that the Development Board for Rural Wales has played a key role in defending jobs within its area? Has he noticed, however, that there appears to be a growing disparity between the board's performance in the Montgomeryshire area, where it is based, and its performance in some other parts of Wales, such as my constituency? Has not the time now come for the board to consider moving its headquarters further south?
Mr. Redwood : I am sure that the board wants to help all the areas for which it is responsible. Its members will see our exchanges today and I trust that it will redouble its efforts in my hon. Friend's constituency. Where the board sites its office is, of course, a matter for it. Again, its members will see my hon. Friend's remarks. Meanwhile, it is a fact that strikes, inflation and interest rates are down, while productivity, output and jobs numbers are up-- [Interruption.] Although Opposition Members do not like that, it is the key to our recovery.
Mr. John Morris : Given the recent announcement that 600 jobs will be lost at BP Chemicals at Baglan, coming on top of the imminent loss of hundreds of jobs at Freemans Cigars, will the Secretary of State now reconsider the Government's decision to downgrade Port Talbot and Neath from development status?
Mr. Redwood : Assistance will still be available for various programmes in that area. We came to our best judgment at the time and we got an extremely good deal for Wales--a deal on which Wales can go forward and prosper.
Mr. Matthew Banks : Is not the Government's job in the Principality not directly to seek to increase the number of people in work, but to work to build the right economic framework and climate in which businesses may flourish, something which the Welsh Office has been so successful in doing in recent years?
Mr. Redwood : I agree that the main thing that helps to create jobs is the right economic climate, which is why in all my answers today I have stressed that inflation is down and that productivity is up--the right conditions under which business can trade successfully. There is a job for the Government as well. They need, for example, to pay money to clear the land and to lead regeneration schemes to deal with areas that have been damaged, especially by large nationalised industries. It is the Government's job vigorously to promote Wales as a place in which people can manufacture profitably, as many are discovering for themselves.
Mr. Morgan : Does the Secretary of State agree that, although the scissors effect worked very well on Saturday, the economic scissors effect- -by which part-time jobs in service industries are up in Wales while full- time jobs in manufacturing are going inexorably down--is doing to the Welsh economy what the Prime Minister is supposed to want to do to him?
Column 517good debating point, he cheapens himself by his remarks. Many extra jobs are being created in Wales as a result of our initiatives and those of private investors and they are by no means all part-time jobs or jobs offering lower wages. On my recent tours, I have seen extremely good full-time jobs for men as well as women being added, involving a high degree of skill and good wages.
Sir Wyn Roberts : Dairy farming will continue to make a significant contribution to total agricultural output in Wales. The changes being made in marketing arrangements following the passage of the Agriculture Act 1993 will help to ensure that.
Mr. Carlile : May I make an effort to investigate a little further the Minister of State's platitude? Does he accept that the future of dairy farming in rural Wales will be extremely bleak unless the Milk Marque co- operative is brought into being soon? Will he undertake to make every effort to ensure that it is operating by not later than 1 April? Will he assure the House that not only he but the Secretary of State are committed to the future support of farmers throughout rural Wales?
Sir Wyn Roberts : Of course we are committed to the future support of farmers throughout rural Wales, especially those in the dairy industry. Of course we are all disappointed that the negotiations, which could have involved a vesting day of 1 April, have clearly shown that that cannot be achieved on that date. Meanwhile, the current arrangements will continue.
Mr. Wigley : Will the Minister confirm that there will be a meeting next Monday between the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and Milk Marque to discuss that issue? Will he give an assurance that there will be representation from the Welsh Office at that meeting and that it will press for as early as possible a vesting date to remove the uncertainty of the matter? Is he aware that every month that goes by until the matter is resolved means a real loss to the income of dairy farmers?
Sir Wyn Roberts : I can confirm that there will be a meeting next Monday and, as my right hon. Friend has responsibility for agriculture in Wales, he will be one of the Ministers involved in determining the Milk Marketing Board's scheme of organisation. Given my right hon. Friend's quasi-judicial role, the hon. Member will know that the decision cannot be pre-judged and that, of course, I must refrain from making any detailed comments on matters related to those negotiations.
Mr. Ron Davies : The Minister should come clean on the matter. It is a question not of the negotiations having failed, but of the Government vetoing the proposals that were put to them by Milk Marque. I hope that the Minister will acknowledge that he understands the deeply damaging nature of the decision to reject Milk Marque's proposals. Is not it the case that the Government know that that decision and the decision to cut £25 million from hill livestock compensatory allowances will undermine confidence in the
Column 518future of agriculture, but that they are proceeding anyway because, in their view, public sector intervention in any industry is ideologically unacceptable?
Sir Wyn Roberts : On that last point, I assure the hon. Gentleman that total support is up, despite the reduction in HLCAs. He has clearly misunderstood what I said. No one has been talking of rejecting the Milk Marketing Board's scheme. Nor did I say that the negotiations have failed. In fact, I said clearly that negotiations were to be resumed on 24 January, next Monday. It is important that whatever new arrangement is made should be in accordance with the Agriculture Act 1993. It is in the best interests of producers, consumers and dairy farming as a whole that we should have the right and proper arrangements.
Dr. Howells : Is the Minister aware that throughout industrial Wales many people are forced to live alongside sites that contain industrial toxic waste? Is he further aware that many of those sites, such as that at Coedely in my constituency, resulted from the activities of the National Coal Board and British Coal, yet the same directors who are running down British Coal, who are closing mines and who closed the mine at Coedely and others will be allowed to pick the cherries of the industry without having to pick up the cost of the filthy tips? The cost of putting them right will fall on hard-pressed local authorities such as Mid-Glamorgan. When will the Minister stand up for the people of Wales and ensure that money is made available to remove this filth from our landscape?
Mr. Jones : As I have said, approximately £12 million is available for such measures in the current year. I understand that the specific case of Coedely is a matter for the Welsh Development Agency, for the hon. Gentleman's local authority of Taff Ely borough council and for Mid-Glamorgan county council, which are giving it the most serious consideration and are ensuring that appropriate arrangements are in hand. I remind him that, under the first programme for the valleys, 2,600 acres throughout the valleys of south Wales have been cleared--a record which can compare with the best in Europe.
8. Mr. Gareth Wardell : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what is his estimate of the number of people in Wales currently waiting for a disabled facilities grant ; and how many have waited for more than two years.
Mr. Wardell : Will the Secretary of State collect those figures and, when he does so, will he accept that it is not appropriate for elderly people to be discharged from hospital only to find that they must wait two or sometimes three years for a shower or a stairlift to be installed in their property? Will he review his policy, under which he transferred the only mandatory housing grant from the supplementary credit allowance to the basic credit allowance system? The sooner he does so, the better community care will be.
Mr. Redwood : What an indictment of Labour local government in Wales. I give it more discretion and more money, yet the hon. Gentleman says that it does not meet its targets. The targets are very clear. Someone who applies for such a grant should receive it within six months of a proper application being submitted. I shall give the hon. Gentleman some idea of the amount of money that is involved : in 1992-93, £26 million was made available to local authorities, but they spent less than £10 million under this heading, which is the only statutory requirement in the £26 million block. That is their expression of priorities. They are letting down disabled people in Wales and it is time that they did a better job. For next year, I am increasing the amount of money that I make available for disabled facilities and schemes by £6.6 million and I hope that local government will be with me and will put its money where the hon. Gentleman's mouth is.
Mr. Redwood : A little change of tone now, Madam Speaker. I see that the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) is pleased that I am answering this question personally--he wants my personal attention for these important policies.
My environmental priorities are proper environmental protection, vigorous urban renewal, removing dereliction where it is a scar on the landscape, promoting energy efficiency and sensible planning to preserve the best in Wales while allowing sensible development.
Mr. Hughes : I was pleased to hear that the last two of the Secretary of State's priorities related to the subject of wind power, which is a controversial matter in Wales. As 10 million homes could be partially powered by wind power by the end of the century and as 200,000 homes are already powered--
As 200,000 homes are already powered by wind power, will the Secretary of State do all that he can to ensure that the guidelines for wind power development are introduced quickly because, in sensitive areas of Wales and elsewhere throughout the United Kingdom, people are trying to exploit the position to everybody's disadvantage whereas others are proposing good schemes that would be to the energy and personal advantage of the people of Wales?
Mr. Redwood : The hon. Gentleman delivered, almost with a straight face, a question about wind power which, for the Liberal party, is quite an achievement. After all, the Liberals are experts on that.
Column 520However, I will ensure that we look again to see whether we can produce guidelines that might help in that situation. That could be a productive way forward, but we must be sensitive about the environment in which these structures might be placed. The main problem is the visual intrusion. I have asked the wind power industry to consider ways in which it could improve the structures to make them less obvious on the horizon. I believe that that would help. People are sometimes worried about noise. The structures that I have seen have not been too offensive, but clearly a planning committee must consider the wind noise issue before granting permission. I will see whether I can clarify the matter further in the way that the hon. Gentleman wishes.
Mr. Donald Anderson : The Secretary of State included in his priorities avoiding dereliction and positive planning policies. Is he aware of the anger and anxiety in Morriston about the potential long-term pollution dangers from Cwmrhydyceirw quarry which stem directly from the original planning permission in respect of which the Welsh Office overrode very strong objections from Swansea city council, which was the planning authority? Will he therefore accept responsibility now for what has happened and be ready to compensate Swansea city council if it were to decide to rescind that planning permission and also give the council money to make good the damage that has been caused?
Mr. Dafis : Does the Minister recognise that the Wales office of the British Geological Survey is a significant component in the infrastructure of Wales as it provides important information to local authorities, to developers and to the Welsh Office--when it chooses to ask for it? Does he accept that it is vital for economic development in Wales as it provides information on matters such as energy and mineral extraction? Does he also recognise that it will be impossible to provide that service properly if the archive that is presently located at Aberystwyth is removed from Wales together with the interpretive expertise at that office? Does he recognise that the removal of that office should not be an option? Should not the Welsh Office properly intervene to ensure that the office survives and can develop in future?
Sir Wyn Roberts : The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the office at Aberystwyth is part of the British Geological Survey, whose parent council is the Natural Environment Research Council, which is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. I have made inquiries with my right hon. Friend
Column 521the Chancellor of the Duchy and he will provide me with further information. I am due to see the hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Dafis), who will, I am sure, bring his representations very much to my notice. Meanwhile, I assure him that the mapping needs of Wales will continue to be met by the survey. I understand that those employed at Aberystwyth will, for the most part, be transferred to the centre at Nottingham.
prognostications of a mythical Member of the House, who was described in The Western Mail as being the Member for Caernarfon and Ceredigion and Pembroke, North? Will my right hon. Friend underline and appreciate how much of a welcome there is in Wales for the positive announcement that he has just made in place of that mistaken gloom?
Sir Wyn Roberts : I am happy to do so. My hon. Friend is correct. The story about a reduction in the Arts Council for Wales grant was totally untrue. As I have said, there will be a 4 per cent. increase. I see the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) brandishing a headline about the Welsh national opera company. I am pleased to tell him that the Arts Council for Wales element of grant will increase by 2 per cent. next year.
Sir Wyn Roberts : The census of employment shows that there were 62,300 people employed in manufacturing jobs in the programme for the valleys area in 1987, and 57,400 in 1991, the latest year for which census of employment data are available.
Mr. Hain : Does not the Minister's reply give the lie to the way in which the Secretary of State is talking up what has been happening in the valleys? It is a devastating indictment of the Government's policy that full-time adult male jobs, predominantly in manufacturing, for which people might earn about £300 a week are being replaced by part-time jobs for which one is lucky to receive £100 a week. There will be a devastating future for the valleys if the policy continues.