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Column 1244La nder contribute more to Bonn than they receive from it, but they do not seek on that account to break away from the federal structure. They realise all too well that unity is strength.
I would not argue [Interruption.] --this is my final point--that everything is perfect in the governance of Wales. I should like the energies of our people to be better harnessed, better expressed and better employed. Perhaps the new unitary authorities will contribute to those ends. They are bound to have some type of national forum, and that forum may provide the cohesion required at national level. But a further expensive tier of government is not the answer: it would weaken our power here at Westminster and do nothing to raise the standard of living and improve the quality of life of the people of Wales.
Mr. Denzil Davies (Llanelli): The right hon. Member for Conwy (Sir W. Roberts) spoke for some time and ranged widely, but I will be charitable and merely say that it is difficult to break the habit of 15 years on the Front Bench and in the Welsh Office.
The Secretary of State spent much of his speech suspended in cyberspace. I do not know where he is now, but his speech seemed to be immune to the laws of gravity. When the Secretary of State was not suspended in cyberspace, he was communing--or perhaps commuting, if that is possible--with his friend Newt on the Internet. There was certainly not much reality in the Secretary of State's speech. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about one thing: there is a lot more grass in Llanelli now than there was in 1979. Unfortunately, grass is not a valuable means of international exchange. I think that we would trade our grass in Llanelli for the jobs--the "real jobs", as Sir Keith Joseph used to call them--in the steel works and in industry that we had throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
The sad reality is that Wales is one of the poorest countries or areas in the whole of Britain--it is not quite as poor as Northern Ireland, but the difference is small. Like the gap between Britain and central states of the European Union, the gap between Wales and the rest of Britain in terms of gross domestic product is widening. The Secretary of State mentioned the fact that the centre of power in Europe is moving east, and he seemed to think that that problem could be solved by using Internet. The gap in Britain today is not between north and south, but between east and west. Whatever we may think about the single market--we are supposed to venerate it on both sides of the House--we must acknowledge that it will make it more difficult for the western areas of the UK to compete with those in the east. If the Secretary of State thinks that that problem will be solved easily, I will give him an example to consider.
Last year, the Mercedes car company announced the quite momentous decision to build a factory outside Germany. It had never done that before--although it has since built a factory in the United States. In the end, the Mercedes factory was built in France, just inside the Franco-German border, but the company looked initially at locating in Britain.
There are a number of car component factories in Llanelli, but it was extremely difficult for me to conduct negotiations with Mercedes, especially as they were overseen by the Invest in Britain Bureau. I will return to
Column 1245that in a moment. It proved extremely difficult to persuade Mercedes to look at locating anywhere other than the east, preferably the north-east, of England, because that region faces the continent and is thus closer to the countries of Europe. Our communications in Llanelli and Swansea are not bad--we have good roads, railways and the port of Swansea--but we could not persuade Mercedes to look at our area, and I understand the company's point of view.
Since then, other investors, such as Samsung Electronics, have established factories in the north-east of England. I do not decry those investments; I wish that we could have them. Those investments are going to the north-east because of the aggressive policies pursued by the Invest in Britain Bureau and the North-Eastern development corporation.
The Times of a few weeks ago contained a report about a gentleman by the name of Mr. Foster. He used to work for the North-Eastern development corporation based in Hong Kong and the far east, and he has now been hired by the Invest in Britain Bureau. The Invest in Britain Bureau is now the Welsh Development Agency, WINVEST, or the inward development arm of the Department of Trade and Industry. It is no longer a bureau which seeks investment in Britain; it is being used by the Department of Trade and Industry to channel investment aggressively into parts of England. I think that the Welsh Office and the WDA should wake up to that fact.
I read the London newspapers like the Secretary of State reads the Welsh newspapers, and the press in the capital recently carried a report about the speech made by the Minister for Energy and Industry in which he extolled the virtues of the Thames corridor. Development is taking place along the Thames from Canary Wharf to the sea. He pointed out how a car component factory could be established next to the Ford factory in Dagenham.
That area is ripe for development; it is close to the new City airport, and the thrust of our trade is towards Europe and the single market. As a consequence, I believe that Wales faces an even harder task in attracting future investment to the west of Britain. We face a further problem in Wales because government--the state--has ceased to be fashionable. Politicians from all parties now decry government. We heard the Secretary of State do that today, and we have come to expect him to hold those views.
Unfortunately, there is a consensus among politicians generally that somehow or other the state is a bad thing. Countries must now have level playing fields. Wales will not get anywhere with a level playing field. We do not want that; we want Governments to intervene to ensure that the playing field is tipped in our favour, because the gap is widening between Wales and England, and between Wales and the countries of central Europe.
There is a constant attempt to decry the powers of government. "Government" is now a dirty word. That was not so in the 1950s, 1960s or 1970s, but apparently we should not put our faith in Governments any more. We are constantly exhorted to follow other theories--I call them false gods. We have been told that the concept of community will replace government and that we should look to that for salvation. We have great communities in Wales; we are a great nation of communities. But I do not see how the very nebulous concept of community will replace the power of government and the state in performing necessary tasks in Wales.
Column 1246I recently read a full-page article in The Times written by an American of Italian extraction who was born in Israel, which extolled the virtues of community. It was the most awful drivel that I have read for a long time. According to him, community will perform the functions that the state is no longer allowed to perform. That will not benefit Wales.
We also hear about the dynamic market economy, which apparently we enjoyed throughout the 1980s. It has merely increased the gap between the poorer regions and the rest of Britain. It has kept wages in Wales low compared with those in England.
I do not know why people call it a "dynamic" market economy; I do not think that the word "dynamic" is necessary. We have a market economy which is sometimes dynamic and sometimes not dynamic. Occasionally it is dynamic for a few people--perhaps it is too dynamic for some bankers in the far east-- and at other times it is not dynamic at all. It was certainly not dynamic for Wales in the 1980s. The dynamic market economy that the Secretary of State seems to worship was not good for my constituency in the past 10 to 15 years. We are also told that public expenditure is bad. When the Government came to power in 1979--and even before then, when the Conservatives were in opposition--Baroness Thatcher, Lord Howe and others said how terrible public expenditure and public borrowing was. I am sorry to say that those once heretical views have now become fashionable. It is sad to say that it is not only the fashion in the Conservative party, but the fashion and the consensus in many political parties.
You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will not wish me to mention Maastricht in your presence for a long time, and I shall skate over it very quickly, but the basis of the Maastricht treaty was to reduce public expenditure and public borrowing.
The Secretary of State was waxing lyrical about his friend Newt, but his friend Newt is madder than the Maastrict treaty, because he and his colleagues are now trying to hand over the control of public expenditure in the United States to the Supreme Court. I am a great admirer of the Supreme Court of the United States, which has seen great judges like Frankfurter, Brandeis and others, but neither they nor the present judges would have been very happy to police any possible budget deficit in the United States.
The Secretary of State waxes lyrical about what is happening in America. Let me explain what is happening there. For the past 20 years or more, most working people in America have seen no increase whatsoever in their standards of living. The great American dream has come to a stop for most people in the United States.
There are many reasons for that, and they may relate as much to the global economy as to internal causes, but Newt and his crazy mates are trying to cut public expenditure and get rid of the budget deficit so that they can hand some money back to the great American middle class in tax cuts as compensation for the fact that there has been no growth in their earnings. It cannot work. It is extraordinary desperation. They are trying somehow to give some money back to those people. After year one, it will not work; where will the money come from in years two, three and four?
The Secretary of State tried to put forward his philosophy. We heard much about the Internet, and we accept the importance of technology, but he did not
Column 1247address the danger that not everybody will benefit from intellectual capital. Only a few people will benefit--not the old capitalists of socialist hatred in the past or the old rentier classes, but the new intellectual capitalists. If I were able to operate a computer programming system called C++, and if I were only 22 years old, I could earn £50,000 a year or more in London today. Very few people can operate C++, and when a new system is developed and then another, the same will happen.
The benefits of technology to which the Secretary of State refers will fall on only 10 per cent. of the population.
Mr. Gwilym Jones indicated dissent .
Mr. Davies: The Under-Secretary shakes his head, but he has not really thought very much about it. Perhaps the Secretary of State has. The benefits of new technology may well fall on only 10 or 15 per cent. of the population, and not many of them will be in Wales. Research and development investment in Wales is the lowest in Britain, and we are not involved in those developments. I appreciate the Secretary of State trying to get us in, but if I and other commentators are right, the danger in future is that most people will not see any economic growth--only the 40 or 50 per cent. who have been accustomed to it, and a few at the top.
Some old-fashioned rentier capitalists will benefit, because western investment will still be needed to develop the markets and the industries of China and India, and no doubt income will flow back to Britain as well as income from intellectual capital. What may well happen is that the country's GDP will reduce in proportion to its GNP, and the gap will get wider as more income comes in from outside without producing wealth in Britain. That is why we need government, and we return to the contempt for government.
Only government can redistribute that wealth to create some economic and social justice in a society where most people--not just the unemployed, the underclass or those who do not want to work--will not benefit from the fruits of society and the global economy. The Secretary of State tried to present the problem in a glib way, but I believe that only by actively interfering in the economy can the Government do anything about it in future.
I well remember hearing from Lady Thatcher, Keith Joseph and Lord Howe, and from my right hon. and hon. Friends, that the British economy would benefit from lower rates of taxation and that we should abolish progressive rates of taxation which were inhibiting as the rates were too high.
The Government have abolished the progressive system of taxation. We now have a top rate of 40 per cent. and it has not done my constituents or the Welsh economy much good over the past 10 or 15 years, because the gap between Wales and other parts of the economy has grown wider. The idea that we can benefit from a lack of progressive taxation is again trying to make us worship false gods. All the emphasis is on inflation. We must not say anything about inflation. Of course we are all against inflation, but the whole emphasis on inflation as opposed to every other economic policy has not done the people of Wales much good, either.
How much do entrepreneurs or small and medium-sized business persons in Llanelli have to pay the National Westminster bank or the Midland bank in Llanelli for a
Column 1248loan? It is probably 10 per cent., or 4 per cent. above base rate, yet the bank suffers a decline of only 2 per cent. in the value of the money it lends--perhaps even less than that. The banks are able to borrow money and suffer very small losses through inflation, and the business man who is supposed to invest and create growth has to pay 10 or 11 per cent.
I agree with those who say that we must not look outside but create our own economy. Why are only banks allowed to beat inflation? Sometimes they try too hard or are too foolish, and we see what happens. Why should a business man in Llanelli have to pay 10 or 11 per cent. to borrow money when inflation is only 2 per cent.? Why is it the fashionable political consensus that central bankers can determine all the levels of growth and investment in the economy, when the Government are concentrating everything upon inflation? It has not done, and is not doing, my constituents much good. Finally, I must mention the single currency. The Secretary of State waxed lyrical about all the growth in manufacturing. There has been some growth in manufacturing, and I welcome it, but he will be the first to admit that one of the main reasons for export growth is that the Government were ejected from the exchange rate mechanism. I was pleased to see in the newspapers today that the Spanish Finance Minister is beginning to get worried because there is 25 per cent. unemployment in Spain. He was foolish to have said that it would not really matter if Spain were also shunted out of the exchange rate mechanism, because the peseta is now down on the floor.
I was a member of the much-reviled Labour Government of 1975-79. I was the Treasury Minister who, after considerable consideration, took the decision not to enter the exchange rate mechanism--and not merely for political reasons, but because of some brilliant analysis and destruction of the idea by Treasury civil servants. It is no thanks to the Government that we have an increase in manufacturing. We are now talking about a single currency; the right hon. Member for Conwy touched upon it. Why does nobody ask the Welsh about the single currency? We have had a single currency since Henry VII or Hywel Dda. I am not sure what the currency in Wales was before the Act of Union.
I have spent much of my political life in the House for 20 years--and so have my colleagues--trying to fight the centralising tendencies of single currencies. That single currency was in London. Am I now being told that I must give up that battle and fight against the centralising tendencies of the ecu or whatever it will be called in Brussels? What hope is there for the Welsh economy on the western periphery of the empire if there is such a central currency? All those concepts that we are being asked to pursue are false gods. We should return to the simple, old-fashioned idea that Governments should try as best they can in a global economy to keep the levers of economic power to themselves. They should not be afraid to use them democratically and face the democratic consequences of doing so, instead of shunting power away to quangos and communities and indulging in other sorts of escapist notions. At the end of the day, the people who sent us here want us to exercise power, and they want to hold us to account for it.
Column 12497.30 pm
Mr. Walter Sweeney (Vale of Glamorgan): I join other hon. Members in welcoming the new Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig), not only to the House but to his first debate on Welsh affairs. I wish him every joy in representing his constituents, in the footsteps of his illustrious predecessor.
In every debate on Wales, I listen to Opposition Members and wonder which country they are talking about. It does not seem to bear much resemblance to the Wales that I see when I go home to the Vale of Glamorgan. We are used to hearing gloomy messages, such as those in the speech by the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies). He talked down the Welsh people and the Welsh economy.
The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) seemed to depart from his usual script, because instead of concentrating on running down Wales, he concentrated on running down the Secretary of State for Wales. When will he realise that it is not through running down Wales or the Secretary of State, but through building and developing policies for the future of Wales, that we can hope to see a better future for its people? That future will be built on the successes of the past 15 years.
Perhaps the Labour party cannot bear to face reality. I should like to address some aspects of that reality in terms of Wales as a whole and from my vantage point in the Vale of Glamorgan. By any standards, my constituency is a marginal seat, which means that it may serve as an economic and political barometer of Wales. First, I should like to look at the economy.
Conservative policies have secured record inward investment. Between April 1983 and April 1993, more than 11,000 new projects have invested nearly £5.5 billion in the Welsh economy, creating or safeguarding nearly 110,000 jobs. The Ford plant at Bridgend, and Bosch near the M4 on the edge of my constituency, have provided extra jobs in the Vale of Glamorgan.
The expansion of Dow Corning and Cabot in Barry are good news for the chemical complex there, and for jobs. The British Airways aircraft maintenance base near Cardiff-Wales airport has provided new, highly skilled jobs. RAF St. Athan, the biggest employer in the vale, is doing magnificent work in aircraft maintenance, using a successful mix of RAF and civilian staff.
Conservative Governments have created a climate for investment. The number of days lost through strikes in Wales has fallen from an average of 1,590 working days per 1,000 employees in 1979 to 10 in 1989. Welsh unemployment is now in line with that of the rest of the UK, and is below the European average.
Mr. Llew Smith : The hon. Gentleman compares the days lost through strikes in 1979 with those lost at the present time. Would he care to compare the number of days lost through unemployment in 1979 and those that are lost at present?
Column 1250unemployment throughout the UK. Britain has been leading the way and setting an example for the rest of the European Union. In education, Wales has made considerable progress. More young people are obtaining better grades in GCSE and A-level examinations, and more are going on to further education. Sixty-one per cent. of our 16 to 18 -year-olds continued their education in 1992-93, compared with 45 per cent. in 1987-88.
Local management has enabled schools to have more control over their budgets, and those which have advanced to grant-maintained status have proved popular and successful. There are now 15 such schools in Wales. My only regret is that many more schools which could benefit from grant- maintained status are not doing so, because of misguided, doctrinaire, left -wing campaigns against them. So far there are no grant-maintained schools in my constituency, but elsewhere in the Vale of Glamorgan, in Penarth, the schools that have acquired that status are demonstrating how worth while it can be. I look forward to seeing many grant-maintained schools in my part of the vale in the near future.
I particularly welcome the Secretary of State's recent announcement about more resources to provide extra places in popular schools. That is a fundamental, central part of Conservative policy. We believe in encouraging parents to send their children to the best available schools in their neighbourhood, and it is clear that at least some Opposition Members understand that very well.
Spending on the national health service has increased by over 70 per cent. in real terms since 1979 to more that £2 billion in 1994-95. That amounts to £716 for every man, woman and child. Our health reforms have cut waiting lists and increased the number of patients treated. Since 1979, general practitioners have increased by 337 and there are nearly 6,000 extra nurses. The number of in-patients has gone up from 350,000 to more than 500,000. We have halved the infant mortality rate, and men are living some three years longer and women some 2.8 years longer than they were when the Government came to power.
In the Vale of Glamorgan, the Llandough hospital trust is providing various sophisticated day care treatments. The complaints for which those treatments are used once required hospitalisation, but day care means that people do not suffer the trauma of going into hospital and staying overnight. It also means that beds are released for patients who need in- care treatment. In Barry a brand new neighbourhood hospital is virtually complete and will provide a high standard of service for the people of Barry.
More people than ever own their own homes. Home ownership rose from 59 per cent. in 1979 to more than 71 per cent. in 1993, which is higher than anywhere else in the UK. That is good news, and we should be singing it from the rooftops instead of running down Wales all the time. Nearly 102,000 public sector tenants have bought their own homes, giving themselves the freedom of choice and pride of ownership that that involves.
Column 1251In local government, we have succeeded in introducing unitary authorities, which will provide more local accountability and more efficient local services for everyone in Wales.
Mr. Sweeney: The hon. Gentleman says that there is no evidence for that, but we must wait and see. The shadow authorities are due to be elected on 4 May, and a year later we shall see the success of that Conservative policy.
In my region, we look forward to the new Vale of Glamorgan county borough council with joyful anticipation. The Vale of Glamorgan will be slightly enlarged, which will contribute to the efficiency of that new authority. We will be free from the domination of the Labour-controlled, Cardiff-based South Glamorgan county council. Local government reorganisation is a cause of celebration. By the time that we next celebrate St. David's day, the new shadow authorities will be close to taking over full control of local government. People will recognise the success of that Conservative policy.
We have invested nearly £2 billion in improving the motorway and trunk road network in Wales, completing 25 miles of motorway and 154 miles of trunk road. [Interruption.] I notice that some Opposition Members are not listening. They should be aware of such good news. Those are the achievements of a Conservative Government.
Effective transport links are a vital aspect of the competitiveness of Welsh businesses. I welcomed the assurance of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State some months ago, in response to my question in the House, that he would entertain a bid from South Glamorgan county council for funding for a good road between Culverhouse Cross and Cardiff-Wales airport. I hope that South Glamorgan was listening to that, and that it will put in a realistic bid that will attract support from the Welsh Office.
Judging from my postbag and my surgeries, the biggest concern of my constituents has been the crime level in the Vale of Glamorgan. It is good news for Wales that, thanks to recent legislation, the crime level has at last turned downwards. I particularly welcome the announcement of my right hon. Friend, in conjunction with the Home Secretary, of a big increase in funding for the police, which is to be paid directly to the police. That is good news for my constituents, and we truly appreciate it.
There is a great deal of good news for Wales. Let us take the message back to Wales that we are proud of Wales, of the Welsh people, of our Secretary of State and of our Government.
Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery): I join in the welcome that has been given to the hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig). He follows a man who was popular in the House and unpompous in his attitude to all hon. Members, even when he was leader of his party. I am sure that the hon. Member will prove a worthy successor.
We heard the Secretary of State for Wales give some welcome assurances about the information super-highway, especially in relation to the fact that it will
Column 1252reach rural mid-Wales. That has much wider implications than merely allowing a few people to move into rural areas to work as derivatives traders, or in similar enterprises. It has yet to impinge on farming, the biggest industry of rural mid-Wales, which faces a critical situation.
I welcomed, as did others, the statement by the chairman of the Welsh Development Agency and of the Development Board for Rural Wales, Mr. Rowe- Beddoe, in this building yesterday. He said that close attention was being given to the possibility of bringing into Wales significant meat processing facilities that are currently not available. I hope that action will be taken quickly on that promise. I invite the Secretary of State to remember that significant meat processing facilities already exist in Wales. For example, Edward Hamer International Ltd. in my constituency has such facilities. It is run by Edward Hamer, a tough, hard-headed and experienced business man. I hope that efforts will be made to build on such indigenous businesses. We should not merely look outside for possibly another disastrous and failed Fortex-type enterprise.
Like the Secretary of State, I welcome the destruction, for it was needed, of the Oldford estate on the edge of Welshpool. I am not sure that he can claim much credit for that. That move arises from a partnership between Clwyd-Alyn housing association and
Montgomeryshire district council, which the Secretary of State has seen fit to abolish, despite a decision to the contrary by the Standing Committee that dealt with the matter, but I do not especially want to reopen old wounds.
I welcome the Secretary of State's commitment to what sounded like the rough sleeper's initiative, which has been successful through the efforts, for example, of the Salvation Army and of the Salvation Army housing association in Mile End road, Whitechapel. One should bear in mind the fact that a large number of people were not sleeping rough in Wales before the Government came into office, but now a large number are. Tonight, I do not want to debate whether a cause and effect relationship exists there, but I hope that a full commitment is made to removing homelessness from the streets of Wales. It would be tempting to use this debate to address a host of concerns about various aspects of Government policy, but I want to deal with just one issue, which is of wider relevance, but has a particular and important relevance in Wales. The Government's policy on community care funding is evidence of their talent for frustrating the democratically expressed views and wishes of the people of Wales for a decent level of service from local and national Government. It is important to test promises against reality. The Government's promises on community care and the reality of the funding that is being delivered are different.
Increasing evidence exists that community care in Wales is underfunded, undervalued by the Government and variable in its application in different parts of Wales. I would not cry "crisis" if none existed. The critical realities of community care in Wales warrant the immediate attention of the Secretary of State. He could start by reviewing his failure to cover the transitional cost of the shift to community and council organisation of care. He could then realistically appraise growing long-term demand.
Column 1253It is not a problem of substantive policy. Community care is a policy with sound aims, but we should not lose sight of the significant group of people who will always need institutional care and who seem not to be fully catered for in current policy. For me, a particular constituency interest is involved in that context. There is no comfort in a policy of community care if there is no corresponding policy of investment in its implementation. Demographic changes are well documented as a sign of need and demand. In the United Kingdom, the number of people aged over 85 amounted to approximately 900,000 in 1991 and that number is expected to rise steadily to 1.2 million by 2001. The number of elderly people living alone has risen from 35 per cent. in 1971 to 45 per cent. by 1991. The dependency ratio is rising dramatically across the country. That should be reflected realistically in Government policy. It is a particular problem in rural Wales, where people tend to live longer. Today, the British Medical Association published its report, "Taking Care of the Carers". It has cogently brought to our attention the growing number of unpaid carers--a group of people whose position is often ignored by the Government. It is estimated that, nationally, unpaid carers provide the equivalent of a huge £34 billion worth of care. That is an astonishing amount when compared with the cost of institutional and professional care, which amounts to £10 billion. Less than a quarter of care is being provided by the state and local authorities; three quarters of it is being provided by volunteers. It is estimated that there are 340,000 unpaid carers in Wales, of whom just over half are main carers, that 80,000 care for more than 20 hours a week, and that there are 485,000 people whose lives are limited in some way by long-term illness and who need some care. That is the scale of the problem. Government policy relies--reasonably to some extent but, unfortunately, too much--on the love and affection of those carers, who are often wholly unrewarded for the devotion that they give to those for whom they care.
Of the eight counties in Wales, four have projected overspends on their community care budget. In more than half of the counties, planned development of the service has been cut when it needs to be increased. Extremely tight limits have been placed on the costs of care packages, and the limits have been based on cash, not need. That cannot be right. Eligibility criteria have been tightened and charges for care have been increased. These are not the actions of financially irresponsible councillors but are sometimes cruel economies which have been caused by Government policy.
The figures are self-evident. Clwyd projects a £500,000 shortfall on its community care budget. Powys has introduced new eligibility criteria for services under the new social care plan and has implemented cuts in the provision of social domiciliary services that are especially important if people are to remain independent in remote rural areas. Residential and day care services have also been cut. The cuts in day care have given rise to many complaints by elderly constituents and their families. Despite those cuts, Powys still faces a possible shortfall of £300,000 on its budget for 1995-96.
I am advised that in Gwynedd there is an estimated shortfall of £500,000 in 1994-95, and it has had to borrow money from next year's budget. In South Glamorgan, there is an estimated shortfall of £1.3 million and the cost
Column 1254of care packages has been cut to the bone. In short, in all eight counties there is a tight squeeze, not on the basis of need but on the basis of obedience to central Government.
A recent and, I think, objective report by the Assembly of Welsh Counties on the implementation of community care in Wales has shown where the blame lies. The assembly acknowledged successes where it was appropriate to do so but also highlighted the failure of the Welsh Office to take realistic account in its funding settlements of the additional costs of the implementation of community care. The total funding so far announced for community care in Wales is no more than the amount spent in 1992 on supporting people in residential care. Taking into account the implementation costs for community care, the result is a chaotic, variable and inadequate service. The Government must have realised when they decided to go for a community care policy that it was bound to be more expensive. Having made the policy decision, they failed wretchedly to fund the policy. If a policy merits being introduced--as I said, I support many of its objectives--it must surely merit the necessary investment. The reality is that achieving the aim of providing choices and individual care packages looks very unlikely when some authorities are struggling to find the money. As an example, I cite the plight of small care homes in the private sector which have two or three residents. The owners are placed in the hopeless position of not even having funding for respite care, so they cannot have a few days' holiday and come back refreshed to look after their residents. The community care settlements for Wales no longer have an adequate element of infrastructure funding--the money required to make the system work, as opposed to the money required to purchase the care that people need. That is despite the constant warnings of Welsh authorities that care in the community needed to be phased in over a number of years.
The Welsh Office should also examine the mismatch between health and social services authorities in respect of payments for care. While the Government's recent guidelines are at least an attempt to deal with the issue, reliance on the decisions of individual health and social services authorities means that different areas have different arrangements for the payment of care. That leads to the breakdown of sound common standards and fuels the anxiety and uncertainty felt by those who need care. They feel that they are merely numbers in a national lottery of care.
In rural Wales in particular, where there is a very high level of owner- occupation, uncertainty about payment for community care is leading people to believe--in some cases wrongly but, I fear, in some cases, rightly--that they will have to sell the family home or the family farm, family institutions which, in rural areas, might have existed for centuries.
If the Secretary of State does not wish to deal with such matters; if he is saying that he cannot afford to provide the money for decent care services or that he has no commitment to invest enough in the future of community care, he should make it clear that that is his view. If that is not his view, he should summon up from somewhere
Column 1255the leadership and imagination that he so strongly advocates as a general principle in The House Magazine this week, and of which he spoke earlier today.
Mr. Redwood: The House should remember that, in the current year, an additional £86 million was made available for care in the community, and that will rise to £124.4 million next year. That was the original planned amount even though inflation--I am glad to say--is much lower. I was recently pleased to visit the many new nursing and residential care homes being built on the back of the money that will be available in future for the people who need those places. I agree that some people need institutional care, and I have asked that we do not lose sight of that fact.
Mr. Carlile: I am grateful for the Secretary of State's final remark, to which I shall return in a moment. However, I remind him that the gap between grant and need was £20.7 million for 1993-94 and £38 million for 1994-95 and will be £71.8 million in 1995-96. Local authorities have no prospect of filling that gap. The Welsh Office has outlined a grant rise of £25.2 million for 1996-97, which will increase the overall funding for community care to £149.6 million, but that has to be set against the £346 million originally assessed to be the long-term additional cost of implementing community care in the period to which I have just referred. Although funding is being increased, it is falling ever shorter of what the Government knew perfectly well was needed. The mismatch to which I referred is therefore proved.
The Secretary of State holds the old-fashioned view that care of the elderly is the responsibility of families first and, where no alternative is available, possibly of the community. Of course families should take more responsibility for the care of the elderly if they can, just as they should take more responsibility for the actions of their children, if they can. But that philosophy--if it be his philosophy--is that of the poor law and workhouse for those who do not have loving, caring and responsible families.
Finally, I shall deal with those who require long-term institutional care. There are two excellent mental handicap hospitals in my constituency-- Brynhyfryd near Welshpool and Llys Maldwyn at Caersws. Some people have been transferred between those hospitals in unsatisfactory circumstances. Some have been transferred from them, and have lost the standard of care that they received before. There has been one sad fatality as a result. Many face great uncertainty. We should not transfer, for instance, adults with serious mental handicaps from institution-based care to the community if adequate community resources do not exist. There is no sanctuary in the community if the community means isolation, limited support and poor staffing.
The patients and former patients of those hospitals--especially the least independent--provide a benchmark for the way in which the care in the community policy is working. If so, the verdict of the carers, of the energetic advocates of the residents' interests and of their relatives is one of bewilderment, uncertainty and, in some cases, anger. Surely a policy that leaves experts and the lay public alike in that state of mind cannot be judged a success. I appeal to the Secretary of State to re-examine both its funding and its implementation.
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Mr. Don Touhig (Islwyn): As I rise to make my maiden speech in this St. David's day debate, I am conscious of the privilege of standing here as Labour and Co-op Member of Parliament for Islwyn. I am privileged to follow in a great tradition--from Sir Charles Edwards, who was elected in 1918 and became a Labour Whip, to the much-respected Sir Harold Finch, who became a Welsh Office Minister in 1964 and was an acknowledged expert on miners' compensation. I am, of course, also privileged to succeed Neil Kinnock, my immediate predecessor.
Right hon. and hon. Members have already paid tribute to Neil Kinnock and his service in the House. I echo that tribute. Neil Kinnock was a great leader of the Labour party, and a fine and hard-working constituency Member of Parliament. He is held in high regard and a great deal of affection by the people whom he represented in Islwyn for 25 years. The fact that he did not become Prime Minister is one of the great political and social misfortunes to befall our country in this, the last part of the 20th century. My constituency comprises a series of small towns and villages scattered along the mountains and valleys of west Gwent. Its people are warm-hearted and friendly, generous and good-natured. They possess a strong feeling of community and belonging, forged by generations who have known struggle and hardship. They are proud of their own and their children's achievements, which have often involved considerable sacrifices, but, like people everywhere, they want the best for their children and grandchildren. They want work, not benefits; they want opportunities to enrich their lives through education; and they want a decent standard of health care. Those benefits are not available to a great many of the people who sent me to the House of Commons. We have 2,000 people unemployed in Islwyn; one third are under the age of 24, and one third have been unemployed for more than a year. The day after the Islwyn by-election, 80 job losses were announced at Hawker Siddeley in Blackwood. We have schools struggling to deliver education with budgets that have been squeezed because the Government have held back funds for public services. As for our health service, a hospital adjoining my constituency recently appealed to the public not to come to the casualty unit because there were not enough doctors to treat emergency cases.
My predecessor stood here to make his maiden speech in 1970 during a debate on health. Nearly a quarter of a century later, I too wish to speak about the national health service and the care that it provides for my constituents. A man from Gwent dreamed the dreams and gave us all the vision that became the NHS--Aneurin Bevan: he did it with drive and energy, in the face of the fiercest opposition from the Conservative party. He succeeded because all right-thinking people agreed that if our claim to be a civilised society had any legitimacy, no sick person should be denied treatment because he or she was unable to pay for it.
In his book "In Place of Fear", published in 1952, Bevan wrote: "A free health service is a triumphant example of the superiority of collective action and public initiative applied to a segment of society where commercial principles are seen at their worst".
Column 1257That, 50 years on, the present Government have eroded the ideal of a free and accessible health service and once again allowed some of the worst aspects of commercialisation to creep into health care is proof of how far they have turned the clock back.
In his maiden speech, my predecessor said:
"Public confidence in the National Health Service will be eroded by governmental neglect and by the garish shop window of private health schemes."--[ Official Report , 13 July 1970; Vol. 803, c. 1183.]
Ministers make much of so-called reforms of the health service, but-- speaking for those who use it, as opposed to the Conservative Members who legislate on how it should be funded--I can tell the Secretary of State that he and his party have lost the confidence of the people of Wales, who do not trust them to care for our health service.
A few days ago, the Under-Secretary of State wrote to me--and to other Welsh Members of Parliament--about the NHS's responsibilities to meet continuing health care needs. He said that health authorities had been issued with new guidelines that confirmed that the NHS had a clear responsibility to arrange and fund a range of services to meet the needs of people who require continuing health care. Would that the Minister was so diligent in ensuring the availability of adequate funds for primary health care.
A lady whom I shall see in my surgery on Saturday morning has been suffering pain for a long time. She needs an operation on her spine, which has been postponed four times because the providers of the funds cannot reach an agreement with the hospital where the operation will be performed about the mechanisms of treating her and providing the money.
Similarly, if the Minister had been diligent the wife of a good friend of mine would not have been in considerable pain for some time. Her family recently had to make a difficult decision. She was told that she would not be able to obtain an appointment to see a consultant for six to eight weeks, and that if she needed treatment it could not be delivered for a year to 18 months. She was also told that she could be treated privately. The pain has been considerable, and the family has now decided that she will become a private patient. She saw a consultant on Tuesday this week, and will be admitted to hospital tomorrow morning to have the treatment that she so badly needs: and the Conservative party says that it is not delivering a two-tier health service!
On Wednesday, The Times reported that four fundholding general practices in London were sharing nearly £1 million of budget savings that they had made on drug provision and health care. Last night I talked to an old friend of mine, Dipak Ray, a respected GP in Pengam. He said that there might be some justification for making savings on drug provision--but savings on hospital care? Who is suffering as a result of that?
I understand that on Monday the Public Accounts Committee heard of another fundholding practice in Essex that had used £30,000 of savings in its budget--a budget given to those GPs for health care--to open a health shop selling woks. The GPs offered patients £1 off the cost of a wok if they brought in their own frying pans. It reminds me of the pantomime about Aladdin and his lamp. I recently attended a performance of that pantomime at Cefn Fforest junior school in my constituency.
Column 1258I am sure that hon. Members know the story of Aladdin and his lamp, and how the wicked Uncle Abenazer managed to get possession of the lamp by offering new lamps for old. The Secretary of State is a modern-day Uncle Abenazer, peddling cranky economic theories to fund our health service, which he offers in exchange for the values of a free health service accessible to all.
In Gwent, we have 17 GP fundholding practices. The Welsh Office has recently announced a change in the guidelines and now GPs with just 4,000 patients may apply to become fundholders. Under the guise of giving GPs control of their budgets, the Welsh Office is continuing to develop a two- tier health service.
In Islwyn we have no general hospital. Recently, a plan for health care in the Islwyn area showed that in 1993-94, 30,000 people from the constituency went to their nearest general hospital out-patient department, some 15 miles away from Blackwood at Newport. The No. 1 priority identified in that health plan is the need for a hospital at Islwyn with in-patient, out- patient and minor casualty facilities. Gwent health authority proposed a neighbourhood hospital for Islwyn in its "Gwent 2000" document some years ago. I hope that the new health commission will honour this commitment, for which I have launched a petition and gained support throughout the constituency. In Islwyn, the percentage of babies with low birth weight is higher than anywhere in Wales. Islwyn has the lowest vaccination rate in Gwent for children under two years old and for pre-school vaccination boosters. Islwyn has the highest level of untreated dental disease among children. Breast cancer, the commonest cause of death among women between 45 and 54 years old, causes great concern. Although the number of cases may be comparatively small, their incidence has considerable impact on families. Unfortunately, there is a great lack of knowledge among the public about how to cope with those difficulties. People do not seem to know where to get help. The Islwyn Cancer Link group, which is run by a voluntary team of women who operate from a portakabin, is doing the job that should be done by the health service in Islwyn. It is so desperately in need of funds that the mayor of Islwyn, Joyce Morgan, has made Cancer Link and raising funds for it her charity this year. We are returning to flag days to raise funds for the health service.
In Islwyn, people over 65 years old already form 15 per cent. of the population. That number will increase to half the population by 2026 and population projections show that the proportion of people over 75 in Islwyn will be the highest in Gwent by 2006. We must begin to prepare care for those people.
There is an increasing incidence of asthma among the young and an increasing death rate from respiratory diseases such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema among men. Known cases of Huntingdon's disease are four times the national average and there are twice the number of deaths from the disease than are expected in a constituency the size of mine, yet there is only limited genetic counselling available.
Those figures are given as an updated audit on the state of health care in the constituency of Islwyn. Health service resources should be available to the patient when he or she needs them. Provision of health service care is the responsibility of the community and its Government. Refusing people treatment when they need health care