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EU Structural Funds

3. Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset): What recent discussions he has had regarding the matching of European regional funds. [130878]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Paul Murphy): The excellent spending review settlement for Wales announced last week included an additional £421 million for the structural funds programmes in Wales. That settlement unlocks funding within the block to meet match funding requirements.

I have talked with my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) and the Assembly Finance Secretary, who agree that, as a result of the settlement, no worthwhile objective 1 project will be held back by a lack of resources.

Mr. Bruce: In the discussions that the right hon. Gentleman has had with the First Secretary, did the First Secretary query whether all the funding is additional and fully matches the European funds? After all, the previous First Secretary had to resign because he could not get that from the Government. Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm that all the match funding represents additional funds over and above the Barnett formula and all the normal streams of funds that go to Wales?

Mr. Murphy: As I explained moments ago, the £421 million, which amounts to £1.2 billion or £1.3 billion over nine years, that will come from Brussels is wholly additional to the block and to Barnett. The hon. Gentleman should remind himself that, for the 21 years that structural funding came to this country, not one penny was extra to the block, and it has taken a Labour Government to change that. It comes very rich from the Conservative party to tell us in Wales how to deal with

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public finances, given that the hon. Gentleman and the shadow Chancellor would put public services in peril because they intend to cut public finances.

Mr. Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd): Does my right hon. Friend agree that we have to give the Conservatives some credit for achieving objective 1 for Wales because, in 1979, the economy of Wales was mid-table of the 13 regions of the United Kingdom but, in 1997, when the Conservatives left office, we were bottom of the table?

Mr. Murphy: I agree with my hon. Friend. As he has said in the past couple of days about objective 1, we must get on with the schemes and projects with the people of Wales. The more we squabble, and the more people whinge about the excellent settlement, the less easy it will be to begin those schemes and projects. It is an excellent settlement for Wales, and we all know it.

Mr. Robert Walter (North Dorset): It is clear from the statements made last week that the European Commission's share of funds for objective 1 will be transferred to the National Assembly for Wales. It is also clear that the social fund will be taken from the Department for Education and Employment and given to the National Assembly. As the Secretary of State has said, that provides £421 million over three years, and we do not dispute that figure.

What is not clear is where the additional funding for objective 1 will come from. Where are the match funds that the Prime Minister promised Wales? The Secretary of State has said that they will be met from within the block grant, which exists for health, education, roads and local government. Which programme does he expect the National Assembly to cut to make the match funds available?

Mr. Murphy: I explained to the hon. Gentleman at some length in the Welsh Grand Committee how we would deal with the funds needed for programme match. They need not necessarily come from the block, but might come, for example, from lottery money, from money from the Department for Education and Employment or from the private sector. Where the match funds come from can vary. The hon. Gentleman seems not to understand--or does not want to understand--that this is a huge and significant breakthrough in how we deal with public finances in Wales. The overall settlement of an extra £2 billion is an enormous improvement on anything that Conservative Governments dreamt of, let alone gave us.

Mr. Barry Jones (Alyn and Deeside): My constituency would like access to the funds under discussion, but, in their absence, would be happy to accept a regional grant of £25 million for 1,400 aerospace jobs. Does my right hon. Friend know that a far-away, secretive quango is proving an obstacle to our getting those jobs? How can he help? Will he talk to the First Secretary and deliver the £25 million grant?

Mr. Murphy: My right hon. Friend has rightly raised that matter several times, as he represents Broughton. He is aware that the Government are committed to ensuring the success of the project and have given a loan of more than £500 million. Discussions are still under way in the

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National Assembly, and my right hon. Friend can rest assured that I shall take the matter up with my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan).

New Deal

4. Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): What recent discussions he has had with the First Secretary about the new deal for young people. [130880]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. David Hanson): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales regularly meets the First Secretary to discuss a wide range of issues. I also hold regular meetings with the Assembly Secretary for Education and Training. One of the Government's chief aims is to get young people into work so that they can play a full and productive part in society. At the end of April, almost 14,900 young people in Wales had entered employment through the new deal programme.

Mr. Bercow: Given the facts that only 13 per cent. of new deal participants in Wales leave the scheme for unsubsidised employment, that only 10 per cent. of those on the training and education option end up with a qualification when they finish it, and that those participants are twice as likely not to get a job as they are to get one, why does the Minister not give up the unequal struggle, admit that his scheme is an expensive flop and offer an unqualified apology to the people of Wales?

Mr. Hanson: At almost every Welsh questions since I was appointed a Minister, the hon. Gentleman has raised that point. At almost every Welsh questions, we have proved that he is wrong. Some 14,900 people are in work in Wales because of the new deal. The Chancellor has extended the programme and made it permanent. One thing is clear: the Conservative party would scrap it. Perhaps on your retirement, Madam Speaker, given the hon. Gentleman's persistence, you might take him with you.

Mr. Ted Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney): Will my hon. Friend ignore the sneering nonsense of the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) and recognise, as many of us do, the tremendous importance of the new deal in giving hope to young people in our communities? Will he ensure that new deal money and the programme's success are linked to objective 1 to multiply the benefits of both schemes?

Mr. Hanson: My hon. Friend makes a very important point. The new deal is a Labour initiative which has created great employment prospects in the valleys and throughout Wales, and will be maximised when it is linked to objective 1. A key fact is that the Conservative party opposed the new deal and would not support additional funds for objective 1.

Spending Review (Home Office)

5. Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey): What discussions he has had with the

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First Secretary on the subject of the comprehensive spending review in relation to Home Office matters in Wales. [130881]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Paul Murphy): I meet the First Secretary regularly to discuss a range of issues.

Last Wednesday's announcement by the Home Secretary of an extra £1.6 billion for police funding in England and Wales for the next three years is very good news. It represents an average annual increase in police funding of 7 per cent. and a further 4,000 recruits for England and Wales, bringing the total to 9,000 extra recruits over the next three years. The fire services too will receive a substantial increase.

Mr. Hughes: Has the Secretary of State seen the report in today's Western Mail that, of almost £7 million allocated by the Home Office to deal with domestic violence in England and Wales, this month Wales was allocated only £31,000, even though there were 15,000 reported incidents of domestic violence in Wales last year? Has the Secretary of State taken that up with the Home Secretary, and are those figures correct? If they are, and if the Secretary of State has not made representations, will he talk to the Home Secretary urgently so that resources that the community clearly feels are needed can be provided to deal with domestic violence in Wales?

Mr. Murphy: I accept the hon. Gentleman's point and the importance of these matters, especially given the news in the past few days about the terrible events in Barry. The hon. Gentleman may rest assured that I shall, of course, raise the matter with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.

Mrs. Jackie Lawrence (Preseli Pembrokeshire): May I welcome the extra money that was given to Wales last week for rural policing, especially the £1.3 million that is being given to Dyfed-Powys police in my area? Does the Secretary of State welcome, as I do, the fact that that will enable the new chief constable, Terry Grange, to carry out plans to increase police numbers and open new police stations in the Dyfed-Powys area? Does that not contrast clearly with the position of the previous Government, who flatly refused to allow Dyfed police to take on a further 72 officers?

Mr. Murphy: I very much agree with my hon. Friend. Dyfed-Powys received a considerable increase, as did north Wales, which received £770,000 extra, and my own county of Gwent, which received £103,000, which effectively means that there will be an extra 5,000 recruits in addition to the usual 11,000. Wales will get an extra 223 police officers, distributed throughout Dyfed-Powys, Gwent, north Wales and south Wales. On top of that, last week's announcement means that we shall have even more police recruits.

Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire): Does the Secretary of State predict a rise or fall in crime in Wales next year?

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Mr. Murphy: It is not for me to predict anything. However, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the latest statistics show that recorded crime in Wales fell by 2.5 per cent last year, against a 3.8 per cent. rise in England and Wales as a whole. The largest fall in crime was in south Wales, where there was a reduction of 5.8 per cent.

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