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Mr. Evans: The hon. Lady must recognise that I started by praising those who are dedicated and committed and work in the national health service. It is they who have to put up with this intolerable Government and the promises that they make. Indeed there are enormous successes in the NHS, whose staff perform miracles daily. My brother had a cancer operation in Singleton hospital in Swansea more than three years ago and the staff performed an absolute miracle on him, so I have great praise for those who work in the NHS. However, I have enormous reservations about some of the problems caused by Government policy.

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff, West): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Evans: No; I want to move on. There are several issues to discuss and many hon. Members want to speak.

I mentioned the National Assembly. We know, with some of the changes that have taken place and with the Mike German affair going from farce to fiasco, that it is a shambles on the inside and a shambles on the outside. When the Secretary of State for Wales says that we need

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to ensure that money is efficiently spent on the public services, I wonder whether he still believes at this late stage that he could perhaps inform the House of his views on the Assembly building. That is one farce that has certainly carried on—a pantomime that has run way after the Christmas period.

The Secretary of State knows that, when we were discussing devolution, we were told that the whole thing would cost between £12 million and £17 million. When it reached £40 million, the First Secretary decided to put a stop to it. We have ended up with a hole at a cost of £8 million, and the National Assembly is so embarrassed by it that it has now put a fence around that hole in Cardiff at a cost of many thousands of pounds; at one stage I was going to ask the Secretary of State whether he would look into it for me. I am not going to do so, but is he not embarrassed by the enormous waste of money? Would it not have been far better if that money had been spent on the national health service, as the hon. Member for Cardiff, North was saying, on some of the excellent services that are available and on improving those services throughout Wales?

I am also concerned about the delay of local elections in Wales until 2004. That means that the people of Wales will now have to wait another 12 months before they can pass judgment on their elected councillors of any persuasion. Surely the Secretary of State has a view about that. We were told that the local elections could not be held on the same day as the elections to the National Assembly in 2003 because it would lead to confusion. But in Scotland the date of the local elections has been altered so that they can be held on the same day as elections to the Scottish Parliament. Is the Secretary of State really saying that the people of Scotland are more intelligent than the people of Wales? I do not think so, and it is a gross insult that we are being told that because the people of Wales will be confused, the elections have been deferred until 2004.

The last part of my speech deals with the economy in Wales and the meltdown in manufacturing, about which I am extremely concerned. There have already been many job losses in manufacturing. Sony cut 220 jobs in Bridgend. GEAES, an aircraft engine manufacturer, cut 350 jobs on top of the 450 cut last year; the Corning optical factory in Deeside closed, and Dow Corning cut 40 jobs in Barry.

However, the most disturbing name in all this must be Mittal. I know that on Tuesday there is to be a debate on the subject, but I must mention it because manufacturing is so important to Wales. Manufacturing accounts for a disproportionately high percentage of jobs in Wales. Yes, we want the service sector to improve and know that in a number of service jobs, employment has increased. In the Welsh Grand Committee, I mentioned Swansea airport, where an investment has been made. Air Wales now flies from Swansea to Cork and Dublin. That has been an enormous success, and the projection is that about 300,000 jobs—

Kevin Brennan: Would the hon. Gentleman care to remind us how many manufacturing jobs in Wales were lost in the first five years of the Conservative Government

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after 1979? Would he also care to confirm that, as we speak, unemployment in Wales is at its lowest for 25 years?

Mr. Evans: The hon. Gentleman reminds us of a time when the Labour party spoke regularly about manufacturing decline. Anyone listening to Labour Members' words during the period 1992 to 1997, when I was first elected, might just have thought that if a Labour Government had been elected in 1997, the rot, as it was called, would stop, and there would be an increase in manufacturing jobs.

Mr. Nick Ainger (West Carmarthen and South Pembrokeshire): The number of jobs in Wales has increased.

Mr. Evans: No. There has not been an increase in manufacturing jobs in Wales but a decline.

The hon. Gentleman should remember that the Labour Government are in power. We are looking to them to improve the manufacturing sector in Wales, but that simply has not happened.

I am talking about the service sector jobs at Swansea airport, and I hope that the Secretary of State will do his bit to ensure that that airport improves. That would be a great boost to west Wales, and I hope that it would open up parts of that area, which has had some difficult times because the decline in agriculture. Some 1.5 million passengers use Cardiff airport every year, but more could do so if the infrastructure—the roads from the airport to Cardiff—were better, so we also want improvements to take place there. However, manufacturing is the bread and butter of the Welsh economy, so I should like to refer to it.

Mr. Prisk Is my hon. Friend aware that, although manufacturing in Wales has already been in recession for one year, the Trades Union Congress today intends to publish the fact that it foresees no recovery in manufacturing in the coming year? Indeed, it does not foresee a recovery in manufacturing in Wales until the beginning of next year. So there will be two years of manufacturing recession under Labour.

Mr. Bill Wiggin (Leominster): That is the TUC's forecast.

Mr. Evans: As my hon. Friend suggests, that was said by the TUC—I thought it was a friend of the Labour Government. The fact is that my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Prisk) exposes some of the deep concerns that, surely, all hon. Members have about what is occurring. Indeed, a total of 300,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in the United Kingdom since 1997.

During the past 12 months, the House has rightly concentrated on the problems with steel and Corus. Hon. Members will remember the questions, debates and statements in the House that related to the job cuts at Corus just over a year ago. The chief executive, Sir Brian Moffat, said that action was needed because of the huge excess in capacity in its strip mills division. It was

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announced that 6,000 jobs were to go—3,000 of them in Wales. That was a devastating blow to an immensely skilled and productive work force and their families.

The Government said:

The Liberal Democrat, Richard Livsey, described Sir Brian as a butcher. Barry Jones, when a Member of Parliament, said that

He added:

The hon. Member for Monmouth referred to Sir Brian as "the silent assassin". People were being sacrificed, but the silent assassin—if that is what Sir Brian was—was assisted in his work by those in Downing street. The job losses were appalling. Llanwern, Shotton, Ebbw Vale, Bryngwyn all suffered losses in addition to the 3,000 job losses elsewhere.

On 28 March 2001, the Prime Minister said:

We now find that he was listening to someone else. Less than two months later, £125,000 was donated by an Indian steel magnate, Mr. Lakshmi Mittal, to the Labour party. His wife had previously supported the Labour party with a more modest £5,000 donation to the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz), but I am sure that the donation did not go unnoticed at Millbank. The £125,000 donation was received with thanks.

Mr. Mittal is a steel man and has been very successful, from 1976, when ISPAT Indo was established in Indonesia, to the purchases in Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico, Canada and Germany. In 1995, he moved his headquarters to London, with the expansion into Kazakhstan and Ireland continuing.

Dr. Julian Lewis: I am sure that my hon. Friend agrees that, unlike the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Wales is indeed a pretty straight kind of guy. Does he find it rather strange therefore that the Secretary of State told the House early this afternoon that this was all about helping a poor country such as Romania? If that is the case, why did not the arch spin doctor at No. 10 say so? Why did he instead try to pretend that Mr. Mittal's company was British?

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