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Mr. Llwyd: I agree that an element of partnership is desirable, but let us be honest: local authorities are already under severe financial constraints and will not be in any position to contribute substantially, although they might make a nominal contribution. Even if all the council house receipts were available, that would not amount to very much.

Mr. Williams: I disagree fundamentally. It has taken 20 years to happen, but the ratio of local government expenditure that is raised locally is down to about 10 or 12 per cent. in Wales, with 90 per cent. coming from the Welsh Office in the standard spending assessment. That is unhealthy for local democracy. Rather than taxing and spending nationally, I would prefer local government to be allowed to spend what it deems appropriate on education, highways and all the other services. Certainly, the bulk should come from the Welsh Office, but there should be that freedom.

A poll carried out in Milton Keynes recently, and published in The Guardian last Tuesday, demonstrates the public acceptance of that view. We can learn certain lessons from England. The poll shows how people value their local authorities. The Government guideline was for a 5 per cent. increase in council tax, while the council in Milton Keynes wanted a 10 per cent. increase. The council balloted people on whether the increase should be 5, 10 or 15 per cent.

The results were very revealing. There was a higher turnout than in any council election: 45 per cent. as opposed to only 26 per cent. in the most recent council elections. Of those who voted, 23.6 per cent. voted for a 15 per cent. rise; 46 per cent. for 10 per cent.; and 30 per cent. for 5 per cent. That was in Tory middle England, as it were, although the council and the parliamentary seats are now Labour. Seventy per cent. wanted an increase of 10 per cent. or more, knowing that it would be spent on their local services. I think that people in Wales are very much of that frame of mind. If they see the benefit of services locally, they will vote to pay for them.

If any of the objective 1 money that we hope will be available within the next year or so were not used, we would lose a one-off opportunity and deny the advantage to our children and grandchildren. We must use it all, and if local authorities need to get involved in raising the matching funds, they should play their part.

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4.44 pm

Ms Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North): This is the last St. David's day debate before devolution and the Welsh general election. I hope that this annual debate will continue to take place so that Welsh Members who are not going to the Assembly will still have the opportunity to raise the wide-ranging issues that we have discussed today.

We do not yet know what impact constitutional reform will have on the Chamber. My hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, West (Mr. Thomas) raised the issue of the future of Welsh questions. I know that the Procedure Committee has started to consider that. I cannot see how Welsh questions can continue in the same way if we are holding the Secretary of State accountable for the powers that remain to him. That is an unknown quantity, as is the future of the Welsh Affairs Committee, which I hope may be found a role in pre-legislative scrutiny, especially of the way in which Bills affect Wales.

We are moving into the unknown. That is an essential part of change and of the process of devolution. In addition to devolution and the setting up of the Assembly, reform of the House of Lords is bound to result in a second Chamber with more legitimacy, which in turn is bound to affect the workings of this Chamber. For the Welsh Members who will remain here, it is a time of change and uncertainty, but, for those of us who have been committed to and campaigned for devolution for many years, it is a time of great excitement. This is a day to celebrate what we have achieved.

Many people have said that we have unrealistic expectations of devolution, but I unashamedly have great expectations and look forward with tremendous excitement to the first meeting of the Assembly in Cardiff, with politicians from all over Wales coming together and starting to sort out the problems that the Government have already begun to address. I hope that we will be able to start building up forward-looking, strong, healthy communities, bringing power closer to the people and giving them a greater chance to sort out their own affairs, with women and men playing equal roles, which is an important issue for the Assembly.

Mr. Huw Edwards (Monmouth): Is not it a great credit to our party that the twinning process that we introduced last year has produced such an outstanding range of women Labour candidates, who will be in the Assembly in a few months?

Ms Morgan: I could not agree more. The difference between the Assembly and the House of Commons is that there will be a much more representative group of people there than I see here today. I think that the style of conducting business there will be different, and more productive, because a much wider cross-section of the population will be involved. The beginning of the new democracy is an opportunity to look afresh at our constituencies, for example, and to see what we want to change and what the Assembly can do to help that change. The economic issues have been well covered today, so I shall concentrate on other issues.

The publication of the Stephen Lawrence report yesterday has made us all aware of the extent of racism in Britain. That applies equally in Wales. The objective statistics for Cardiff show that young black men are many

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more times likely to be unemployed than their white peers. South Wales police have announced sharp increases in the number of reported racial attacks, as has Cardiff and the vales race equality council, Race Equality First. When I was a councillor, I knew of Asian women who were afraid to leave their houses and walk on the streets of Cardiff because of the abuse they received from groups of youths.

I hope that the Assembly will be the inclusive body that people say it will. To me, inclusivity means including black people in decision making and in consultation. I am pleased and proud that the Labour party has a black woman candidate, Councillor Cherry Short, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Edwards), and we will win that seat on 6 May. It is a great credit that we have a black candidate for the National Assembly who will win her seat.

The Stephen Lawrence report recommended an immediate review of racism awareness training in the police force and other agencies. The setting up of the National Assembly is an opportunity to ensure that anti-racist strategies are in place from the beginning and that a programme is introduced so that all its employees have such training. I also believe that the members elected to the Assembly should have anti-racist training. I hope that those hon. Members who leave here for the Assembly will help to ensure that that happens.

Dr. Julian Lewis: I am a member of a religious minority, the Jewish community, which experienced before the war persecution and prejudice similar to what the coloured community experiences now. I have some slight reservations about going as far as the hon. Lady in her proposals for anti-racist training for all sorts of groups before it is established that there is a problem in those groups. Otherwise, there is a danger that one might create resentment and a problem, where no problem exists.

Ms Morgan: The evidence put before the House yesterday undoubtedly shows that there is a problem. Members of Parliament, as the law makers, should also have anti-racist training. When we first come to the House, we have no opportunity to access the type of training that is provided automatically in many jobs, including training in equal opportunities and disability awareness. We lose out because of that, and I hope that Members elected to the Welsh Assembly--a fresh start and a new opportunity--have the chance to experience such training.

The Equal Opportunities Commission and the Commission for Racial Equality will still be the responsibility of the Department for Education and Employment, although both have regional offices in Wales. It is essential that a strong link is made between those bodies and the Welsh Assembly, so that they can all promote equal opportunities.

I am a member of the Welsh Refugee Council and we have recently seen an unprecedented increase in the number of cases with which it deals. The numbers have increased from a handful in 1994 to almost 200. That is due partly to the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996and also because south Wales contains established communities from countries such as Somalia, Sudan and Iraq. The new proposals in the Immigration and Asylum Bill are likely to increase the number of asylum seekers

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coming to Wales and it is essential that we have a cohesive and practical response. I hope that, in the Special Standing Committee, the Government will reconsider the cashless system that they propose for all asylum seekers. That system is already in place for asylum seekers who apply in-country; the experience of the Welsh Refugee Council is that it is stigmatising and creates major problems for daily living. The council is also concerned that asylum seekers should have a say in where they are placed in the country so that they have access to community support, health facilities, translation facilities and education in English as a second language. We need a comprehensive, on-going programme so that refugees who settle in Wales can become full and equal citizens.

The National Assembly should give everyone living in Wales the opportunity to become full and equal citizens. The essential test will be the difference that it makes to people living in difficult circumstances. The Assembly must make a difference to people such as the lone parents with small children struggling along on a council estate in one of the valleys or on the outskirts of Cardiff, where the local shop has closed because of competition from out-of-town supermarkets. We must try to make a difference to people such as that, and success or failure will be a test of the value of the Assembly.

An inclusive Assembly will also include the voluntary organisations that make such a tremendous contribution to the life of Wales. Countless people spend their time enriching their communities, for no payment. I want to mention organisations such as Mewn Cymru, which speaks for black women, and BAWSO, which has set up a refuge for black women.

As long as I have been involved in politics, organisations such as that have always been knocking on the door, trying to get in. The Assembly should start off with a place already available for such bodies. Any concordat or consultative process must take advantage of such groups, and the Assembly should include people from all the different minority groups and voluntary bodies. I have mentioned only a few of them, but there are many in Wales.

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