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Column 1220two later in Britain. The short-lived liberal reaction was seized on by Labour as an augury for its future success. It now looks like an invitation to a wake before the baby was even born on our side of the Atlantic. Americans are discovering that liberal theory does not make for good government. America may be out to reinvent government, but so far there is a failure to reinvent enthusiasm for heavy- handed state control of the old kind.
The Leader of the Opposition is a figure from the past, not the shape of things to come. He is an invitee to the 1960s bring-a-bottle caucus, trying out long trousers over his party's student politics of grievance, grudge and gesture. Already he has disrupted the "happening" with his sartorial approach and caused quite a few hangovers, as I believe the party for Welsh Members did last night. The traditional revellers' dismay at the changes-- the end of clause IV, the acceptance of choice in education and the clumsy ideas about devolution--is ripping the heart out of the customary Labour celebrations. Moss is gathering on the Leader of the Opposition's rolling stones. That, I think, dates him precisely. To a socialist, putting a gag on redistribution or a brake on public ownership is like Christmas without a tree or a present. I sympathise--if I were a socialist, I should be equally disappointed.
What is the point of being a socialist if one does not want to soak the rich and take over the big industries? Labour's dilemma is that it knows where the party's soul lies and it knows that it is against the spirit of the age. It may not be possible to rebuild the mental Berlin wall that kept socialism in.
Lower taxes and curbs on the excessive--
Mr. Rogers rose --
Mr. Hanson: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do not very often raise points of order, but I wonder whether the Secretary of State intends to talk about Welsh affairs, given that this is a Welsh affairs debate. Perhaps you could remind him of that and suggest that he stop talking about the Labour party.
Mr. Redwood: I shall regard the hon. Gentleman's point of order as an unwanted intervention and say only that I thought that the Leader of the Opposition wanted to be the Prime Minister of Wales as well as of England. If so, his views are of considerable interest to the Welsh people.
Mr. Rogers: We were also enjoying the Secretary of State's speech, especially those of us who enjoy a good comic. Does he accept that the Government have created enormous differentials in wealth and that there should be some redistribution? For example, people such as the chairman of Welsh Water are paid £500,000 while some old-age pensioners in my constituency who live in
Column 1221one-bedroomed flats have to pay £230 a year for their water. Does he not think that there should be some equalisation of wealth?
Mr. Redwood: Of course I want everyone to participate in the growing wealth of the country: that is what Conservative policy is about. I also agree that monopoly utilities need strong price regulation. They should not be able to fleece people, so it is important for them to be strongly regulated unless and until they become fully competitive. The market will then set more sensible prices.
Mr. Gingrich has begun by pruning congressional committees and staff numbers, leading by example. It is a good beginning--and it is a warning to the Labour party, which is already waist-high in promises of more Ministries, quangos, Parliaments and assemblies. Labour in Wales signs up to those promises, then tries to plead ignorance or protest innocence when asked about them.
I will try once more. Will the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) tell us in his speech whether, in his ideal Labour world, Wales would or would not acquire a regional development bank, "Local structures to assist innovation and transfer of technology"
"Locally based and local responsive Agencies to work with Local Authorities to help match needs with resources, to tackle skills shortages, to link capital with opportunities"?
Those are the Labour party's words; I would not dream of writing like that.
Would Wales be given a network of small and medium-scale dance houses, a community education forum, a project task force for joint public and private investment, a national investment bank, an "investment in industry" unit, Faraday centres, a defence diversification agency and a business development bank? I see some flickerings of recognition on the face of the hon. Member for Caerphilly at last.
Would Wales be given a business development bank for small business, a cultural education commission, a network of law centres, a transport authority, an environment audit committee, an environment ombudsman and a general teaching council? I could go on for another hour or so, but I will spare the House the rest of the list. We should pity the poor people who would have not only to pay for that lot, but to obey all their rules.
The hon. Member for Caerphilly has completely lost his way. Like a latter day Don Quixote, he tilts at imaginary policy windmills. In his latest joust in The House Magazine , he attacks me for wanting to privatise Snowdonia--a policy as credible as the assertion that the moon is made of green cheese. [Interruption.] Perhaps the hon. Gentleman thinks that the moon is made of green cheese. I can reassure him: men have landed there and ascertained that it is not. The hon. Gentleman condemns me for appointing more administrators and managers in the health service when I have introduced strong controls, resulting so far in a reduction of 172 in such posts in Welsh health authorities. He claims that I am busy transferring powers to quangos;
Column 1222yet he resists practically every proposal that I come up with to switch powers and tasks from quangos to elected local government in Wales. He must explain that to Welsh local government-- but, given the standards of Labour local government in Birmingham and Avon, I understand his reluctance to do so.
Mr. Redwood: It is all about Wales. All the references to the bodies that I have listed, which are in Labour's policy documents, presumably apply to Wales; but the hon. Gentleman cannot see the connection.
The central ambition of Welsh policy must be to make government work better for the public whom it serves. Governments should show some humility about their own capability in comparison with the actions of families, individuals and the markets. Markets often like to keep Governments guessing, but that does not make them dispensable or anti-social. The origins of many Welsh communities lie in market day, and without fair exchange we would all be a good deal poorer: if I had to rely on what I grew to eat, I would have starved long ago.
Mr. Redwood: If we all had to make our own transport, few of us would sport even a bicycle, let alone a car. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) claims to be a good gardener, but I do not suppose that he has built many cars in his back garden.
Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon): The Secretary of State speaks of the importance of markets. Will he consider the problem facing Welsh sheep farmers, who will be unable to deliver their sheep to the markets that they have at present if some of the difficulties of recent weeks persist? What are the Government, and the Welsh Office in particular, doing to try to achieve a rapprochement that would make those markets available again?
Mr. Redwood: We shall do all in our power to ensure that fair trade is possible. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has done a great deal in that regard, as the hon. Gentleman well knows.
Not all discipline in a society can or should come from Government. I believe in true devolution: in a Wales where free institutions--the family, churches, companies--can and should also be sources of strength and moral consideration. We do not want all leadership to come from politicians, and we do not want so much of life to be politicised. In that regard, we speak for many Welsh people. The latest poll shows that the majority do not want an assembly. We certainly do not want Cardiff and London to be mere lobby towns, where the politically correct mingle with the glitterati and the hired hands. Lobbyists and spin doctors deserve each other; the politically correct obey the lobbyist, while the politically astute obey the people. The politician who mistakes the popular will for the sectional interest is either a knave or a fool.
Column 1223is the case. The right hon. Gentleman is misleading the House. The result of the last opinion poll showed 49 per cent. in favour of an assembly, 25 against and the rest undecided. That is a far cry from the right hon. Gentleman's assertion. Perhaps he would like to tell the House the truth.
Mr. Redwood: If we add those who do not know to those who do not want the assembly, we find that they constitute a clear majority. If the assembly were so popular, people would not say that they did not know; they would say that they wanted it. It is Opposition Members who are abusing the figures, because they are extremely disappointed with them.
Recently, Labour in Wales has tried to argue that, far from providing more income for all, the 1980s and 1990s have been good news for the rich and bad news for the poor. Labour Members did not read their Rowntree report carefully enough: as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security has pointed out, it showed that among the bottom 10 per cent. in the United Kingdom are 750,000 people who are declaring zero or negative incomes. They include many accountants, taxi drivers and builders, and a much larger number of students--people whose incomes are currently low to prepare them for much more highly paid jobs when they finish their studies and make progress with their careers.
Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West): In his analysis of that opinion poll, the Secretary of State counted the "don't knows" and the "don't wants" as a single group. Less than 50 per cent. of the electorate voted in Islwyn. Why has the Secretary of State not claimed that 3.9 per cent., plus those who did not vote, represents a majority? Why has he not complained about the fact that the Conservatives were not elected?
Mr. Redwood: It is tempting to go along with that argument, but I see the fallacy in it. It is very different from the argument that I put. I merely stated that the latest opinion poll did not show that the majority wanted an assembly; that is clearly the position. The picture is not of two immovable nations, but of change and flux. In a recession, some entrepreneurs hit hard times; some students live on low incomes before doing well for themselves; some families, tragically, lose one or two jobs, only to recover at a later date. Some areas of Wales contain pockets of obstinately high unemployment, where too many families have no job for too long. We should recognise, however, that long-term unemployment is down by 49 per cent. from its peak. Like Opposition Members, I want it to fall much further during the current recovery.
The best way out of poverty is through a job, and the best way to a better job is from another job. Regeneration policies are designed to increase the chances of employment for people in the affected areas. I have asked councils to show passion for the business of regeneration. I do not accept that democratic institutions in Wales that are spending £3.3 billion next year are bereft of discretion or the ability to do good. Listening to what is said by some council leaders, one would think that I was giving them less money next year--not £110 million more, if revenue and capital are taken together, which is what Parliament voted. Moreover, I have certainly not been telling them how all that money should be spent.
Column 1224Following strong representations to me from the owners of Cardiff airport, the Government are considering whether a new relaxation of the capital receipts rules is possible. We shall make a statement shortly, which I am sure will interest the House.
Parliament sends local government money, and gives it freedom in the choice of its priorities. The debate in recent weeks has been about the priorities that some councils have chosen. I am glad to note that some Welsh counties are now finding the necessary money, and reassuring people that teachers will not be sacked. The money is there, and that is how we want them to spend it.
Strong, confident local government would move on from moaning about the settlement, once it is agreed, to being positive about what can be done with the cash. Within the totals, I expect local government to set out its plans for energising tired communities and repairing rundown places. The Welsh Office and its agencies are there to help. If a council has an ambitious plan which it requires more cash to implement, Welsh Office and WDA money is available to assist. I am looking for bolder schemes than many on offer. I want the strategic development scheme to back vision; to back a cluster of projects that will make a real difference in an area.
Mr. Cynog Dafis (Ceredigion and Pembroke, North): The Secretary of State has been talking about local authorities and some of the increased powers that have been given to them. He must have in mind the mid-Wales development grant. When will he insist that the anomaly of the Lampeter- Aberaeron tunnel travel-to-work area being excluded from the mid-Wales development grant will end? I understand that it requires the Secretary of State's advocacy to the Commission of the European Union. Will he undertake to ensure that that absurd anomaly ends as soon as possible?
I am also prepared to transfer responsibility for smaller schemes to local authorities as the Council of Welsh Districts has requested. I shall be having further discussions with it on that matter. The economy is roaring ahead--it is time to harness its energy. The boldest scheme under way is in Cardiff bay. Today I am granting an additional £1.7 million in the current year to the corporation for Bute avenue preparations. Swansea Vale is painting on a broad canvas. In Llanelli, there is a very comprehensive development scheme. In too many places there is a reluctance to build enough of the types of housing that people want to buy and a caution about encouraging young people to reach for the stars. Many of the new jobs will come from small companies and local enterprise. One cannot rebuild a community entirely from the outside. One cannot bake a good Welsh cake on foreign investment and Government subsidy alone. The 1960s were not kind to Llanelli. One of the best rugby teams in Wales could not arrest the decline. Steel mills were abandoned, tin plate plants were left open to the elements, there were bare ruined works and mile after mile of coal-stained mud--750 derelict acres behind a polluted coastline where heavy industry once hammered out a living. Today, in place of that, there are 166 new
Column 1225homes with many more to come, acres of new grass and even a host of golden daffodils. Llanelli is creating a new town in the landscape of Sandy Water park and in the new shops of the town centre. How I welcome that, as, I trust, do Opposition Members.
At the other end of Wales another town by the sea, Holyhead, is welcoming new horizons and is showing how regeneration can happen where there is a will and a way. In the autumn, Stena Sealink announced plans to invest £120 million in its Holyhead service, with a new high-speed service and a £35 million redevelopment of Holyhead port. In February, Irish Ferries announced a new £46 million super-ferry service for its Holyhead to Dublin service, which will double freight output by the end of 1996. In Holyhead, 100 additional jobs are predicted to be created by the end of the century as a result of that investment and I trust that much more will follow. Cardiff, a city of arcades and architectural magnificence, is building for the 21st century. Walking from Cathay's park to Queen's street takes one past building sites and new developments. The Queen's arcade, the Prudential building and new offices which are rising from an empty lot are all to be seen in the centre of the city. In the bay, the barrage is emerging from the drawing board, Penarth village is growing and the Ely Field, Windsor Quay and Ferryside developments are set to add 1,500 new homes. In the east at Pontprennau, a business park and 1,600 homes are in development. They are capital projects for a leading city.
The Penrhys housing estate is home to more than 2,000 people, but too many are unemployed. By 1986, when John and Nora Morgans came to the estate, it was renowned as having some of the worst social problems in Wales. Since then, with their leadership, the community has built a cafe , a creche, a launderette and a new church. The Penrhys project has renovated and transformed the centre of the estate, bringing a new village street with health facilities, a chemist and a food co-operative. Graffiti and vandalism have disappeared from the central area and local residents have taken responsibility for ensuring that it is better looked after. It now needs better education and training, to build on the homework club and to work closely with the schools to give youngsters new opportunities to break out of the dead end and into jobs and training. That is what I want to see and I believe that Opposition Members want that as well.
I have spent a great deal of my time since becoming a Member of Parliament working on how less prosperous places can catch the habit of success already imbibed by the more prosperous.
Mr. Rowlands: I am not certain how much of his speech the Secretary of State has left--I am just checking. [Hon. Members:-- "Not much."] In that case, will he make a statement, fundamental to his whole argument, about the training for work programme in the next financial year? Is he aware that the word is going out that there will be a reduction in, if not elimination of, all bursaries for the manufacturing training programme? Will he make a statement, so we at least know where we stand, on what sort of vision he has for training and skilling our young people?
Column 1226apprenticeship scheme, which I have talked about in meetings of the Welsh Grand Committee and elsewhere, will be central to our ambitions for better training in Wales. This year, we have been spending a great deal of money on ensuring that manufacturing equipment is available in the colleges and other institutes, so that the young people can be well trained. That, of course, is a vital part of the process. As the hon. Gentleman knows, I came to his constituency to encourage the work going on there in a very fine, newly equipped centre. I trust that that centre will lead to many well-trained young people being available for, and finding, much better jobs. From the time that, as a Back Bencher, I went with a camera crew to the Hulme estate in Manchester to denounce it, to the time that I awarded a cheque to pay for its demolition on behalf of the Government, and from my first visit to Cardiff bay to see the scope, to my present job supervising the progress, I have worried away to find out what works well and what does not work. There is the task of physical regeneration, clearing derelict sites, building new homes and modernising factories and offices, but there is a parallel, central task of giving the community confidence in itself and passing on to people belief in themselves and their town. It is often better to employ someone who wants to learn but lacks knowledge than to employ someone who has knowledge and no will to work. It is clearly fatal to employ someone who lacks both skill and a sense of purpose. When the mainspring of a community goes, it takes some effort to replace it. It cannot all be done from outside. Restore the council homes without restoring pride and they will soon go downhill again. Build the factories without building a will to work and the workers will come from elsewhere. Hope is an essential commodity. It is easily destroyed or driven out and less easily brought back. If a community loses its driving force, it is difficult to recover. Bright children decide to leave as soon as they can to make their fortune elsewhere. Whole families may have to live on benefit, as the entrepreneurs leave or bypass the place. Incomes fail or stay low, leaving insufficient to maintain the fabric or encourage new business. In some inner cities, those with any business nous who remain are tempted into the black economy to continue enjoying the benefits. The community may even fall prey to loan sharks, drug dealers and others, who can turn a difficult case into a hopeless one.
The problems of deprivation in the valleys are not as hopeless as some inner-city problems around the world. As we intrude new cash and new ideas, we must ensure that it rekindles enthusiasm in the valleys. It is no good at all if building workers come in from outside and the graduate jobs go to people from England.
The spring has to be replaced with one of Welsh steel. Sometimes there will be a Government answer to the problem; sometimes the answer has to come from local people. Those who think that the only answer is money are wrong. I have always accepted that money is part of the answer. If only money were the only answer, it would all be so easy to solve. Money alone cannot recoil the spring and create the determination to succeed and the dynamism that is needed.
Mr. Nick Ainger (Pembroke): I am grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way, particularly on that point. He is aware, following his press release yesterday, that there is a distinct possibility of up to 200 jobs being lost at the Pendine defence establishment. He said in his
Column 1227statement that he is considering extending the West Wales task force. Will he give me and my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Williams) an assurance that if that West Wales task force is to be extended to include the west Carmarthen area, there will be additional finance?
Mr. Redwood: I am very happy for it to be extended, but I wanted to consult further with local interests before being categoric about it. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for saying that that is the wish. I am, of course, very happy to discuss further projects and whether we can help financially with them, as I accept that we may need to do so. I would, however, like to see the projects or the outline of the scheme first before giving a categoric assurance. There is no substitute for leadership--the leadership of an inspired teacher at school, of the careers adviser, of the intrepid entrepreneur, of the councillor with a conviction of success. Wales was fortunately spared the worst of the horrors of barbaric architecture. However, the fashion penetrated to Montgomeryshire where the Oldford estate stood as an intrusion of slab architecture and slab mentality. Regimented blocks with deck access on the fringe of Welshpool jarred with the people and the landscape. The mistakes of the 1960s have now been pulled down and new houses, roads, off-street parking and individual gardens have been created. That is what the tenants wanted. They were consulted extensively about the changes--a far cry from the "we know what is best for you" days when the estate was constructed. A problem estate has been restored with some pride and hope.
Mr. Jon Owen Jones (Cardiff, Central): On "we know what is best for you" and barbaric architecture, has the Secretary of State any comments to make on the trust's decision about the opera house in Cardiff?
Mr. Redwood: The only lines that I have to remember on this occasion are that I have no intention of using Welsh Office money to pay for the project because that would be a necessary condition for it to attract millennium funding. That being so, it would be quite wrong for me to have a public view as to whether I liked the building or not.
I do not want anyone to be roofless in Wales. In Cardiff I have supported contacting people sleeping rough and offering accommodation to them. I want Swansea, Newport and anywhere else with people sleeping out to come forward with proposals to banish the problem. Of course money will be available to help. We must ensure that no one need sleep rough.
Saint David said, "Be joyful, keep your faith, do the little things." There is much to celebrate already including Welsh success in industry, education and culture. There is a need to keep faith and to believe in Welsh virtues and Welsh talents. There is a need for many to recognise that there is a shared responsibility for the little things that need doing.
Mr. Llwyd: The Secretary of State is building up to his usual crescendo of shouting and of "winning for Wales". We have heard it all before. However, why has he not mentioned Meirionnydd Nant Conwy? We have a
Column 1228big problem. The right hon. Gentleman has been all around Wales geographically, but he has not mentioned my constituency. Is that because there is nothing good to report?
Mr. Redwood: No, but I assume that the hon. Gentleman will represent his own constituency, as he has done in interventions. When Henry Tudor pressed on from Pembroke to London, he had a kingdom to win. His dynasty showed that Wales and England united are far greater than the sum of the parts-- [Interruption.] I knew that the nationalists would like this particular peroration.
Henry reformed the nation's finances and paved the way for the nation's glory. Elizabethan translations of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer gave the language and literature of Wales a new foundation. The dragon and the lion united went on to create a thriving, successful country that lived by its ships, its wits and its manufactures. The prophecies of the bards were fulfilled. Wales today is winning in the same way.
Mr. Ron Davies (Caerphilly): I am glad that the Secretary of State enjoyed his speech. We have been entertained by quite a bizarre performance from him. He is obviously more concerned to talk about the Labour party than about his own record of stewardship of the Welsh Office. That is a cause of great disappointment.
In reply to the substance of the Secretary of State's remarks, I want to make two points. First, I welcome, as I am sure all hon. Members do, his comments on cabling. We shall support any initiative that he takes to encourage investment in information technology. Secondly, I am more than happy to debate Labour's plans for Wales at any time and anywhere in Wales.
It is a source of disappointment to me that whenever the Secretary of State has an opportunity to debate our policies, and the Opposition's policies generally in Wales, he turns that opportunity down, as he did last week when he refused to take part in the BBC's "State of the Nation" debate. If it is good enough for
representatives of the Labour party, the Liberal party and Plaid Cymru to face the people of Wales to account for their policies, it is a pity that the Secretary of State does not deem it appropriate or good enough for him to account for his policies.
I am sorry that the Secretary of State did not have the courtesy to extend a welcome to the new hon. Member for Islwyn. I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig) will attempt to catch your eye later, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I very much look forward to hearing from him.
It was uncharacteristically churlish of the Secretary of State not to refer to our colleague Neil Kinnock, the former right hon. Member for Islwyn. This is the first time that we have debated Welsh affairs since Neil Kinnock ceased to be the Member for Islwyn and I want to place on record the affection and appreciation of my right hon. and hon. Friends for his work. He is now a European Commissioner and I am sure that he will perform that task with great distinction. Neil Kinnock represented Islwyn for 25 years and he had the distinction of being the leader of the Labour party. It is right that, during this St. David's day debate and at
Column 1229the first opportunity since he ceased to represent Islwyn, we should place on record our thanks for his contribution to Welsh public life and our heartfelt good wishes to him in his new role.
Mr. Redwood: Of course, I am very happy to welcome the new hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig). Of course, I associate the Conservative party with the Labour party in placing on record our thanks to the former right hon. Member for Islwyn for his public service and the wish for a successful tenure in his new role on behalf of all of us in the United Kingdom.
I am sure that the Secretary of State does not want to talk about the Islwyn by-election, because it represented a fairly dramatic low point in the fortunes of the Conservative party, in what can only be described as another dismal year for the Conservative party and for the Secretary of State. Despite the Secretary of State's characteristic bluster, the promised upturn in the economy has not materialised. People in Wales are poorer as inflation is now outstripping pay increases and tax increases are biting ever deeper. Public services are failing to deliver the quality and extent of provision required of them as funding is cut and the Secretary of State's reforms fail to work. Our democracy is in a shambles. Social divisions are deeper as the super-rich become ultra rich at the expense of the poor and successive Tory privatisations show that all too clearly.
Personal insecurity has never been higher, with negative equity, fear of crime and economic insecurity blighting the lives of hundreds of thousands of our citizens. Presiding over all that is a party whose members, Government and Cabinet are split from top to bottom, and a Secretary of State for Wales who is barely in touch with reality.
In the foreword to "Views from Wales", a collection of the Secretary of State's speeches published last year, he claims that "the Welsh liked him". He wrote that his brand of Conservatism struck a chord
"way beyond the confines of the Conservative Party in Wales." It must be said that quite a lot is beyond the confines of the Conservative party in Wales. The people of Wales demonstrated in a very funny way their affection for the Secretary of State in the Islwyn by-election on 16 February.
In that by-election, the Conservative party candidate received precisely 3.9 per cent. of the vote. Fewer than one elector in 50 supported the Government and the Conservative party. It was the Conservative party's worst parliamentary election result in Wales since it took only 1.1 per cent. in the Pontypridd constituency in 1918.
At Islwyn, the Conservative party was barely in fourth place. If Screaming Lord Sutch had polled 404 more votes, the Conservatives would have been fifth. They would have been sandwiched between the Monster Raving Loony party and the UK Independence party. It is tempting to speculate that those Tories with Welsh interests could well slip quite effortlessly from one fringe party to the other. However, to be fair to the Secretary of State, he would probably take the hon. Member for Vale
Column 1230of Glamorgan (Mr. Sweeney) with him down into the UK Independence party rather than up into the more successful loony party. The Secretary of State's brand of Conservatism has not struck much of a chord, either, with senior Welsh Tories. One of them, the prominent Cardiff Tory and former adviser to the Prime Minister, Marc Cranfield Adams, actually left the party because of the distinctive contribution of the Secretary of State for Wales. On leaving the party, he said:
"When you see people following a system where the rich get richer at the expense of the poor, if you care you want to do something about it. The reason why I am quitting is because I care. Passionately."
It is not only the electors and his own party members with whom the right hon. Gentleman has fallen out during the past 12 months. He has fallen out with the Secretary of State for Health over his short-lived "health initiative". Our very own Secretary of State decided that he had had enough of the men in grey suits running the health service, and he was going to do something about it. It took a very well-publicised rap over the knuckles from members of the Cabinet to remind him that it was their and his own policies that he was attacking. It is their reforms that have seen the number of health administrators rise from 187 to more than 1,000 in only four years.
The right hon. Gentleman has fallen out with the Secretary of State for the Environment over his refusal to issue planning policy guidance on transport, noise and pollution control, and his deliberate attempt to wreck the Government's commitment to the Rio declaration and European directives on flora and fauna habitat. The Independent on Sunday of 29 January quoted Whitehall officials saying that the Secretary of State for Wales was "declaring UDI" by refusing to involve the Principality in a national attempt to reduce fire deaths.
The right hon. Gentleman has fallen out with the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for his refusal to join in the preparation of the rural White Paper, and he has offended the farming unions in the process. He has fallen out with the Secretary of State for Education on the funding of teachers' pay. For good measure, a couple of weeks ago, he showed his own lack of grasp by criticising schools that held balances, when those balances were held in accordance with the advice of his own Government.
The President of the Board of Trade forced the right hon. Gentleman to rewrite his speech on regional aid when the Western Mail of 11 September last year reported him as describing Wales as
"Keynes by the Sea, dishing out candy floss grants to everyone." Of course, he was developing his perverse theory of "reverse Darwinism" to justify his personalised campaign against regional policy. It is small wonder that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was forced to describe him as
"a mad professor in his laboratory"
when he attempted to rewrite the Government's budgetary policy. "Batty", "hypocritical", "inaccurate" and "lacking in political judgment" are words that have been used by the right hon. Gentleman's parliamentary colleagues to describe him this year. It is only 2 March. I suspect that we shall have a very rich crop of adjectives as the season progresses.
Column 1231Unemployment is the biggest single problem that we have in Wales. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) pointed out in his intervention, we are still 160,000 jobs down on when Labour left office, and 58 per cent. of respondents to yesterday's Western Mail poll identified that as Wales' No. 1 problem. The Secretary of State's response, having seen the damage done by his own Government's destructive policies, has
characteristically been to decide that more of the same is necessary.
Investment in infrastructure is down. Regional aid has been cut by 50 per cent. Training and enterprise council budgets have been cut by 7.5 per cent. This week's announcement of the details of the forced asset stripping of the Welsh Development Agency makes it abundantly clear that the public sector or public-private partnerships have no secure long-term future in the right hon. Gentleman's long-term ideological plans.
The Secretary of State will not find a single supporter in major Welsh companies for his free market, anti-European attitudes. He does not even realise the political folly of a Conservative Secretary of State for Wales falling out with his few remaining allies. Even the Confederation of British Industry in Wales has now said, "Enough is enough." It is small wonder that the Conservative party faces an electoral wipe-out as soon as it is forced to face the people.
Mr. Donald Anderson: At the risk of stealing my hon. Friend's bull point in his litany of vituperation from the Secretary of State's Cabinet colleagues and others, does he recall that the Prime Minister even went so far as to doubt the paternity of the Secretary of State?
The Secretary of State's whole strategy has been based on a publicity offensive to convince Welsh electors that we are experiencing an economic success and to convince his potential Tory allies in England that he is bringing about a social revolution. That is precisely why he has failed us in Wales. He does not have his eyes on Wales. He has one eye on his place in the Cabinet and the other on the leadership of his party. His aspirations for social revolution would be risible if they did not offend so deeply our own standards, values and aspirations in Wales. The facts deny any claim that the right hon. Gentleman has to economic success.
Whatever he argues about employment figures or growth rates, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the serious, most objective test of the success or otherwise of Welsh Office policies is the extent to which Welsh GDP, expressed as a percentage of British GDP, has grown? Does he accept that that is the best objective test? I am asking the Secretary of State a direct question. He does not accept that the best objective way to assess the success of the Welsh Office is by comparing the success of the Welsh economy, measured in terms of GDP, at the start of the Conservatives' term of office, with the current position. That seems to be the best, honest, most objective test. I can understand why the Secretary of State does not want to accept it.
We now have figures relating to 14 years of Conservative Government since 1979. In 11 of those 14 years, Welsh GDP was lower, as a percentage of United