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Aerospace Industry

3. Mr. David Borrow (South Ribble): If he will make a statement on the contribution of the aerospace industry to the Welsh economy. [82087]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Alun Michael): The aerospace industry is enormously important to Wales and employs some 13,000 people. In recent times, I have visited British Aerospace, Raytheon in Deeside and General Electric at Nantgarw, where I launched the modern apprenticeship target for Wales, and we have also seen confirmation of the continuation and expansion of jobs at, for instance, RAF St. Athan and British Airways. The aerospace industry is high on our agenda of industries with which we need to work.

Mr. Borrow: Over the years, I have had the opportunity to visit a number of airbus plants in the United Kingdom, including those in Bristol and Broughton, which employ many people from Wales as well as from Lancashire, many from my constituency.

Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming the success of the airbus project, which means that the airbus is now outselling Boeing in the international market and employing thousands of extra workers? Not only are new jobs being created in England and Wales but, during the next few years, jobs will be created in Scotland in producing the airbus. Is not that an example of the way in which partnership, not only across Europe but between the different parts of the United Kingdom, can bring success to the British and the European economy?

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Mr. Michael: I agree with my hon. Friend. It is important that, between Wales and Scotland and the regions of England, we see joint working on projects that can bring prosperity to all parts of the United Kingdom. I am keen to see co-operation between the Welsh Development Agency and the North West regional development agency which the Government have put in place. I recently visited the plant to which my hon. Friend referred at Broughton with my hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) where I saw the confidence and high quality of the work force and the management team.

Yes, we need to work together across boundaries, but I am sure that my hon. Friend will forgive me for saying that my priority will be to ensure that we have the strongest possible development within the aircraft industry in Wales.

Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire): The pound has risen relentlessly this year. Yesterday, it went over FF10, nudging DM3. What impact will that have on the future prospects for aerospace products made in Britain?

Mr. Michael: That gives a challenge to the British aerospace industry, as it does to other parts of manufacturing industry, a point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) a few moments ago. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will recognise the importance of the Government's policies in creating stability and bringing an end to boom and bust. This morning, Sir John Harvey-Jones said that a Labour-run Assembly in Wales will provide the blend of stability and innovation that Wales needs. That is what is good for industry.

Mr. Roy Beggs (East Antrim): I welcome the Secretary of State's positive statement on the contribution of the aerospace industry to the Welsh economy, but does he also recognise that we in Northern Ireland are dependent on the stable and high-quality jobs that are provided by Shorts? Will he assure us that--once he is confirmed as First Secretary of the new Assembly, and in recognising the value of collaboration throughout the industry and in all regions of the United Kingdom--he will continue to promote such collaboration?

Mr. Michael: Yes, I shall promote it, very much indeed. I am also grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his remarks. I believe that the advent of the National Assembly for Wales--and of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Scottish Parliament--will strengthen the United Kingdom and our ability to work together for the benefit of everyone everywhere in these islands. One of my first actions after becoming Secretary of State for Wales was to visit Belfast and to talk to people from all parties about the action that we might take together, such as on tourism. As a group of small countries on Europe's periphery, we not only have much to learn from each other, but may together promote many common concerns--recognising the global nature of some concerns, such as the aerospace industry, which we want to be successful, thereby benefiting all parts of the United Kingdom.

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Health Authorities (Allocations)

4. Ms Jackie Lawrence (Preseli Pembrokeshire): What was the average percentage increase in the Welsh Office allocations to Welsh health authorities for 1999-2000. [82088]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Alun Michael): This year, we are providing almost 9 per cent.--£168 million--extra for hospital and community health services in Wales, which is on top of the £18 million waiting list money, which represents an increase of 1.3 per cent. The average increase in general medical services is 10.5 per cent; and, in drugs prescribing, it is 8.8 per cent. In my hon. Friend's own area--which is covered by the Dyfed Powys health authority--discussions are being held on the specific amount of money to be provided this year for health authorities. However, I am able to tell her that, this financial year, the increase for Dyfed Powys is 9.7 per cent., which is £23 million.

Ms Lawrence: I welcome the Secretary of State's statement, particularly the part of it applying to my own area of Dyfed Powys. May I add that, yet again, the facts have proved "Rottweiler Rod" wrong? Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the NHS's remaining problems is the fragmentation caused by the previous Government's policies--which, unfortunately, are taking time to correct? Does he also agree that it is so important for health units--particularly those with local authority social services departments--to work together?

Mr. Michael: My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. In four of the five areas in Wales, we inherited an NHS with deficits. It has also become clear that the internal market, fundholding and the previous Administration's other health policies created funding and service problems that will take some time to resolve completely. I am absolutely committed to creating a single NHS in Wales--so that, in each area, acute services, mental health services and community health services are provided in an integrated manner, and so that the public and those working in the NHS may have complete confidence in our health service.

Mr. Cynog Dafis (Ceredigion): Does the Secretary of State realise that the instructions that he has given to the Dyfed Powys health authority, and the trusts therein, to make provision to repay debts previously incurred because of deficits is causing them to come up with bizarre options, such as the centralisation of specialisms away from Bronglais general hospital? Does he agree that any such centralisation is bound to lead to a serious decline in accessibility and in quality of provision? Does he also agree that the National Assembly will have to make an early commitment to the survival and flourishing of Bronglais as a district general hospital, and to provide the type of funds that will be necessary to give that guarantee?

Mr. Michael: The hon. Gentleman misquotes the instruction, which was to start repaying and certainly not to make immediate total repayment. I have just mentioned the history that led to our having an NHS in which four of the five units have serious deficits. Although that is a totally unreasonable and unacceptable way of running the

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health service, it is what we inherited. The hon. Gentleman knows well the commitment that I gave to Bronglais general hospital and on services in Ceredigion, and that I have given the same commitment on services in Llanelli, where there has been another set of rumours. There is no threat to the accident and emergency units in either of those places.

The sets of rumour and counter-rumour currently flowing around are bizarre. However, I should expect to have the hon. Gentleman's co-operation in reinforcing the reassurances that I have given personally in my visits--so that the rumours might be knocked on the head, and the stock-take that I have started may be used by the Assembly, in its early days, to ensure long-term stability for the NHS and the confidence in the NHS of patients, communities and NHS staff. They should all be able confidently to place their confidence in the NHS in Wales.

Mr. Ted Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney): I also welcome my right hon. Friend's announcement of an increased allocation. He will be well aware of the considerable capital costs in our hospitals, particularly in North Glamorgan NHS trust, and the urgent requirement for capital expenditure. In his new role, will he carry on the urgent work so that we have a full and proper hospital service fit for the 21st century in north Glamorgan?

Mr. Michael: I am happy to promise to my hon. Friend that I shall concentrate on delivering the service that the people of Wales expect from the NHS and on working with colleagues in the National Assembly to put in place a plan as a result of the current stocktaking to ensure that everybody can be confident about the long-term future. There has been too much swinging from one project to another and one extreme to another. We need dependable long-term planning. I know that my hon. Friend needs it for his area; we need it for every part of Wales.

Dr. Liam Fox (Woodspring): The figures on allocations, or fine words, will fool no one working in the NHS in Wales. Doctors and patients in Wales know that, to fiddle the figures, patients are not being put on waiting lists or on waiting lists for waiting lists in case their illnesses embarrass the Government. That may please the Government statisticians, but it will not help any patients, who know that they are waiting longer between seeing their GP and being treated by a consultant. Is not the simple truth that the Government put public relations before patients and put the spin before the sick?

Mr. Michael: The hon. Gentleman has obviously been working through the night on that little piece of spin. The simple fact is that the Conservative Government starved the NHS in Wales of the resources that it needs. We are increasing the resources available by 9 per cent. this year, as I have said. I gave facts about real money going to the NHS. I also pointed out the chaos that his party left behind. He and his Government have a great deal to answer for in Wales.

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley): Given the high priority that Labour Governments always give to the NHS, when my right hon. Friend becomes the leader of the Welsh Assembly at the end of this week will he look in particular at the state of the mental health services in north Glamorgan? There are no high-dependency beds or day

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care facilities and there is a bad ratio of psychiatric community nurses to patients. I am sure that he will want to put that right as soon as possible.

Mr. Michael: My hon. Friend makes a good point. One reason why I want each of the trusts in Wales to provide acute mental health and community health services is to ensure that those services are integrated and balanced for every region of Wales. In the Cynon valley and Merthyr, the two community health councils will give my hon. Friend's constituency a voice in the provision of NHS services. That will put a laser-like focus on the provision of the services that she has asked about. I shall look to her, with her NHS experience, to help in ensuring that we provide the right services at the right time in every respect, including mental health services.

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