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Mr. Evans: The Deputy Prime Minister said that "any fool" knew that the minimum wage would involve a "shake-out" in labour. How many jobs does the Minister think that the introduction of the minimum wage will cause to be lost in Wales?

Mr. Hain: None.

Mr. Evans: Does the Minister disagree with the Deputy Prime Minister?

Mr. Hain: My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister did not say that. The fears that Conservative Members spread for week after week in the years running up to the general election--and subsequently during the passage through the House of the National Minimum Wage Act 1998--have been shown to be unfounded. The minimum wage will be introduced with the support of business, both large and small. It will also enjoy the support of the 100,000 workers in Wales who will benefit from it. Moreover, the introduction of the working families tax credit will benefit more than 70,000 working families. Some of the lowest paid and poorest people in Wales are benefiting from the activities of the Labour Government.

We are delivering objective 1 funding for Wales, including west Wales and the valleys. Plaid Cymru has constantly taunted and criticised Welsh Office Ministers for not being up to speed or ahead of the game in that regard. I realise that it is very tough to be in opposition when the Government are so popular and successful, but Plaid Cymru should acknowledge our success in respect of securing that funding.

Mr. Llwyd: I certainly did not taunt the Minister: I asked a few questions that I thought were reasonable.

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After the decision to award objective 1 funding is made public, we in turn will make public some documents that will prove what my right hon. Friend the Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) said earlier.

Mr. Hain: I do not accept that. The rant from the party's leader earlier showed that Plaid Cymru is still at it.

The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire said that the Government should press very hard to obtain objective 2 funding also. We are working hard to that end. The Lucas plant in the hon. Gentleman's area is situated 200 yards from the objective 1 boundary, and there is no prospect of changing that boundary. However, there is a prospect that we can get investment up the Swansea valley, which will benefit the communities hit so hard and savagely by that plant's closure.

Mr. Rhodri Morgan: Can my hon. Friend cast any further light on the timing of a decision on matching funds for objective 1, which will solve the chicken-and-egg problem that I and many other hon. Members identified earlier?

Mr. Hain: My hon. Friend made some important and valid arguments about objective 1 funding and its matching equivalent. However, the problem is more complicated, and also involves the question of public expenditure survey funding. When we have secured a decision from the European Union about the exact amount that Wales will be able to draw down, the problem that my hon. Friend described will have to be addressed, and the important points that he has made will be borne in mind.

During the past 20 months, we have pursued policies that are distinctive, but not separatist. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn that we can be Welsh, but British too. Devolution is not about separatism, but about giving Wales a democratic voice for the first time, and about decentralising power.

Mr. Letwin: I had some difficulty in following the Minister's reply to the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan). Would I be correct to summarise him as having said, "We have no money, and we are not sure that we will be able to do what the hon. Gentleman asked?"

Mr. Hain: No, that intervention was too clever by half. The hon. Gentleman should have listened to what I said. He may study it in Hansard tomorrow, when, I am sure, it will make sense even to him.

We have pursued a distinctive policy on education, promoting partnership between further education and sixth forms to give pupils and others more choice. We have invested £50 million in school budgets this year, 95 per cent. of which has gone straight into school budgets. We shall invest another £70 million in school budgets in the next year.

I am disturbed by emerging reports that some local authorities plan not to put their full share of that £70 million into the education budget, or that they plan to retain a proportion centrally, which will leave schools with insufficient funds to meet pay and price increases, let alone the development of provision. At least five local authorities are apparently considering those options, and I am prepared to name them if we find that the funds do

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not go into school budgets. I have made clear our expectation that their share of the £70 million should go to education, with the vast bulk of it included in delegated schools budgets. We shall monitor budgets closely to ensure that that happens, and a report will be made to the National Assembly, which I should expect to take a close interest in any authority that does not give a high priority to schools and education in its budget decisions.

Mr. Livsey: Powys has no intention of not supporting fully the additional money, but the number of schools in rural constituencies means that there are a lot of head teachers. The settlement is understandably skewed, but that is not taken account of in the budget, which is why some authorities are finding it difficult to balance the books on their education budgets. That is not to say that they will not pay the money due to their education budgets.

Mr. Hain: The formula for the money's distribution has been agreed with the Welsh Local Government Association, of which Powys county council is a member. Consequences flow from that.

Another distinctive policy is our decision to put an extra £3 million into rural bus subsidies this year, with an extra £2 million for the coming year, either for urban services or for extra services in rural areas. That is having a major effect on provision for those who have no access to a car.

Mr. Edwards: The additional money for rural bus services has been very welcome in Monmouthshire, but may I refer my hon. Friend to Monday's debate about the problems of school transport and the way in which many local authorities have had to reduce free transport provision for certain children because of financial constraints? Can he assure me that he will review that policy?

Mr. Hain: My hon. Friend pinpoints an important problem that affects virtually all of us. The cuts imposed by the previous Conservative Government on local authority budgets hit school transport. Our provision of £70 million should allow local authorities at least to start reversing those cuts, if not restoring them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Caton) spoke movingly, and with socialist passion, about the predicament of his constituents in Holtsfield. If he makes a representation to the Welsh Office on their behalf, we shall consider it very carefully.

My hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Edwards) commented on the delay in payments to farmers. The Welsh Office recognises the problem, and we shall invest £16 million in computer systems over the next three years to ensure that payments are made speedily and on time. I agree that the forms that farmers must fill in are incredibly complicated, perhaps too much so. To the hon. Member for Ribble Valley I say, yes, the new national stadium or millennium stadium, the new Cardiff Arms Park, will be open on time and I am sure that Wales will win the rugby world cup in it.

I accept the remarks about good-quality translation made by my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, West (Mr. Thomas), and I recognise that it is of concern that the translation of his speech in the Welsh Grand Committee in

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Aberaeron was not of sufficient quality. The matter needs to be addressed by the House authorities, but no doubt one of the reasons for the problem is that we are in the early stages of the Welsh language being spoken in the Welsh Grand Committee. The delay originally envisaged in the translation and reproduction of speeches made in Welsh in the Assembly is far too long; my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State recognises that and he will make an announcement soon.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North asked about the role of Welsh questions, the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs and Members of Parliament representing Wales in the House of Commons. Procedure in the House is a matter for the House and its authorities, but we accept the need for further debate in Parliament as devolution becomes reality, so that hon. Members can understand its implications and any limitations on the issues they can raise. We are discussing with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House how best to approach such a debate, which would also have an impact on Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Select Committee on Procedure is examining the consequences of devolution, and substantive changes are a matter for the House to decide. The Government's memorandum to the Committee suggests that any changes at Westminster should be allowed to evolve as experience of devolution develops. That includes the role of the Welsh Grand Committee, the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs and probably Question Time as well.

I agree strongly with the passionate points my hon. Friend made about the evil of racism, which was highlighted by the Lawrence report. That report dealt mainly with London, but it applies in Wales as well. Perhaps because we have only a small ethnic minority community, we in Wales are extremely complacent about the problem of racism. However, four years ago there was a racial killing in my constituency: Mohan Singh Kullar was killed in the middle of the caring cohesive community of Cimla. That just shows that the strategies about which my hon. Friend spoke and which the Government support must be implemented as a matter of urgency.


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