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The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Paul Murphy): I have regular discussions on environmental issues with the First Minister, and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Wales will hold regular meetings with the Assembly Minister for Environment.
In the majority of cases, such decisions as they affect Wales are a matter for the National Assembly, in discussion with the lead Whitehall Department and the Environment Agency for England and Wales where appropriate.
Mr. Chapman: My right hon. Friend will be aware that my constituents take a keen interest in Dee conservation, on issues as varied as the management of the cockle beds and dredging at Mostyn. Is he content, given the many agencies involved, that the co-ordination arrangements are adequate and that sufficient dedicated funding is available to support them?
Mr. Murphy: Yes, I understand my hon. Friend's point. He knows that the Dee estuary strategy has been a success--some 90 organisations in total are part of it. I will bring his point to the attention of the First Minister. I am sure that he will be glad to hear that the Countryside Council for Wales and English Nature are consulting on designating the Dee estuary as a candidate area of conservation. All those things will undoubtedly bring hope and success to the area.
Where large-scale job losses occur, the Government will take swift action to support people and communities through periods of change by investing in training and skills to help those made redundant, creating the conditions for new investment and minimising the disruption to the people involved and their communities. This we are already doing in the case of the job losses announced by Corus earlier this year, in partnership with the National Assembly for Wales.
Chris Grayling: Given that the Llanwern plant closed its doors for the final time this week, will the Secretary of State give us an update on the training package that has been provided for Corus workers? Will he also tell us whether his Department or the Welsh Assembly is taking responsibility for that training?
Mr. Murphy: I am of course aware that steel making ceases this week in Llanwern. It is a matter of great sadness to all Welsh Members, especially those of us with constituents who have been made redundant by Corus.
The Department for Education and Skills and the National Assembly for Wales have produced a package of measures to help with training. The National Assembly is spending some £7 million on training for people who have been made redundant by Corus. The Government are dealing, through the Employment Service, with job transition schemes and job clubs at all the plants affected.
Mr. Murphy: I share my hon. Friend's concern about the position at Selectron and regret its decision to cut jobs there. As he knows, the Communication Workers Union has an alternative plan to keep those jobs in Cwmcarn. I hope that the company will consider it seriously. I also urge the company to meet the public representatives of the people in south Wales who cover that plant, including the Under-Secretary.
Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire): The Secretary of State will be familiar with Kings Triplex Holdings in Llanidloes, which is typical of a large employer in a small town. Tomorrow, KTH is expected to announce whether it will continue to trade in Llanidloes. Obviously, if it does not, that will have devastating implications for employment there. Will he commit, therefore, to working with the WDA and his opposite number from the Assembly, as well as with local people, to ensure that firms such as KTH get the support that they need to keep jobs in those areas? If the jobs do not remain, will he commit to working in partnership to ensure that they are quickly replaced?
Mr. Murphy: Yes, of course I agree with the hon. Gentleman. He and I met representatives from local authorities and the trade unions recently about KTH. I hope that tomorrow will bring good news for that part of mid-Wales. The impact of such job losses in his constituency would be as serious as that caused by the job losses in Corus in parts of south and north Wales.
Mr. Robert Walter (North Dorset): As has been mentioned, it is a great sadness that the last strip of steel was rolled at Llanwern yesterday. It is also of concern to the Secretary of State's friends in the trade union movement. Mr. Bill Morris of the Transport and General Workers Union in Cardiff yesterday said that unless the decline in manufacturing is reversed, the economy will become more and more dependent on financial and service industries, and that it is very short-sighted to drift into a position where no one is actually producing anything. Can the Secretary of State tell us whether he had discussions with Mr. Morris before he made those statements yesterday?
Mr. Murphy: I met the general secretary of the TGWU yesterday in Cardiff. Indeed, I spoke at the seminar to which the hon. Gentleman referred. While we regret the job losses at Corus and other companies in Wales, we also welcome the fact that comparing today with 1997, about 34,000 extra people are in work in Wales. The way in which we manage the change from our traditional industries to the new industries in Wales--the new high-tech companies--has to be tackled by the Assembly and the Government. I remind the hon. Gentleman yet again that, as well as the job losses, Ford has come to Bridgend with 640 jobs, Conduit has come to Cardiff with 500, Toyota to Deeside with 560, Hi Lex Cables to Baglan with 160, and there are many more.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Don Touhig): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales regularly meets the Home Secretary to discuss a range of issues including the recruitment of police officers in Wales. He also met the four Welsh chief constables earlier this year and there was broad agreement on recruitment policy.
Mr. Bryant: May I take this opportunity to congratulate my hon. Friend--I think that I am the first person to do so today--on both his new post and, more important, his excellent result at the general election? Does he agree that one of the major problems that faces all valley communities in south Wales is drug-related crime? Will he join me in congratulating projects such as DARE--Drugs Awareness Resistance Education--in the Rhondda, which is pioneering because it uses police officers to provide primary school education that will provide an answer for the future in drug prevention?
Mr. Touhig: I thank my hon. Friend on two accounts--his congratulations on my appointment and on my re-election. He did not do too badly in the Rhondda either, pushing the nationalists well back. I am aware of the DARE project, which is an American anti-drugs initiative. It aims to offer educational programmes in the classroom to prevent and reduce drug use and violence among children and young people. The emphasis is on providing information, developing decision making, building self-esteem and offering healthy alternative life styles. I pay tribute to the South Wales police force, and in particular to the officers in the Rhondda who are participating in the scheme, and I wish it every success.
Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion): Does the Minister feel that league tables have helped the morale, recruitment and retention of teachers in Wales, and does he expect them to do the same for the police in Wales?
Mr. Touhig: It is important that we measure the performance of all public services. That is the only way to bring about any improvement. I have no doubt, as a former adviser to the Police Federation, that police morale in Wales is very good, because we are putting in record funding to recruit a record number of bobbies. The answer to many of our problems in the south Wales valleys and throughout Wales is to put more bobbies on the beat, and that is what we are doing.
Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North): What discussions has my hon. Friend had with the Home Secretary about ending the practice of accommodating asylum seekers in the remand wing of Cardiff jail, which is causing a great deal of concern to voluntary groups, the Churches, the National Assembly and many MPs?
Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): When the Minister talks about putting more bobbies on the beat, what consideration has he given to the recruitment of more special constables in Wales? When I stay with the excellent Mrs. Meirwen Pughe at her guest house, Dolffanog Fach in Talyllyn, I am very conscious of the fact that there are not many police officers. The last Labour Government lost 6,000 police officers in Wales and in England. What is the Minister doing to encourage the recruitment of more specials?
Mr. Touhig: Since March 1997, an extra 271 police officers have been recruited in Wales and 6,863 officers are serving in Wales. In addition, there has been a record increase in funding for the police service in Wales. Nearly £390 million has gone into the settlement this year: £56 million extra for Dyfed-Powys, £75 million for Gwent, £82 million for North Wales and £176 million for South Wales. The use of that funding is, of course, at the disposal of the chief constable of each police authority, and I know of a number who are recruiting specials, but I particularly welcome the fact that more bobbies are on the beat, and we are providing the funding to make that possible.