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Mr. Michael: I am happy to comment on that letter, which was written some considerable time ago and describes the situation as it exists. The situation has never arisen where a proportion of a unit--in this case, of Wales--has received objective 1 status. For example, the highlands and islands form a minuscule part of the overall population, GDP and income covered by the Scottish Office. Therefore the issues that we have to discuss have never arisen before. That is all that the letter said. Indeed, I was able to confirm that point with my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary, who is the author of the letter. She entirely agrees with me that it has been quoted out of context, unhelpfully and, incidentally, without checking its relevance to today's discussions.

Dr. Fox: I am grateful for the Secretary of State's intervention on that point. To paraphrase him, the letter merely restates the position that has existed for some time, and in no way suggests that the Government would not look favourably, at a suitable point, on matching funding. I hope that that is a reasonable interpretation. Under the Conservative Government, that was always the position

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of the Treasury in relation to Welsh spending, and I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for clarifying that. It is extremely useful in dismissing the fear and smear tactics from nationalists, who are trying to drive a wedge between the Welsh Assembly and the Treasury at Westminster.

Mr. Wigley: I note with considerable interest the closeness of the two Front Benchers on that issue, and no doubt the people of Wales will note it as well. Will the hon. Gentleman therefore give a categoric assurance that his party's policy is that--if Wales gets objective 1 status, as we all hope, following the announcement that is expected shortly--the money coming to Wales should include an element over and above what is generated by the Barnett formula? The proportion of the population in Wales that would receive the increase for the United Kingdom through objective 1 funds would be greater than the one seventeenth used in the Barnett formula. Indeed, the Barnett formula is irrelevant to this matter, because additionality has to be shown in respect of these projects.

Dr. Fox: The right hon. Gentleman will not be surprised that, at this point in the Parliament, I am not willing to commit my party to detailed spending plans, but I will say that we stand on our record and we were willing to match funding. It is unhelpful for businesses and for individuals planning economic activity in Wales if scare stories are begun for party political reasons, which may increase economic instability. It is not in anyone's interests to get a few extra votes at the price of reducing prosperity or increasing unemployment in any part of the United Kingdom. I am on record as saying how much I dislike the tactics of nationalists, in Scotland and in Wales. At least I am never disappointed at their consistency.

The Secretary of State spent some time talking about the Government's plans for health. He was extremely clever and selective with the figures that he chose and started with the end of 1998 rather than May 1997, when the Government came to office. Since the election, another 5,000 people have been added to waiting lists in Wales--an increase from about 68,000 to more than 73,000. Furthermore, the Government themselves have admitted that the number of people waiting to get on the waiting list has risen even more quickly.

Instead of tackling the real issues, the Government have fiddled the figures. Patients are being transferred from the main waiting list to subsidiary waiting lists, which do not appear on official returns to the Welsh Office and are therefore missed off the waiting list statistics. Patients are now made to wait longer before they get on the waiting list, thereby cutting the figures, but not cutting the problem. It makes life easier for the bureaucrats, but no less difficult for the patients. That is where the real debate lies.

Some hospitals have even been forced to introduce waiting lists for the waiting lists, which is nonsense. We cannot deal with the problem unless we are willing to admit that the problem exists. Changing the basis on which the figures are calculated does not help those who are waiting for treatment in our hospitals. It is a dishonest way of doing business, and we should put an end to it.

The Government talked about changing the culture in the NHS. My working life as a general practitioner was spent in the national health service. There has long been

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a need for a change in culture in the NHS across the whole of the United Kingdom. The present culture is biased too heavily towards hospital consultants and not enough towards primary care.

Our ability to fund increases in health provision is linear at whatever gradient we can manage, whereas medical science's ability to provide treatments increases exponentially, so the gap between the two will increase. We must deal with that problem honestly, and the best way to do that is to ensure that resources are directed at the closest level to general practitioners. As we change the health culture back from fundholding to a new model, we will move towards a culture in which power will be exercised by hospital consultants and decisions will be taken away from GPs, who are closer to the patient.

Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend): I have listened carefully to the hon. Gentleman--or is he right honourable? [Hon. Members: "Right honourable."] He is just an hon. Gentleman at the moment, but he is no doubt looking forward to advancement. What he said is completely untrue. Purchasing in Wales will be done by local health groups, which will be made up of GPs, local authority social services, voluntary groups and other medical practitioners. The hospital trusts will be the servants of the local health groups. That is the model for the future.

Dr. Fox: I am perfectly aware of the collective model that is being established, but it none the less moves influence away from individual general practitioners. The hon. Gentleman put the issue in a wider context. It moves power from GPs, and therefore from the patients. We shall see over time how well the model works, but I fear that the culture being established will not allow us to use any finance available in the health service to best advantage.

This will be the last debate on Welsh affairs before devolution. It is useful to work out where we are in that process. We must consider the position of concordats, the structure of government to be established and the political culture in which it is developing.

Concordats raise important questions. Throughout the devolutionary process we were told about dispute resolution mechanisms. We were told that concordats will be the way in which we do business and that it will be a new, inclusive way of going about the process of government. I should like to ask the Secretary of State a hypothetical but extremely important question. If a Minister establishes a concordat, would it be legally possible on the ground of reasonableness for someone to seek a judicial review of that concordat?

Mr. Michael: That issue was discussed yesterday in the Standing Committee considering the transfer of powers. The problem is whether we deal with matters as possibilities or as likelihoods and realities. The nature of concordats is such that neither we, the Scottish Office nor others in government believe that they would be open to judicial review. It is possible that something outrageous could admit the possibility of judicial review, but I mean that only in the sense that one cannot rule anything out totally. This is not a fruitful avenue for the hon. Gentleman to pursue, as it is not a real likelihood or option.

Dr. Fox: I was not asking the Secretary of State whether he thought that there could be a successful

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judicial review of any concordat--I was asking if it was possible to seek judicial review of a concordat. I take what the Secretary of State has said to mean that that is possible, so we may see constitutional positions adopted not by this House, but by judge-made law. It is important to take that into account in terms of devolution.

The Secretary of State for Scotland has said that he does not think that judicial review is legally possible, but we have long maintained that it is. Were we to have nationalists who wanted to seek division, it would be entirely possible for them to try to get a judicial review of concordats, and to try to get judge-made positions that they could not get through a democratically elected House in Westminster.

Mr. Michael: The hon. Gentleman must accept that this is an academic point, in the worst sense of the word. It would be difficult to rule anything out in terms of seeking judicial review; one can seek judicial review of almost anything. The issue, surely, is succeeding in obtaining judicial review. If the likelihood was that judicial review would be sought successfully, that would be a significant point in debate. However, if the likelihood is so remote that it is merely an academic possibility, the matter should not take up too much of our time. It is in that sense that I have answered the question. In practice, the matter is not open to judicial review--although it is a theoretical possibility. However, it is not one on which it is worth spending much time.

Dr. Fox: As part of our constitutional debate, we have uncovered the fact that we are not sure how a new instrument will operate, and what checks it will be subject to. We will find out in due course. The Secretary of State is basing his grounds for reasonableness on the fact that he believes that the Welsh Assembly and the Government in Westminster will be of the same political colour. That may not always be the case, in which case the concordat would become an entirely different instrument. A question mark has been put down about the operation of this new part of our constitutional architecture. We will see whether it proves to be a benefit or a hazard to constitutional stability.

We must consider also whether the structure of devolution will always guarantee a properly devolved system. The relationship between any devolved body and local government--and how we ring-fence the powers of local government to make sure that those powers are not taken upwards from local government to the Assembly--has been mentioned. The proposal that the Assembly should take control of sixth-form education suggests that there is every possibility of the Assembly seeking to increase its role at the expense of local government--an anti-devolutionary mechanism. That seems to be entirely the opposite of what the Government have said, and it is entirely the opposite of what I would like. The Secretary of State must consider the matter in terms of his order-making powers. We must consider how we protect the power of local government and ensure that these are not taken upwards to the Assembly, thereby moving local government further away from the people.

The Secretary of State omitted to mention a vital part of the debate to which we hope the Minister will refer

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when he winds up. How do the Government see the role of the Secretary of State for Wales? How do they see the job being delineated in future? How do they see the relationship between the Assembly or the First Secretary and the Secretary of State for Wales? What do they believe the relative balance of powers should be?

Those are important issues for the Union Parliament to discuss. As the Government of Wales Bill has been passed, it would be interesting to know what the Government's wider thinking is on those issues. We need to look at the political culture within which devolution is developing. That was best illustrated by the Secretary of State's election last week. Having told us that we have to have a new inclusive, non-Westminster, more democratic culture, the Labour party opted for an electoral college with union block votes--unions that were not obliged to consult their members. That was in sharp distinction to the Prime Minister's election to the leadership of his party.

The Transport and General Workers Union and the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union backed the Secretary of State without a ballot, and Unison, using one member, one vote, backed his opponent. It is legitimate to ask why one member, one vote was not used. Although that is an internal matter for the Labour party, it is interesting for what it tells us about the political culture of the new Labour Government. The answer is rather simple: the Prime Minister does not love the trade unions, but he would rather have them than trust his members to come up with the solution that he wants.

Lord Hattersley has said that Nicolae Ceaucescu did not live in vain because his legacy is being carried on by a Prime Minister who decides what he wants the outcome of an election to be, and then decides what the structure should be that can deliver him that result. That says much about the culture of new Labour.

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