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Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West): My right hon. Friend will recall that under the previous Government certain schools in Wales, often the most prosperous and in the most favoured areas, received extra financial help and other schools, which were sorely in need, were neglected. Will he ensure in his allocations to schools that that shortfall is made up in favour of the schools in deprived areas?

Mr. Michael: I am happy to confirm that it is our policy to combat unfairness and neglect and to be fair to all schools, especially by recognising the problems with which they seek to cope. Some schools have tackled problems with great fortitude and courage, but they have not been able to match the finances available to other schools. I mentioned the money that I have put into schools music and it is noticeable that some schools in better-off areas have been able to maintain their involvement in schools music, but schools in worse-off areas, which face the pressures that my hon. Friend mentioned, had to let it slip. It is very important that opportunities should be fully available to every child in every school and that the inequalities are tackled.

I was especially delighted to be able to announce earlier this month that--as part of the record increase of£844 million for education and training in Wales over the next three years--there will be a major boost for further education. More than £120 million of extra funding will be available for further education, bringing Welsh spending on FE to more than £200 million each year. That will allow the number of students at further education institutions to rise by at least 28,000 by the academic year 2001-02. Together with an increase of 8,000 students in higher education, that will more than meet Wales's share of the target of 500,000 extra students announced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I was pleased to announce those figures at Coleg Glan Hafren in my constituency, where changes in the way that further education opportunities and sixth-form education are offered have increased the proportion of youngsters staying in post-16 education and training from one third to almost a half in the catchment area. Those figures have been maintained in recent years.

I mentioned new opportunities for young people. Our promise was to take 250,000 young people off the dole and put them into work. On that pledge, too, we are well on the way to success. The new deal is one of the great success stories of this Government--in Wales as throughout the country. Less than eight months after the election, my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (started the new deal for 18 to 24-year-olds in the Swansea and west Wales pathfinder district. In April 1998, that was extended to the whole of Wales. By November 1998, nearly 3,700 young people in Wales had already been placed in real jobs through the new deal and more than 13,000 Welsh youngsters had started the new deal.

The new deal for young people is the cornerstone of our efforts to combat the hopelessness of life on the dole, but it is only one part of the Government's commitment to welfare to work. Since the end of June 1998, the new deal for those over 25 has offered support through subsidised employment or full-time study to those who

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have been unemployed for two years or more. That complements the existing provision available through the Employment Service, training and enterprise councils and FE colleges. In less than six months, more than 4,300 people in Wales had joined the schemes, while the new deal for lone parents had attracted 2,500 parents, with nearly 900 of them either obtaining jobs or increasing their working hours.

I recently announced the location of a second tranche of employment zones in Wales, which will start operating in April 2000. Those zones will target help at communities with some of the highest rates of long-term unemployment in Wales. The new zones will enable us to build on the work of the prototype zone in north-west Wales, which by December 1998 had provided help for more than 500 people, 65 of whom had found work.

I should like to underline the fact that, as ever, the numbers and figures that I mention refer to individual people, their families and communities. So it is important to bring these points home to the House.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset): Are not the employment zones an acknowledgement by the Government that there is a difficulty with the new deal? It is not that the new deal is not accomplishing a lot of good in many constituencies, but that people are not taking up the subsidised jobs. If the Secretary of State is admitting that there is a difficulty, I welcome the fact that the Government are learning from their mistakes.

Mr. Michael: The hon. Gentleman is entirely wrong, which is not unusual. The employment zone approach is entirely separate. The first such zone that I referred to was started in north Wales, and paralleled the launch by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of the prototype for the new deal in south Wales. We have looked at what works and are building on that. We are serious about this matter and, unlike the hon. Gentleman, are not interested in trying to score cheap political points.

The new zones, selected on the basis of unitary authorities with a high share of unemployed people aged 25 and over, will provide support for up to 3,000 people over a two-year period.

Mr. Bruce: It was a serious question.

Mr. Michael: I get a bit sharp when members of the Conservative party start talking about unemployment. Given the unemployment that the previous Government caused in Wales and the hopelessness that they created in our young people, I think that we are entitled to be angry. We are doing something about those problems, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will start to take a constructive interest.

The next of our key pledges was to cut by half the time from arrest to sentencing for persistent young offenders--another area in which the previous Government failed. We have kept that pledge through the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. I am proud to have been associated with that key piece of legislation in my previous role at the Home Office. It is a key piece of legislation for every community in Wales.

The 1998 Act has introduced far-reaching changes to the youth justice system and goes far beyond the knee-jerk reactions to offending that characterised the last

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Administration. It will help build safer communities, reform youth justice to nip things in the bud, and reduce offending by young people. It will speed up the criminal justice system and lead to a long-term improvement in the performance of the criminal justice system and public confidence in it.

The 1998 Act states explicitly that the principal aim of the youth justice system is to prevent youth offending. One of its key provisions is the setting up of crime and disorder reduction partnerships in every local authority area, which will bring together local authorities, the police, the probation service, health authorities and others. The partnerships will develop local crime reduction strategies, to be in place by April 1999.

I am pleased that two Welsh partnerships, at Swansea and Gwynedd, have been selected as pathfinder sites to be visited by the Home Office task force.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley): The Secretary of State is talking about law and order, a matter that is important in Wales and throughout the United Kingdom. Will he say whether, since the general election, there are more bobbies on the beat in Wales now, or less?

Mr. Alan W. Williams (East Carmarthen and Dinefwr): Fewer.

Mr. Michael: Fewer: the hon. Gentleman should get his grammar right. I know that we have moved on from education, but I wish that Opposition Members would improve the standard of their contributions.

The Government are backing the legislation with a crime reduction programme for England and Wales costing £250 million. The programme will give grant aid to evidence-based research projects capable of being replicated elsewhere. I assure the House that I will be tireless in my efforts to make sure Welsh communities lead the way in developing such new approaches.

Moreover, I am determined that partnerships will develop across Wales. Schools such as Dwr y Felin in Neath and Holyhead comprehensive in Ynys Mon have shown how young people can be part of the solution, not just part of the problem. In Merthyr Tydfil, the Safe Merthyr project has had stunning results. In Wrexham, neighbourhood watch has teamed up with young people in an award-winning partnership. And at the accident and emergency unit in Cardiff, Professor Jon Sheppherd and the whole medical team are helping to cut violence by working with the police, with the organisation Victim Support, and with the City council. I have asked every health authority and health trust in Wales to pick up on those lessons and put them into practice. Under the Assembly, I believe that these innovative approaches will become the norm.

Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy): The right hon. Gentleman and I have had many debates on home affairs over the years, and we have often been on the same side. What application does he envisage of the weird and dangerous principle being propounded by his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary of interning people who may at some future point be dangerous?

Mr. Michael: The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting point that cuts across issues affecting the health service as

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well as community safety. The Home Secretary will take the lead on the issue, but the dilemma we face is quite simple. Some individuals are identified as having severe personality disorders. I have seen the prognosis on some of those individuals, and the documents state that they cannot be treated under mental health legislation, but are very dangerous. That occurs with some of the most serious sex offenders as well as people who commit violent offences.

The difficulty is that the prognosis that people cannot be treated ends one part of the story for the health service, but the other part is that the criminal justice system cannot lock up someone to protect the public from him or her until that person has committed an offence. There is agap between the two systems, into which falls the identification of a serious risk to both the public and the individual concerned.

That is the problem that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is seeking to tackle. It is difficult to balance the protection of the public with the liberty of the individual, and the problem has been left untackled for many years. My right hon. Friend, our colleagues at the Department of Health, and I, when it comes to health matters in Wales, will seek to tackle the problem, and the House will have to grapple with the balance between the principles of public protection and individual freedom. The problem will not go away, and I am grateful to the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) for raising it. I look forward to debating it with him further in future. I am sure that he will agree that it is a serious problem and that we need to tackle it.

The Government are determined to break once and for all the vicious cycle of drugs and crime, which wrecks lives and threatens communities. Police forces estimate that around half of recorded crime has some drug element to it, and there are serious issues to be tackled in Wales. The Welsh drug and alcohol misuse strategy "Forward Together" has been reviewed in the light of the new UK strategy, and a report on the implications for Wales has been provided to Keith Hellawell, the UK anti-drugs co-ordinator, whom I met recently to discuss the Welsh dimension.

Following the review, I can announce my intention to relaunch the Welsh drug and alcohol strategy to reflect many key elements of the UK strategy, in particular its emphasis on tackling the social causes of substance misuse. It will promote the adoption of the partnership approach and build on the good work already done.

In our key pledges, we promised to provide sound economic management for our country, and that we would not, in doing so, raise income tax rates. As a Government, we have fulfilled that pledge. Inflation is low. Government borrowing has been cut by £20 billion. Long-term interest rates are at their lowest for 40 years. Yet, for the next three years, we will be able to provide massive new resources for health and education in Wales, as in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

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