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Column 887had to shelve nearly £1 million of infrastructure work ; Brecknock has had to shelve a tourism venture ; Meirionnydd has had to abandon £650,000 worth of seafront and townscape works. All those projects could have been financed with the aid of European moneys, but for Welsh Office policy.
The five urban counties--the three Glamorgans, Clwyd and Gwent--all report the loss of millions of pounds of available grant. I hope that the present Secretary of State will set aside his Europhobia, and ensure that Wales maximises its benefits from the European Union.
The hon. Gentleman specifically said that a tourist project in my constituency had been deferred. I know of a significant number of tourist projects that are being undertaken by Brecknock borough council in the current financial year ; perhaps the hon. Gentleman will give details of the project that is not proceeding.
Mr. Davies : I will, but, if I may, I will convey them via my hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy). I have the information in my files, but I want to proceed with my speech. My hon. Friend the member for Torfaen will reply in winding up--if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Let me refer specifically to two services which illustrate just how damaging are the policies reflected in the revenue support grant settlement. The Secretary of State would have us believe that he is concerned about educational standards ; no doubt we shall debate that at some length in the near future. I do not know whether the Secretary of State has had any relevant experience, or whether his children attend a state school, but I know, from my experience and that of my constituents, just how difficult it is to strive for high standards in decrepit buildings with not enough resources, too few teachers and inadequate LEA support. That is what exists throughout much of Wales nowadays, and that is the situation that the settlement will perpetuate.
In the most cynical move of all, the Government have accepted the recommendations of their review bodies on public sector pay, and then left the cash-strapped LEAs to face the consequences. Let me put it in the words of the financial adviser to the AWC, Steve Dunster : "All of the Counties are now wrestling with the problem of the pay award for school teachers of 2.9 per cent. The Government is not pretending that adequate funds have been provided, but rather that the additional costs must be met from efficiency savings and improvements in productivity. Frankly it is impossible to apply that sort of policy to a small primary school with a handful of teachers. West Glamorgan is struggling to find a contribution to schools budgets for the pay award of 2 per cent., leaving the schools to find the balance from their reserves if they have any. I would expect this to be a common experience across Wales--the first reaction of my colleague County Treasurers is that some shortfall will arise everywhere".
Column 888Put simply, that means that LEAs will have to cut other parts of their education budgets to meet the cost of the pay awards independently calculated and approved by Government.
The problem of cuts is of precisely the same order as last year's. In our debate 12 months ago, I forecast that settlement would mean the loss of 2,500 local authority jobs ; that estimate proved correct. Two thousand of those 2,500 jobs were lost from the education sector alone. The pattern will be repeated next year as a result of this settlement.
In Dyfed, cuts across the board have been overshadowed by the ending of discretionary grants. Talented young people wishing to develop skills in areas such as the arts, or those wishing to further their studies to improve their chances of employment, will be denied the opportunity by the squeeze that central Government have imposed on local finances.
Mr. Gareth Wardell (Gower) : Does my hon. Friend agree that, under local management of schools, the Audit Commission report "Adding Up the Sums" informs governing bodies that they should consider carefully when it comes to giving teachers their annual increases ? They must often choose to employ young, untrained, inexperienced teachers and get rid of experienced teachers, which will lead to a radical decline to educational standards.
Mr. Davies : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. He has reminded me of the comment by Baroness Blatch, who I believe has some authority in such matters. She said that she was of the view that governing bodies and parents would be happy to see increased class sizes so that the teachers' pay bill could be met. I should be grateful if the Secretary of State would confirm that is now the view of the Government. I am more than happy to give way to the Secretary of State if he wishes to confirm that the Education Minister who speaks for the Government in another place is speaking for him.
Mr. Richards rose--
Mr. Redwood : I have made my position clear on that matter. I want high-quality education and I think that the money is there to achieve it. Of course I do not intend to gainsay what my colleagues say.
Mr. Davies : The last comment was significant. The Secretary of State does not gainsay what his colleague says. Let us put on the record clearly that his colleague said that she believed that governing bodies and parents would be happy to see increased class sizes so that the teachers' pay bill could be met. We have that as official Government policy.
Mr. Richards rose--
Discretionary grants are also the main casualty of a £1.3 million cut in education spending in South Glamorgan and a £2.5 million cut in Gwent. Gwynedd faces a cut between £2 million and £3 million, redundancies are expected in Powys, and almost £5 million will be cut from education alone in Clwyd, with at least 200 teaching jobs at risk. My own county of Mid Glamorgan, the poorest and most deprived of any in England and Wales by any criteria, has to face cuts totalling £15 million, of which education has to take its share of the brunt.
Column 889Mr. Richards rose--
My second illustration concerns the ability of Welsh local authorities to contribute to effective levels of policing. Every Opposition Member will testify to the sense of bitterness and bewilderment felt across whole communities whose collective experience tells them that policing levels have fallen below the minimum that can be regarded as adequate. Senior police officers and chief constables are being forced to speak out and to testify publicly that the services are inadequately funded by central Government and that they are unable to provide the level of funding which they, in their professional judgment, deem necessary. The failure of the Government's economic and social policies has led to an increase in crime of 125 per cent. since they took office and to an increase of nearly 50 per cent. since 1989. Whole communities feel threatened. City centres are unsafe and elderly people cower in their homes. The response of the Government, the party that once prided itself on being the party of law and order, has been to cut, through the settlement, the resources available to police authorities.
In the South Wales police authority, on the basis of existing budgets, the chief constable is facing the prospect of closing 40 police stations. That is from a financial position of, at the end of the current financial year, being 220 officers below strength. The basic problem is that the county authorities are constrained to a 1.75 per cent. increase in overall spending by the capping procedures. That increase does not even meet the additional costs of previous pension increases.
Despite all the representations to the Secretary of State for Wales and the Home Secretary, the Government have remained intransigent and have refused to make adequate resources available to the police. Presumably, they are content to read headlines such as that in the Western Mail on 2 February 1994 :
"Police volunteers' save crisis-hit force".
The article says :
"Police are working for nothing to stop criminals overtaking the crisis-hit South Wales force.
Officers are patrolling the streets knowing they will not be paid for their goodwill' overtime
Barry, Townhill in Swansea, Llanedeyrn and Ely in Cardiff, Merthyr and Aberdare are among the places where police men and women are volunteering' to maintain the service.
One officer, who asked not to be named, said, it's happening all the time'.
Some admit being motivated by fears about the consequences to their own families if they clocked off on time".
It is patently clear from the Secretary of State's speech that the Government have no regard for the independence of local government and are indifferent to the damage being done to vital public services as a result of the cuts that they are enforcing. Like so much else to which the Government have turned their hand, their policies are heading for failure. Their central economic policy has failed and the British people are having to pay the price through the heaviest tax burden and through cuts in public services. The Government clearly care nothing for the principles of democratic accountability, but they will eventually have to face the electorate. They will then pay the price for their arrogance. The sooner that opportunity arises, the better.
Column 8908.56 pm
Mr. Walter Sweeney (Vale of Glamorgan) : The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies), the Opposition spokesman, seemed to blame defects in policing in Wales on failures by the Government to provide sufficient budgetary resources. I should like to put that in the context of some figures that I have obtained from the Home Office, to which I wrote seeking reassurance on that point. I understand that expenditure on the police service in England and Wales has risen from £1,100 million in 1978-79 to an estimated £5,862 million in 1992-93. That represents an increase in real terms of 83 per cent. since our Government came to office.
Mr. Michael : Will the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that the success of the Government is an increase in crime of more than 124 per cent. and that the reality of the spending on the police is that there has been an increase of only some 7 to 8 per cent. in the number of policemen and women on the streets? Is he proud of that?
Mr. Sweeney : What I am proud of is that the pay and conditions of the police have been tremendously improved while the Conservative Government have been in office. I am also pleased that absolute numbers, not only of police, but of civilians have been considerably increased over that period.
If one considers south Wales alone, one sees that at the end of October 1993, South Wales police had 3,159 police officers and 1,171 civilian staff. That represents an increase in actual strength of 515--214 police officers and 301 civilians--since May 1979. My understanding is that there are two prime causes for the present financial situation affecting the South Wales police. The first is inadequate accounting arrangements by the South Wales police authority. The force budget for 1993-94 was set on the assumption that there would be an underspend for the previous year of something over £1 million. In fact, there was an overspend of well over £500, 000. Moreover, the force was not told of that outcome until July last year.
I understand that the chief constable asked for a budget of £139.8 million for the present financial year in order to meet the expected demands on the force. That would have meant an increase of 8 per cent. on the previous year. The budget approved by the police authority provides an increase of only 1.6 per cent. Provision from central Government for police expenditure for the present financial year has increased by well over 5 per cent.
Mr. Michael : Will the hon. Gentleman explain how he has arrived at the conclusion that the increase for police purposes is 5 per cent? He said that he had received an answer from the Home Office, but the Home Secretary has refused to tell the House about Welsh local police authorities. The hon. Gentleman has produced a figure out of thin air and it cannot have come from the Home Office. Where does it come from? If the hon. Gentleman is basing this argument on the figure for England and Wales, he should know that only 1.75 per cent. of additional expenditure is allowed for by the Secretary of State for Wales. He should come clean.
Overall provision for Wales for local authority funding of policing has been increased by 5.6 per cent. over last
Column 891year. Provision for central Government specific grant, which meets 51 per cent. of police expenditure, has more than matched that figure. In other words, the police authority has given its force an increase of £2.2 million for the present year and central Government provision would have provided for an increase of some £7 million--only £1 million less than the chief constable asked for.
I submit that these are matters for the South Wales police authority to put right. It is the duty of the police authority to ensure that its police force receives an adequate budget, and it is regrettable that the budget provided by the South Wales policy authority to the force is insufficient to meet the demands being made on it.
The chief constable is tackling the problems by reducing overtime, cutting transport costs and adjusting recruitment. I deplore the fact that it has been necessary to take such drastic action, but we need to place the blame where it clearly lies--with the police authority and the three county councils that comprise its membership. It is their fault that there has been underfunding and a lack of budgetary control.
The problems have arisen partly because the police took on civilians, which was an approved policy. The intention was that civilians would be recruited and their salaries paid from the moneys saved by the reduction in the number of police which would be achieved through retirement. Unfortunately, it appears that the civilians were taken on, but the officers nearing retirement have not left the force, so the books have not been balanced.
Another problem is that the payment of overtime seems not to have been properly recorded. That matter needs to be examined and the South Wales police authority must get a grip on the situation to achieve proper value for money. All the elected representatives on the three county councils involved need to recognise the importance that the public attach to effective levels of policing.
Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend) : I begin by taking up the point on which the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Sweeney) surprisingly left the debate. It involves the relative merits of the Government's settlement for the South Wales police authority and the ability of the county council to finance it.
Even if the Home Office had provided double the amount that the hon. Gentleman mentioned, the capping criterion--the 1.75 per cent.--used for local authority expenditure means that the only way in which the council could provide the 5.5 per cent. would be to cut other aspects of their budget. They would have to sack more teachers or people involved in administration. The hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan should have waited for a response to the issues that he raised, but he has now deserted the debate, presumably because he knew that he did not have a leg to stand on.
Mr. Jonathan Evans : In all fairness, I should point out that my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan is a member of the Standing Committee that is debating the Coal Industry Bill and which resumed at 9 pm.
Column 892It is a pity that he did not stay, because there is the fundamental flaw in his argument that, whatever amount in excess of 1.75 per cent. might have been made available--I emphasise "might"--the county councils in the South Wales police authority region were always left with the difficulty of the capping criteria. If they put more money into the police force budget, they would have to cut other parts of their budget, and that cannot be gainsaid.
That is why police stations, such as those in Porthcawl and Kenfig Hill and Pyle in my constituency, will be no base from which the police can operate. In fact, all that I will have in my constituency is the major police station in Bridgend town. Elsewhere, there will be no police presence in those very important police stations.
Mr. Jonathan Evans : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way a second time. Does he recognise that many of us in many parts of Wales may feel that our police authorities should have additional resources? It is well known that I have visited the Home Office many times, arguing for more resources for Dyfed-Powys police. The key thing, however, is that, whatever budget is set, it is the responsibility of a police authority to operate within the budget. The hon. Gentleman misses the point. The South Wales police authority has demonstrably not lived within its budget.
Mr. Griffiths : The key point to be made is that, whatever amount has been given to the South Wales police authority theoretically through Home Office funding, as a result of the 1.75 per cent. capping criteria on the county council the only way in which it could have made that amount of extra funding available to the South Wales police force would have been to cut other services. As a result of the way in which the Government have pressed and pressed upon local authority finance for years, there is no longer any fat to cut, and the muscle and bone are now being attacked. That can be demonstrated throughout Wales.
I shall draw attention to one special crisis point--I hesitate to say "bone of contention" in that context--of funding in my constituency, concerning the A4229 link from the M4 near South Cornelly down to Porthcawl, where that A road is nothing more than a country lane for a few miles. It passes a few houses called Jubilee gardens where, virtually every week, there is an accident involving motor vehicles, and every week cars plough into the front gardens of those properties. Fortunately, of late there have been no serious accidents to people, but there have been in the past.
Yet, as a result of the way in which the capping criteria work--the limitations on the spending of the county council--funding from the European Community that could be made avilable to upgrade and improve that road and remove a serious hazard to the public has had to be repeatedly postponed. The residents of Jubilee gardens--barely 20 of them--have laboured long and hard to present a petition to Mid Glamorgan county council, which is the responsible authority, but they have charged me with the duty of giving a photocopy of it to the Secretary of State for Wales. Fewer than 20 people have gathered together a petition of more than 10,000 names, demanding the improvement of that road.
Having mentioned Porthcawl, I will conclude on this point. I believe that the Secretary of State was enjoying himself in Porthcawl this very day, where I have no doubt
Column 893many Conservative councillors in the area bent his ear about obtaining a change to the local authority boundaries for the unitary authorities. Money is being spent on those changes where there are three communities, Ewenny, in St. Brides Major and Wick, where more than 80 per cent. of the people who returned ballot papers from the Electoral Reform Society said that they wanted to stay with Bridgend. Indeed, there is one street there of which, one side is Bridgend and the other side could become the Vale of Glamorgan.
The Secretary of State had time to go to Porthcawl today but he has no time to come with me and meet the people in these communities so that he can see, first, what a foolish stand he is taking on this issue and, secondly, a great opportunity for money to be saved if he were only to leave the map as it is. Even at this late stage, I appeal to him to save money and let these communities stay with Bridgend.
Mr. Evans : We cannot ignore, as we hear from the hon. Gentleman from a sedentary position, the fact that there was a £50 billion deficit in the national finances, and we addressed that issue in the Budget. Subsequently, we have heard complaints from the Opposition about tax rises. Tax rises are inevitable if we are to address the deficit. Labour Members lack all credibility if they suggest to the House or to the country that if they were in government they could avoid this situation ; presumably, if they are opposed to dealing with he deficit, they would be in favour of carrying on with it and thereafter adding to it all the costs of the various promises that they have made to local government and to their friends in various lobby groups.
I call these things "promises" because we now know, do we not, that they do not count as pledges unless they are declared in the House itself? That is the context of the announcement that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales has had to make concerning local government finance in the current year.
In spite of these difficulties, Opposition Members seek to quote from reports by treasurers of various local authorities in Wales. [Interruption.] I cannot hear all these sedentary interventions. I cannot deal with them all. If any hon. Member cares to make one on his feet, I should be more than happy to give way.
Mr. Evans : I do not recognise that the Government made any promise in relation to tax, other than maintaining that we are a party that believes in low taxation and that we will always maintain significantly lower levels of taxation than Opposition Members. Several hon. Members rose --
Column 894doubt the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) was delighted to receive the letter from the treasurer of that council. I should like to quote from a letter written to me by the treasurer of Radnorshire district council :
"The Government and the Secretary of State for Wales could take much pride in this year's settlement. With a 3 per cent. increase in SSA the average Welsh District can increase spending by nearly double inflation."
Mr. Ron Davies rose --
Mr. Evans : I will give way to the hon. Gentleman, because he will know, as I know, that Radnorshire and Newport were the only authorities to suffer reductions in the SSA. On behalf of Radnorshire, I have been making my concern about that plain.
Furthermore, the treasurer says that, when the overall settlement for Wales was announced, it was better than people in Radnorshire had been warned to expect. But the way in which the formula works in order to split spending between the various authorities in Wales means that it has worked substantially to the disadvantage of Radnorshire district council.
My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State knows, because I have raised the matter with him in correspondence, that I am concerned about the difficulties of rural local authorities. Local authorities in the rural parts of Wales have presented their case for a long time. We all recognise that they face additional costs in the delivery of local government services primarily because of the sparsity of population. We had always understood that the formula recognised the difficulties that such local authorities face. I have considered the documents that have been provided.
Mr. Ron Davies : For the sake of the completeness of the record, will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the letter to which he referred was dated 13 January? In a letter to me dated 13 January, the treasurer of Radnorshire district council states :
"I enclose herewith copies of letters which I have sent to the Welsh Office and also to Mr. Jonathan Evans, M.P. for Brecon and Radnor.
You will see from these letters that the Council is not at all satisfied with either the Revenue Settlement or the Capital Settlement for the 1994/95."
Mr. Evans : The letter from which I quoted directly was dated 24 December 1993. It made it clear that the specific problem was that Radnorshire district council and Newport district council, which lies in the constituency of the hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes) faced a reduction in their standard spending assessment. That presented them with particular difficulties.
There are three reasons for the problems. I have mentioned that a sparsity factor should be built into the formula to meet the difficulties faced by some rural local authorities. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales will be aware that the European regional development fund grants, which were given to Radnorshire district council in 1992-93, had a disproportionate effect on its SSA. They affected the composition of the formula for working out the council's SSA in the current financial year and that is likely to cause a problem next year.
I have received from my right hon. Friend an explanation of those difficulties, but he will be aware that Radnorshire district council has always spent at or below its SSA and has charged at or below standard levels. It has not been a profligate authority. It serves a small population, and the difficulties it faces are not caused, as the Labour
Column 895party would claim, by the fact that the overall settlement for Wales is inadequate. The representations that I have received show that is far from the truth. The council's difficulties are caused by the way in which the settlement has impinged on it and on the authority in the constituency of the hon. Member for Newport, East. I was surprised when the hon. Member for Caerphilly informed the House that my local authority, Brecknock borough council, would not proceed with a project. You may recall my surprise when I learnt that, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and my challenge to the hon. Member to give some details. I was aware that, during the past financial year, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State approved the new Brecon leisure centre, a major project in my constituency. I was also pleased that only some months ago he provided a further £100,000 towards the centre's grandstand facilities around the athletics track. You can understand my surprise, Mr. Deputy Speaker, when I heard the Labour Front-Bench team suggest that the leisure centre project, or another project, would not proceed.
During the debate, I was challenged by Opposition Members for having disappeared briefly from the Chamber. I confess that I did leave the Chamber ; I spoke to the chief executive of Brecknock borough council, Mr. Doylend, to check the information that the hon. Member for Caerphilly gave the House an hour or so ago. Mr. Doylend has told me that the council is pleased with the settlement as it affects itself. The borough council does not experience the same disadvantages from the working of the formula as Radnorshire does, so Mr. Doylend is perfectly happy for me to report to the House that it is pleased with the settlement.
Mr. Doylend also informed me that in the current financial year there will be an increase of 3 per cent. in the local council tax. He spoke to the treasurer of Brecknock borough council only this afternoon, and he knows of no project whatever within the council's area that is to be cancelled as a result of the settlement, yet the House was told of one only an hour or so ago by the hon. Member for Caerphilly.
When I challenged the hon. Gentleman he said that the hon. Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy) would give us some details of the project. In view of my conversation with the chief executive, which took place only a few minutes ago, I shall certainly give way to the hon. Gentleman if he is now in a position to give us some details about the project that he claimed was to be cancelled.
Mr. Ron Davies : I am happy to confirm that was precisely the information given to me by the Council of Welsh Districts. I shall give the hon. Gentleman full sight of the information at the end of the debate ; it appeared in a list of projects that had fallen foul of the rules on the European regional development fund, and I assure him that it was given to me in good faith.
Mr. Evans : In the circumstances, may I say with equal courtesy that I accept the hon. Gentleman's explanation for the erroneous information that he put before the House. The briefing from the Labour-controlled Council of Welsh Districts is demonstrably inaccurate yet again. With respect, I offer the hon. Gentleman the suggestion that if in future he wants to inform the House about projects that are to be cancelled, he might speak to the chief executives or
Column 896to members of the councils, rather than to the Council of Welsh Districts, which provides so much of the briefing that he conveys to us from the Dispatch Box.
Mr. Redwood : I confirm that my hon. Friend has been assiduous in putting the case for Radnorshire. However, is he aware that, although Radnorshire does not benefit from the formula this year, it has benefited considerably in the past, for reasons that include its rural nature? The total SSA in 1991-92 was £2.493 million, in 1992-93 it was £2.971 million and in 1993-94 it was £3.281 million. That is one of the biggest rates of increase. I hope that it has been of benefit to Radnorshire, and I am glad that Brecknock is happy with this year's settlement.
Mr. Evans : I am very much aware of the point that my right hon. Friend makes, and I recognise the fact that those settlements were welcomed in previous years. However, the fact remains that Radnorshire district council has on-going programmes, and they must be funded during the coming financial year. Clear difficulties have been caused to the district council, although it has not joined in the misleading of public opinion that we hear from so many Opposition Members. What I have said during the debate shows that the settlement for Welsh local authorities in general has been welcome, but for Radnorshire in this specific year it has caused great difficulties. I draw my remarks to a close by saying that this is a difficult financial time. The settlement announced by the Secretary of State is better than could have been expected, and the speeches that we have heard from Opposition Members have been as erroneous as the briefing that many of them received from the Council of Welsh Districts. 9.24 pm
Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones (Ynys Mo n) : I do not want to enter into the argument between the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Evans) and the Labour Front Bench. However, the hon. Gentleman made two statements which, frankly, cannot go unchallenged. The first was the amazing proposition that, because the Government have a public sector deficit of £50 billion, Opposition parties must somehow tailor their policies as a result. It is an amazing proposition that our policies should be coloured because the Government have created this massive deficit.
The second statement that must be challenged is that the hon. Gentleman was not aware that the Tories made any statements at the last election that the Government would not raise taxes. The reality is that they made statements time and again that the Government had no intention whatever of imposing value added tax on fuel. I remember the former Prime Minister, Baroness Thatcher, telling the House that the Government had no plans to impose VAT on fuel. However, that is what happened in last year's Budget.
The hon. Gentleman must accept that we are not constrained by the difficulties that the Government face because we have the opportunity to tell them what sort of settlement local authorities should receive and the level and range of services that they should provide. The Secretary of State told us that he believed in good government. The test of whether he means what he says will be if, first, local authorities are given proper resources for the range of services that they provide and, secondly and just as importantly, if local authorities are given the freedom to deliver those services. For the past 10 years or
Column 897more, local authorities have had their powers stripped one by one in the sort of salami-slicing approach of taking a bit year after year. Clearly, if powers are taken from local authorities, they will not be able to provide the range of services that one normally associates with them.
The hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Wardell) told us about the difficulties that many education authorities now face and I shall mention one or two of them. Following the transfer of higher and further education to the new quangos set up by the Welsh Office, and the transfer of some responsibility from education authorities to schools, local authorities are no longer able to provide the range of services that they provided 10 years ago. The difficulty is that schools are in the invidious position of having to choose to cut teacher numbers and increase the size of classes, or cut extra-curricular activities which have provided children in Wales with the breadth of education that was provided when we were at school. By that I mean provision of music, art and drama. How many generations of young people from rural parts of Wales and the valleys of south Wales have made it in the international arena because local authorities were able to provide those services? Why are young people no longer able to participate in such activities unless they belong to middle-class families or families which can pay for the services? It is a shame that we are letting our young people down in this way. I would like local authorities and schools to be given the freedom, the opportunity and the resources to ensure that they can give this generation the opportunities that we had. Our parents fought to give us that opportunity, but I fear that our generation is letting down our children.
My final point relates to the resourcing of police authorities. We have heard a great deal about the difficulties of the South Wales police authority. I would not like the debate to go by without mentioning also the difficulties faced by the North Wales police authority. Year after year, the authority has asked the Home Office to provide the resources that would enable it to increase the numbers of personnel, and year after year it has been turned down. Last year, the authority was given no increases. The difficulties which may be peculiar to the South Wales police should not cloud the fact that police authorities all over Wales are having problems. I hope that the Government recognise the need properly to resource police authorities in Wales.
We have heard about the massive increase in crime rates in rural Wales-- rates that were unheard of a generation ago. It is essential that the police are given the resources necessary to allow them to carry out their task properly. We need to have more policemen on the beat, walking the streets and making sure that the elderly are safe in their homes. The police understand that they need more money to be made available, not only through the Home Office, but through the county councils.
Mr. Gareth Wardell : Will my hon. Friend add to his list the fundamental importance of the forensic science service? Unless the police have the resources to buy those services, they will be unable to undertake proper criminal investigations. There will be insufficient cash for the evidence collected to be made available to the Crown Prosecution Service, if a prosecution is necessary.
It is right that criminals should be dealt with properly and that we should have a range of sentences in our courts, it is equally necessary for the police to have proper resources to do their job. I hope that the Welsh Office now understands the crisis facing local authorities on a range of issues. Even if the Government were unable to address that crisis in this year's settlement, it will not be forgotten next year.