Welsh Grand Committee
Tuesday 16 May 2000
[Mr. Barry Jones in the Chair]
Oral Answers to Questions
The Secretary of State was asked
1. Mr. Jon Owen Jones (Cardiff, Central): What recent discussions he has had with the First Secretary about health spending in Wales. 
6. Mrs. Betty Williams (Conwy): What recent discussions he has had with the First Secretary about health spending in Wales. 
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. David Hanson): I regularly meet the First Secretary to discuss matters of importance to Wales and health is often on our agenda. I also often meet with the Health and Social Services Secretary. Following the recent Budget, Wales's share of increased expenditure on health is £99 million for this year and £1,299 million for the next four years. It is for the National Assembly for Wales to decide how to spend the money that it receives, but the Finance Secretary has confirmed that all the extra government money provided by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor will go to the national health service in Wales.
Mr. Jones: Given the unprecedented and huge sum that the NHS in Wales can expect to have in the next few years, will my hon. Friend impress on the Health and Social Services Secretary the need to ensure that the matter of community beds is not forgotten? Cardiff is the least well-provided part of Wales in terms of community beds. Will he work in particular to ensure that there is no undue delay in proceeding with the development of a community hospital on the Cardiff royal infirmary site, which has been promised for many years to the people of Cardiff?
Mr. Hanson: My hon. Friend is pressing strongly for a community hospital in his constituency and I welcome his efforts. He is a great champion for Cardiff and its health facilities. Additional resources are going to the National Assembly, which will be considering both the capital and the revenue consequences of the resources. I will certainly draw his welcome comments to the attention of Jane Hutt, the Health and Social Services Secretary, when I next meet her. I look forward to the Assembly working in partnership with the Labour Government to deliver health improvements to Cardiff and the rest of Wales.
Mrs. Williams: I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware that Dr. Sandra Payne made an announcement recently about the incidence of women dying of breast cancer in north Wales. The percentage rate there is higher than that for the rest of Wales. Is he prepared to use his good offices to discuss the matter with the First Secretary and the Health and Social Services Secretary? He might thereby help to achieve a centre for excellence, which we want in north Wales, providing first-rate cancer treatment and diagnostic facilities to protect women suffering from breast cancer. That centre could work with the new cancer treatment centre opening at Glan Clwyd in June.
Mr. Hanson: As I mentioned to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Jones), the additional resources that the Government are allowing the Assembly to have, and the Assembly's commitment to preventive health care, means that the Assembly will be considering strongly investing in support for protection from and early diagnosis of breast cancer. I especially welcome the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Conwy (Mrs. Williams) on the centre at Glan Clwyd hospital, which serves your constituency, Mr. Jones, and mine. There are additional resources representing real-term rises in funding by the Labour Government to the national health service. In partnership with the Assembly, I will draw my hon. Friend's comments to the attention of the Health and Social Services Secretary because prevention of breast cancer is important to us both.
Mr. Richard Livsey (Brecon and Radnorshire): The Minister has referred to a welcome injection of money into the health service in Wales. In his discussions with Ministers and the Assembly, will he take into account Welsh health authorities' debt, which amounts to £80 million, and consider the correct balance between paying off the debt and investing in real health improvement? Unfortunately, in Powys, where we have kept the books well, 80 beds in our hospital must still be closed. That does not represent the right balance in the disbursal of the welcome new money.
Mr. Hanson: Debt is an important issue when considering the allocation of health resources. The Government are contributing to the partnership by increasing, in real terms, the available resources, and I mean that helpfully. The National Assembly is responsible for allocating those resources. It has a tremendous opportunity to make health differences in Wales. Whether it spends the money on debt or on other services is for it to decide, and I do not want to pre-empt its decisions. However, I remind hon. Members that the Government have given the National Assembly an opportunity to make health improvements during the next few years, the like of which has been given by no other Governmentdare I say itin the past 20 years.
Mr. Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd): I concur with my hon. Friend the Member for Conwy (Mrs. Williams), who expressed concern about breast cancer in north Wales. If my hon. Friend the Minister is taking up the matter with the Health and Social Services Secretary, will he extend his talks to cover the incidence of leukaemia in north Wales? Will he use the talks to establish whether there are any hot spots in the region and, if there are such hot spots, to find out why they exist?
Mr. Hanson: I shall certainly draw those comments to the attention of Jane Hutt when I next meet her. I know that my hon. Friend has pursued the issue of leukaemia in north Wales since his election to the House and before. The Government understand the importance of his commitment to the prevention of ill health and to early diagnosis and we will discuss these matters with the Health and Social Services Secretary in due course.
Learning and Skills
2. Mr. Alun Michael (Cardiff, South and Penarth): What progress has been made in ensuring that the Learning and Skills Bill enables the development of an appropriate youth support service for young people in Wales. 
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. David Hanson): The Government have today tabled amendments to the Learning and Skills Bill to enable the National Assembly for Wales to develop, together with local authorities and others, an enhanced youth support service for young people in Wales.
Mr. Michael: I am delighted to hear that news. Does my hon. Friend agree that young people are social animals, which means that we must provide support not only at the level of the individual and the family but at the level of the peer group in the community? Does he agree that, although that peer group can be a creative force for good, it can also be a force for evil, unless adults and institutions take an interest in creating the right environment for young people at the local level? Will he therefore ensure that the clauses that are being inserted into the Learning and Skills Bill take us in the direction of providing wider support for young people as part of a peer group, and not just support at the individual level?
Mr. Hanson: First, I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend, as the amendments that I tabled today are based largely on work that he undertook when he was a Member of the National Assembly. I appreciate the work that he put in, both as First Secretary and as a member of the Assembly, to draw the clauses together in policy terms.
The purpose of the new clauses is to ensure that we achieve the objectives mentioned by my right hon. Friend. We want the National Assembly to have powers to engage with local authorities so that it can not only participate in the provision of services that tackle great difficulties arising for young people generally but provide the framework to support young people in their peer group in terms of educational and development opportunities and allow them to begin to fulfil their full potential. I hope that the new clauses, which hon. Members will study in the next few days, will give the National Assembly strong powers to tackle many issues that relate to young people. I look forward to the debate on them, which will shortly occur in Room 11.
4. Mr. Denzil Davies (Llanelli): What discussions he has held with the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry regarding the possible consequences for the Welsh economy of the closure of Longbridge. 
The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Paul Murphy): I am in continuing contact with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, who, together with the First Secretary of the National Assembly, has been keeping me up to date on the latest developments on this issue. Certainly, all wish Phoenix well with its plans for the future of Rover. There remains some uncertainty over the extent of possible reduction of activity at Longbridge and the full consequences for the Welsh economy cannot yet be accurately assessed. Meanwhile, task forces in England and Wales are keeping in close contact.
Mr. Davies: My right hon. Friend will appreciate that this question was tabled before things were getting a bit better. As he said, there are still uncertainties ahead for Longbridge. Is he aware that the Department of Trade and Industry has said that it will provide £129 million for regional development in the west midlands? In fact, it said that prior to the success of the Phoenix bid. Now that the Phoenix bid has succeeded, and the assessments of unemployment in the west midlands are considerably lower, will my right hon. Friend make representations to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry for some of that £129 million to be devoted to the motor component industry in Wales if it can prove a case for it?