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Column 1273confirm that there is no foundation to the rumour about the unit going to BUPA and that the in-house group will win.
Mr. Redwood: I should like to reassure the hon. Gentleman that I am not pushing for any solution. There will be a proper assessment of the relative strengths of each case and the right answer will be reached. I am not trying to bias the assessment in any way and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will accept my reassurance.
The Secretary of State was most eloquent about the super-highway and the virtues of computer technology. Of course, Wales cannot be exempt from such technology, but we should not be beguiled when the fact is that in many ways computers can destroy jobs.
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in Morriston announced last year that the Government's expenditure of £12 million on a new computer would mean the loss of 700 jobs in an area of high unemployment over a two- year period. That sector is not subject to competitive pressure and the decision does not make sense. The Secretary of State must be aware that a job means a personal identity for many individuals. I am not arguing for inefficiency, but the Government can help to provide identities for people by creating new jobs in depressed areas.
Finally, I make an appeal to the Secretary of State on the subject of drugs. He has been most eloquent about the drug menace and the evil men behind it. However, a key project in my county--the west Glamorgan drug prevention unit--is to close this month. The Home Office has withdrawn funding and the people there are already dispersed. In the current financial year the Government are spending less than £400 million on drug prevention. Yet the Secretary of State's only response--again, he will correct me if I am wrong--was that on 20 October last year he announced with a flourish that he would be establishing a small new team of officials to take practical steps for prevention and cure. My understanding from experts in west Glamorgan is that the rest is silence and there has been no evidence of any action on behalf of that group. Experts in the field tell me that nothing has been heard of it; yet one knows the extent to which drugs can lead to crime and destroy lives. On the face of it, it seems to be a example in which saving public money has been put ahead of the social needs of the country.
Finally, what is the audit of Wales on this annual Welsh day? Clearly the Government are divided, and in many ways they are alien to the people of Wales. They are insensitive to Welsh needs and that insensitivity leads to frustration and impotent anger on the part of our people. The Government are not a good model for democracy. Yes, the dragon will indeed roar: it will roar at the next election, both within Wales and outside, and I am confident that those poll findings or something like them will be confirmed.
Mr. Alan W. Williams (Carmarthen): I shall be brief as I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) wishes to wind up for the Opposition. I wish to make a few comments about unemployment in my constituency.
Column 1274Earlier this week, an announcement was made by the Ministry of Defence about Pendine. We are delighted that it has been reprieved and we thank the Welsh Office for lobbying on our behalf. Virtually all the work at Pendine will continue, but with a very much reduced work force. The current 340 jobs will be reduced to 110, partly because of a slim-down and partly due to some of facilities at the port being used to support the work there. There could be job losses of around 200 at Pendine over the next two years.
A Welsh Office press release issued yesterday promised to examine the possibility of Pendine becoming part of the west Wales task force area. I hope very much that when the discussions are followed through Pendine will become part of that initiative and so will Whitland, which is adjacent and where 150 jobs were lost last November. We also want extra finance because 400 jobs have been lost in an area where it is impossible to replace them.
My second point is about Capel Hendre near Ammanford. The Amman valley is an unemployment black spot with something like 15 or 20 per cent. unemployment in many villages. We now have an excellent industrial estate at Capel Hendre, thanks to the Welsh Office, the Welsh Development Agency and Dinefwr borough council. We now want to attract a big inward investor bringing something like 500 jobs. I make a plea to the Welsh Office to carry on its good work at Capel Hendre and to find a customer for that site to create 500 jobs to revive the Amman valley in my constituency.
Mr. Rhodri Morgan (Cardiff, West): Let me start, as several of my hon. Friends and the Secretary of State have already done, by complimenting my hon. Friend the new Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig), although he is not in his place at the moment, on an outstanding maiden speech. Let me also repeat the kind and courteous references that he made to his predecessor, a personal friend of mine and our party leader for nine years from 1983 to 1992. I was particularly pleased to hear my hon. Friend following a proud Gwent tradition by laying so much emphasis on the national health service, as did many Opposition speakers, particularly my hon. Friends the Members for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) and for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson).
The speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn, however, has to take pride of place tonight. Not only was it a very good speech, but my hon. Friend won a unique by-election victory. The Government percentage of the vote at that by-election was probably below the ruling interest rate. That record may stand for some time. My hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn spoke about the important issue of GP fundholders, the loose cannons in the system. We have an estimate that about £7 million of fundholders' so- called savings are currently sloshing around in the national health service. It is up to the fundholders to decide what to do with that money, whether to expand their premises, or so on.
It is doubtful whether that money represents savings because it is generally produced by fundholders prescribing cheaper drugs for their patients. That is fair enough, but non-fundholders are also prescribing cheaper drugs and they are not allowed to keep the savings from that. The degree to which fundholders are getting on with the job of prescribing cheaper drugs is no greater than that
Column 1275of non-fundholders, but fundholders are allowed to keep the money, which is now a large sum. According to Welsh Office figures, it was £4.7 million last year and it is probably about £7 million this year. That is a dangerous new feature and we need to get hold of it. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn mentioned that issue. As good parliamentarians we need to be sure that we know what is happening to that £7 million that is sloshing around the system. Ministers should possibly take more responsibility for finding out what is happening to that money. The Secretary of State's speech did not contain a great deal about health, although Opposition speakers tended to emphasise it. There has been some reference to waiting times and I think that the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Sweeney) said that waiting times had come down. That is contradicted by an article in this morning's Western Mail which was based on the publication yesterday of waiting times information produced by the Secretary of State's Department.
We are concerned about those figures because the Government are giving their Back Benchers the impression that waiting times are going down. We are at a critical moment because in four and a half weeks, on 1 April, the Welsh health service will be put to the test of last year's initiatives by the Secretary of State, by which he caused all consultants to offer a maximum waiting time of six months for a first out-patient consultation. That is what the right hon. Gentleman said last year, but now that we are getting close to 1 April, the message seems to be slightly different.
It seems that some consultants in Wales are already booked up to the year 2000. That applies especially in long-wait specialties such as orthopaedics and there are out-patient waiting times for consultations of more than two, three or four years. In at least one case that I am aware of in south Glamorgan, the waiting time is more than five years. Anyone who gets an appointment now will keep it in the new millennium. However, four weeks from now we shall be expected to believe that the maximum will be six months.
As I have said, booking dates now are for the year 2000. How we can get from that to a booking date in October this year for anybody coming into the system on 1 April I do not know. It is a bit of a mystery to us all. What is to be done is partially revealed in the waiting times initiative which lists all the consultants and the length of their waiting times. Under the heading "Patients choice" the document states:
"This bulletin does not include details of consultants who are unable to meet the existing patients charter guarantees on maximum waiting time."
Mr. Morgan: Of those published, 29 consultants are listed in only two specialty areas, orthopaedics and ophthalmics. Those 29 consultants have waiting times of two years for treatment and the waiting time for 12 or 13 consultants for a first out-patient consultation is more than two years. The Government reckon that in four weeks that waiting time will be down to six months. They have left out all those whose waiting times are longer than that. They have simply taken the long-wait consultants out of the system. They do not publish their names so that we
Column 1276do not know that the guarantee is a load of rubbish. The consequence of the Secretary of State's action is that it will pay every health authority in Wales to have a duff consultant in each specialty. He will have a short waiting list so that they will be able to say, "We have met the patient minimum time guarantee because this consultant"--whom nobody wants--"can be offered in less than 26 weeks." The consultants whom everyone wants to see still have waiting lists of two, three, four and, in one or two cases, five years plus. That is the problem that everyone has when seeking some credibility in the Secretary of State's alleged guarantee of a two-year waiting time.
Mr. Redwood: Is the hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that a successful and popular consultant should have to work even longer hours so that he is available more rapidly? Surely the hon. Gentleman understands that the guarantee is that, for every patient, there is a consultant of a decent standard, who is capable of seeing that patient and of giving him the necessary treatment. It is never possible to say that one specific consultant will always be available next week.
Mr. Morgan: The Secretary of State confirms my hypothesis that for every half dozen consultants in a specialty in a major hospital, there will be one tail-end Charlie or Charlotte, who is not a popular consultant and who will therefore have a short waiting list. The average waiting list will not differ from what it is today--104, 150 or 300 weeks. The position will not be any different, despite the sales pitch that the Secretary of State put on it. The Secretary of State has that problem. It is no wonder that he did not touch on the state of the health service in his speech.
Nor, strangely enough, did the Secretary of State do much in the way of an attack on devolution, which we had half expected. We did hear a weak, half- hearted attack on devolution by the right hon. Member for Conwy (Sir W. Roberts). He did not mention the dreaded words, "the Ulster framework document", but perhaps good reasons exist for that. That document contains proposals for a
non-tax-raising, devolved assembly that covers a wide range of central Government powers--everything barring defence, central Exchequer tax- raising powers and foreign policy. Those proposals offer a wide range of devolved powers, which are well beyond what has been proposed by Opposition Members in relation to Wales and to Scotland.
In general, all we heard were half-hearted suggestions that Labour was interested in breaking up the United Kingdom, but nothing could be further from the truth. No amount of wriggling by the Government can avoid millions of people in Wales drawing the conclusion that, if such proposals are good enough for Ulster, they are good enough for Wales.
Given the choice in Wales between Secretaries of State from Worcester, from Wirral, West or from Wokingham and a body that will be accountable to the people of Wales, no doubt exists as to which option the people of Wales would choose. It must be said of the Secretary of State, and I say it with great courtesy, kindness and respect, that he is our trump card in arguing for a Welsh Assembly. If he wants to know why, he should read his speech in Hansard tomorrow. Most people in Wales will have concluded that he is not from the same planet as them. It is no wonder that the Conservative party lost its
Column 1277deposit in Islwyn or that the Secretary of State sought solace 3, 000 miles away in the rantings and ravings of Newt Gingrich, the Republican House of Representatives Speaker.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Conwy, who said about Newt Gingrich and the Secretary of State's reference to him, "What's it got to do with Wales?" He was right about that. I enjoy finding things on which we agree. Newt Gingrich is a friend of the shock jocks, the rednecks and the roughnecks. I never thought that "John Redwood" would become "shock jock redneck".
As was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, not satisfied with moving 3,000 miles away, the Secretary of State then moved off into cyberspace and tried to interest us all in the idea of Super-JANET suddenly landing in Cardiff bay, possibly to meet SuperTed. Many people, however, will find his alternating between cyberspeak and penny-in-the-slot, pseudo-philosophical, right-wing, mid-Atlantic, think- tank gibberish extremely unappealing. That was not what people in Wales wanted to hear. It was like a trainee accountant on crack.
I think that it is fair to say that the Secretary of State realises that what people in Wales are interested in is why, after 16 years of Conservative Government, their incomes are still 15 per cent. lower than the average income in the UK, whether one measures it by family expenditure or by gross domestic product. Incomes were 15 per cent. behind in 1979. Despite the so-called economic miracle, they are still 15 per cent. behind and they are falling, according to the latest statistics. That is the bottom line. The Secretary of State was very interested in the bottom line in his previous careers in merchant banking, industry and the City. For the people of Wales, the bottom line is: why are they still so far behind?
Why is there talk of an economic miracle when it is difficult to find one in the streets of Wales? The Secretary of State goes in for philosophical rantings that are meant to appeal primarily to audiences in the home counties and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East said, possibly to a kind of English nationalist audience.
In any event, the Secretary of State's rantings are certainly part of the battle for the leadership of the Tory party after the Government's defeat at the next election. They are meant to state his position and are nothing to do with Wales. They are grandstanding for the readers of The Sunday Times , The Sunday Telegraph , and the Daily Mail --the Murdoch, Conrad Black and Rothermere newspapers. They are the audience that he is trying to reach and he is using us as a way of doing so. If he did not have Cabinet status, he would not be able to make such speeches or get noticed. It is a case of "Welsh Cabinet Secretary Makes Major Attack on Single Parents in St. Mellons". His comments are tuned up to be a great philosophical statement about the need for community and family.
The same happened with the popular schools initiative. It was meant not to go down well in Wales but to appeal to an audience that reads the right- wing newspapers. The Secretary of State is positioning himself and getting ready for the future battle for the leadership of the Tory party. However, such issues are not of great interest to us in Wales.
The Secretary of State does not have to go very far to find out why his party is so far behind in the polls. It is because we are so far behind in the economic stakes and
Column 1278because he is not on the same wavelength as the people of Wales, who overwhelmingly support the Labour party, not him.
Mr. Morgan: My hon. Friend refers to the latest opinion poll, which confirms what most of us know simply by living in Wales. I am sure that the Secretary of State knows that to be the case from the blank faces of Welsh audiences when he starts making one of his philosophical speeches. That is why he makes many of his speeches not only in his constituency of Wokingham but in Reading, in Woking, in Guildford and in Winchester, which are so similar in their social character. Speaking in such places makes it easier for him to get his press releases through on the Friday night drop to the newsrooms of The Sunday Times and The Sunday Telegraph . He can then develop his obsession and appear on "The World at One" and the other heavy political Sunday programmes to prove his philosophical right-wing credentials.
The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) said earlier that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State had been appointed under a defective system. If there were a Welsh Assembly and, apparently, a different system, how would the Secretary of State be appointed?
Mr. Morgan: I am grateful to the Minister for bringing up that point. It is eight years since the people of Wales had a Secretary of State who represented a Welsh constituency. They have had Secretaries of State who represented Worcester and Wirral, West and the present Secretary of State represents Wokingham. They have not been represented by the right hon. Member for Conwy. It was a shock to the system for all of us that he was missed out--perhaps it was because his constituency does not begin with the letter "W". In any event, it was awful for the people of Wales to realise that they were not going to have a Conservative Secretary of State who represented a Welsh constituency. Perhaps the Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Clwyd, North-West (Mr. Richards), thinks that he is still in with a chance and can alter that, but if he does not realise that the system is defective, he has another think coming. An overwhelming proportion--90 per cent.--of the people of Wales acknowledge that the system is defective.
Many of us were amazed at the extent to which the Secretary of State quoted Newt Gingrich as the inspiration for his philosophy. One could say that he wants to station himself as mid-Atlantic, right-wing American and anti- European. However, I can tell my parliamentary colleagues that that is all a bit of a con. In fact, he has a secret second life as a pro-European. I have here a pamphlet that refers to him as "European Redwood". That is almost a contradiction in terms. It is like referring to the sincerity of the Home Secretary, or to the Prime Minister's authority. What are we being told? It could be said that the Secretary of State has two junior Ministers who are two planks--obviously, I shall not use the word "short" in this context--and it could certainly be said that "European Redwood" goes against the grain.
I raise the matter only because the Secretary of State raised it himself. He had a wonderful photo-opportunity down in Dyffryn gardens, planting a seedling that will still be there in 3,000 years--by which time the Conservatives might have gained more than 5 per cent. of the vote in
Column 1279valleys by-elections. I must tell the Secretary of State, however, that although that seedling was planted on Tuesday, an army of death watch beetles came down from Islwyn on Wednesday and ate it. The Secretary of State pointed out that St. David was a successful missionary for Christian values many centuries ago. I can only tell him that he himself is the most unsuccessful missionary for Newt Gingrich's values who could be imagined. We are talking of a man in America who does not believe in the welfare state or in any public involvement in the health care system. The Secretary of State, however, tells us that he wants to sell those ideas and still make us believe that the national health service is safe in his hands. If the Secretary of State wants us to believe that, he had better not keep talking the language of Newt Gingrich to the people of Wales or in the House of Commons. If he does, the people of Wales will reject him and his party at the next election, and at every by-election before that, as they have done consistently ever since the secret ballot was introduced.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Gwilym Jones): I appreciate the concern expressed by the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) about the fact that we may have to do something different, or we shall risk defeat in the next election. I take that very much to heart. We always appreciate a wind-up from the hon. Gentleman. It is a wind-up in every sense of the term: there may be no substance in it, but it is invariably hugely entertaining. This is our traditional Welsh day debate. It is traditional in the best sense. There has been many a repetition: comments that have always been made are trotted out once more. I must, however, express my pleasure at the fact that nearly all Opposition Members welcomed some of what they heard--especially what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said about his aims for communications. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) went further, welcoming various other developments. I hope to touch on those later. The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Williams) acknowledged the efforts of all of us to encourage the process at Pendine; I thank him for that.
It has been a traditional debate. Reading the report of last year's debate, I noticed that the result of an opinion poll had just been announced then as well, and that the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) trumpeted that as our worst-ever opinion poll result. [Hon. Members:-- "This one is worse."] No; the latest opinion poll result is better. It shows an improvement for us of some 10 per cent. I should be consoled by that if I am worried about the poll.
The most traditional feature of our Welsh day debates, however, is the increasing number of hon. Members who try to tempt the hon. Member for Caerphilly to enunciate a policy, usually with the least possible success. The most successful of them today was my right hon. Friend the Member for Conwy (Sir W. Roberts), who, by means of a series of interventions, dragged out more policy from the hon. Gentleman than he had revealed in his 33- minute speech.
Column 1280That, too, is traditional. I note that last year the hon. Member for Caerphilly spoke for 32 minutes. A minute before the end of his speech, the hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Dafis) asked him to say something about a policy. The hon. Gentleman probably remembers the response that he received as well as I do. The hon. Member for Caerphilly said:
"I thought that the hon. Gentleman was going to invite me to attack my own party. I can assure him that I have enough friends without having to launch an attack on my colleagues."--[ Official Report , 3 March 1994; Vol. 238, c. 1111.]
That was the hon. Gentleman's sole contribution to policy last year, and he almost managed to put his consistent duck on the record this year.
This has been a traditional debate in other ways as well. We have had rant, lament and a statesmanlike--elder statesmanlike--contribution from my right hon. Friend the Member for Conwy. We also heard a maiden speech from the hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig), who is now returning to his place.
I have a fellow feeling with the hon. Member for Islwyn. I have the closest of connections with Crosskeys in his constituency and with other parts of the western valley. I readily appreciate what he said about his constituents wanting the best for their children and their grandchildren, especially when he said that they want jobs and not benefits. Those are the people of Islwyn whom I know as well as he. Having listened to the hon. Gentleman, I felt that in him we had a most appropriate hon. Member to follow in his predecessor's footsteps. I reject the spurious calculations of the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn), which somehow suggested that the hon. Member for Islwyn had not been elected. I am sure that the hon. Member for Newport, West does want to pursue that.
The hon. Member for Islwyn devoted his speech to health. My hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Sweeney) also made significant reference to health, but he dwelt on the facts such as the considerable increase in the number of patients being treated by the national health service in Wales. There is not only a dramatic increase in the number of patients treated, but a most marked increase in day surgery. The figures do not convey the lesser trauma involved in the treatment of patients under day surgery and how they are able to return home to their families far more quickly. Good progress is being made on introducing the new total waiting times patient charter guarantee in April. Health authorities and GP fundholders are reporting shorter waiting lists and waiting times. The reduction in out-patient waiting lists in the last three months of 1994-- more than 6 per cent.--was especially striking. The latest forecasts of health authorities and GP fundholders show that very few out-patients will wait longer than a year and virtually no in-patients or day cases will wait longer than 18 months by the beginning of April. I expect further progress early in 1995-96--the second year of the three-year waiting time initiative.
Mr. Rowlands: Time and again our constituents see a consultant and are told that they cannot be seen for another six months, yet when they pay the same consultant some money they are treated within a day or two. Does the Minister find that as offensive as we do?
Column 1281apprehensions of any improper queue jumping through the use of national health service facilities. Like the hon. Gentleman, I hope that any such case can be tracked down and tackled properly. The hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) mentioned cardiac treatment in Morriston. Hon. Members will know that there has been considerable interest in our development programme for specialist cardiac treatment, which is centred around the University hospital of Wales. I am delighted to announce that, following detailed evaluation, a new cardiac unit is to be developed by Morriston hospital NHS trust. That has been a difficult decision because we had received a number of innovative proposals. We are most grateful to all those who contributed. The Morriston team's proposal will provide top quality as well as offering the best value for money. It will be fully funded by the Welsh Office. We are convinced that the right option for the people of Wales has been chosen.
The Government attach the highest priority to the completion of the investment programme, which is making a significant contribution to the fight against cardiovascular disease. I expect everyone involved to co- operate in ensuring that the centre is completed as soon as possible.
Mr. Donald Anderson: I thank the Minister for that announcement. There will be great delight in west Glamorgan that the flirtation with the private sector has been overruled and that there has been a vote of confidence in the in-house bid.
Mr. Jones: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his thanks. I think that he understands that a decision has been made on the best application. I believe that the Government and Opposition Members, particularly the hon. Members for Islwyn and for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) are united in wanting to see the NHS in Wales continuing to go forward, continuing to expand and continuing to improve.
The hon. Member for Swansea, East also mentioned drug abuse and prevention. In England, a Green Paper on drug abuse has just been published. It was said that Wales and Northern Ireland would produce their own strategies. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that we are drafting and aim to produce a consultation document very soon. That is in addition to my right hon. Friend's announcement on 19 October that he would establish a Welsh drug and alcohol unit which will be responsible for implementing the strategy which is now being developed.
The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery referred to the funding and quality of community care. My right hon. Friend was able to tell him about the extra sums that have already been provided. We intend to go further than that: in 1996-97, we will add a further £25 million and in 1997- 98 we will add an additional £19 million on top of that. The annual figure will then be an additional sum of almost £170 million.
The closest attention is being paid to how that money is being used, not least by the carers who can see the situation at the sharp end. Very possibly the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery went to meet the carers, as I did, at their function in the House last week. I can understand their calls for the money to be ring-fenced in Wales as it is in England.
Column 1282However, that money is not the full extent of the financial support that we provide. The Welsh Office also has grant schemes which amount to £4.5 million in the current year for projects for older people and those with disabilities. In addition, total funding for the mental illness strategy is £5.5 million this year. That includes £1.1 million to local authorities across Wales.
Funding in that regard is used by local authorities to offer practical support for individuals with mental health problems and it includes the enhancement of day care services and facilities, night time cover, supported accommodation and social worker posts for resettlement teams. In addition, there is our much respected mental handicap strategy the total funding for which this year is almost £56 million, almost £49 million of which goes to local authorities across Wales. That encourages the development of new patterns of local community-based care with increased choice for better quality and more independent lives for individuals.
With regard to the importance of resettlement, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I are at one with the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery in the belief that care should be right for each individual. We will need a range of forms of care, involving some forms which have already been developed and some that we will probably need to develop further. I had an opportunity to visit the charity RESCARE in Manchester last year when I had responsibility for such matters. I saw the imaginative way in which it was developing slightly larger homes than we are at present used to. We must try to do all that we can to ensure that each individual has the right care.
The right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) asked what the Government have done for Llanelli. I must point out that, under the strategic development scheme this year, we are providing no less than £1.25 million for servicing new industrial land, commercial renewal grants, pedestrianisation and improvements to the centre to complement the new retail development. There is also the valleys private finance initiative. The local authority identified the Llanelli development as the key economic development opportunity and we are marketing it aggressively together with the Welsh Development Agency and the local authority.
The hon. Members for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Smith) and for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers), in interventions, expressed readily understandable feelings about excessive unemployment in the valleys. However, I totally reject the point made by the hon. Member for Rhondda when he suggested that spite had motivated the Government's approach towards the coal industry.
We all have to face up to the realities of life, but no Government seek to create unemployment in coal or any other industry and certainly not for ridiculous motives such as spite. That would be as incorrect and as futile as to suggest that Lord Callaghan sought for similar reasons to close down Eastmoor steel works in Cardiff or that the former right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent, Michael Foot, closed down the Ebbw Vale steel works. It would
Column 1283be just as ridiculous for the hon. Member for Rhondda to suggest that Michael Foot was acting as someone's agent in that regard--
Mr. Touhig: I believe that the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton) made remarks about getting his own back on Wales by closing the pits and changing all the constituencies. I wrote to him during the Islwyn by- election, but I have yet to receive a reply.
My hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan stressed the need for good road links. I readily appreciate his comment about South Glamorgan council and a proper updated link to Cardiff airport. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has today updated his plans for future improvements to the trunk road network. Fifteen schemes totalling £267 million are programmed to start before April 1998, improving nearly 47 miles of road. The plans take forward the strategy set out in "Roads in Wales: 1994 Review".
Resources will continue to be focused on the major strategic routes: the A55, the M4, and the A465. We attach great priority to the Heads of the Valley road, and we have consulted on route options for dualling between Abergavenny and Hirwaun. It is intended to publish a preferred route by midsummer. Plans for scheme starts next year include the A40 Whitland bypass, the M4 Magor-Coldra widening, the A550 Deeside park interchange, the A40 Fishguard western bypass, and the A470 Lledr valley stage 1.
We continue to attach high priority to ensuring that roads in sensitive areas are managed in such a way as to protect the beautiful environment of Wales. We will shortly commission a study of the A5 on the mainland to help to determine how best to ensure that it does not develop in ways that encourage through traffic. We wish to see a logical and cohesive strategy developed for the future management of that section of trunk road that takes full account of the beauty of Snowdonia and the need to preserve it for future generations. The hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Dafis) will be interested in the matter of St. Dogmaels, which I visited with him during the summer recess. I can now announce that supplementary credit approval of up to £500,000 will be issued to assist Preseli Pembrokeshire district council in meeting additional costs that it has sustained relating to its response to the St. Dogmaels landslide and the investigations that it has commissioned into its mechanism and possible corrective measures. That is in addition to assistance towards the cost of proposed surface drainage works eligible for grant aid under the Land Drainage Act 1991, which are due to be undertaken over the next two years. I am writing to the local authority to provide it with full details of that assistance.
Column 1284We have inevitably heard many references to the vexed question of devolution. Perhaps it should more properly be referred to as centralisation; taking powers from local authorities in Wales and giving them to a Welsh Assembly--the ultimate quango. [Interruption.] Of course, Opposition Members may crow at the results of the BBC Wales- Western Mail opinion survey, which was published yesterday. The poll purports to show 47 per cent. of those surveyed in favour of some form of assembly for Wales. Opposition Members will say that that is a huge swing in favour of an assembly.
We all know that polls taken in isolation produce unreliable results. We must remember that last year's opinion poll involved a sample of 1,500. This year's poll involved a sample of 521. Thirty-five per cent. were highlighted as wanting an assembly that was independent of Westminster. That means 86 people--that is all. How representative is that?
Have Opposition Members forgotten the real test of opinion, when 1.2 million people voted on 1 March 1979? The results were clear then. It was not a case of 86 people out of a total of 521. True, almost 250,000 people voted in favour of an assembly, but almost 1 million decisively rejected it. That is a far more reliable test of public opinion.
At least we have a policy from Opposition. They say that, some time, they will define what sort of assembly they will put forward. It is their only positive contribution. It is a job-creating policy, is it not? At least it is meant to be a job-creating policy for the old dinosaurs of the Labour party whom they mean to accommodate in a Welsh Assembly. That will be the only job-creating aspect of it.
The proposed Welsh Assembly will be a home for the old dinosaurs of the Labour party--rewards for their records of non-achievement. They are just like the Simpsons on Channel 4--underachievers, and proud of it. Those who failed to get into this place or into the European Assembly would be sent to it.
Mr. Jones: Yes, it is the ultimate quango. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Conwy said, we would be back to the bad old days--every quango stuffed with Labour placemen. Do we not recollect that the 30-odd members of the Trades Union Congress shared 140 quangos between them--about four per head? That is not bad going, but that is the way things were.
The assembly is the Labour party's latest answer, and it is the only job creation proposal that the Labour party has, unless we want to take in the long list of crazy proposals that my right hon. Friend read out in his speech. We noticed that again there was no answer from the hon. Member for Caerphilly to the question whether he would have all those regional development banks, Faraday centres, defence diversification agencies, general teaching
Column 1285councils and all the rest of the loony list that is being dragged out. It is all job creation for the boys--or rather, for the boyos. It being Ten o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.
That Mr. Peter Atkinson, Mr. Roger Berry, Mr. Michael Brown, Judith Church, Mr. Anthony Coombs, Mr. David Evans, Mr. Barry Field, Mr. Neil Gerrard, Mr. John Gunnell, Mr. Alan Keen, Mr. Patrick Nicholls, Mr. Peter L. Pike, Mr. Gordon Prentice, Mr. Graham Riddick, Mr. William Ross, Mr. Allan Stewart, Mr. John Sykes and Dr Ian Twinn be members of the Deregulation Committee.-- [Mr. Wells.]
That Sir David Mitchell be discharged from the Committee of Public Accounts and Mr. Tim Smith be added to the Committee.-- [Mr. Wells.]
That Mr. Gordon McMaster be discharged from the Select Committee on Procedure and Mr. Peter L. Pike be added to the Committee.-- [Mr. Wells.]
That Mr. Mike Watson be discharged from the Select Committee on the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration and Mr. Michael Connarty be added to the Committee.-- [Mr. Wells.]