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30 Oct 2002 : Column 864Wcontinued
Mr. Touhig: My right Hon. Friend the Secretary of State will continue to meet regularly with the National Assembly of Wales Health and Social Services Minister to discuss a range of issues, including the NHS in Wales.
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I know that the Assembly is looking at a range of options for satisfying this demand. Their objective is to find a long-term solution which is economically viable, as well as being environmentally acceptable.
Peter Hain: My predecessor met regularly with Cabinet colleagues, including the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to discuss a wide range of issues, including small businesses and I will of course continue to do so.
Small and medium-sized enterprises account for over 99 per cent. of all businesses in Wales and are therefore crucial to the economic success of Wales. A number of measures in the Chancellor's budget will make a significant contribution to supporting small businesses in Wales. 6,000 Welsh SMEs will benefit from the corporation tax starting rate cut from 10 per cent. to zero and a further 13,000 will be helped by the 1 per cent. reduction in the small companies' rate. In addition, thousands of Welsh SMEs will benefit from measures to simplify their VAT.
However, based on the non census adjusted figures for both Wales and the UK, there is evidence that we are closing the traditional gap between Welsh unemployment and UK unemployment. Welsh unemployment, at 5.3 per cent., is now barely higher than the comparable UK rate of 5.2 per cent.
Based on non-census adjusted figures for both Wales and the UK, there is evidence that we are closing the traditional gap between Welsh unemployment and UK unemployment. Welsh unemployment, at 5.3 per cent., is now barely higher than the comparable UK rate of 5.2 per cent.
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Employment measures such as the New Deal have been a huge success in Wales and are having an impact on long-term unemployment. In total, some 6,300 long-term unemployed people in Wales have secured sustained jobs through New Deal between the start of the New Deal 25+ programme in July 1998 and June 2002, when the most recent figures were published.
19. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what discussions he has had with the First Secretary of the National Assembly for Wales regarding the creation in Cardiff of a gallery for contemporary Welsh artists. 
On 19 June, the National Museums and Galleries of Wales published a consultation paper, 'Views of the Future', setting out options for displaying the nation's art collection, including the work of contemporary Welsh artists.
Mr. Touhig: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I will continue to meet the National Assembly First Minister and Health Minister regularly to discuss a range of issues including the length of waiting lists.
I know that the Assembly and Welsh Trusts are working on a range of initiatives to tackle waiting lists, including recruitment and retention plans and the appointment of out-patient managers to manage booking arrangements for patients attending clinics.
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taking place between his Department, other Whitehall departments and the Wales Assembly to combat drug abuse and drug-related crime. 
Mr. Touhig: The UK Government, both the Wales Office and other Whitehall Departments, are committed to working with the National Assembly for Wales to tackle drug abuse and drug-related crime in Wales; I have regular meetings with my Ministerial colleagues, both in Whitehall and in the Assembly, to discuss these issues.
The National Assembly has developed its own strategy for tackling substance misuse: "Tackling Substance Misuse: A Partnership Approach". This strategy focuses on the problems in Wales and has Welsh solutions. This is one of the strengths of devolution: it enables the unique situations in Wales to be addressed by solutions that are tailor made for our communities.
In addition, the UK Government, working in conjunction with the National Assembly, is working to tackle the underlying causes of social deprivation. People in more affluent areas have better opportunities and life choices than people in deprived areas, who may turn to drugs as a means of escaping from their lifestyles.
24. Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how often has (a) he and (b) his Under-Secretary attended meetings of the (i) Agriculture, (ii) Justice and Home Affairs, (iii) Environment and (iv) Transport Councils of Ministers in (a) 2000 and (b) 2001; and if he will make a statement. 
Clearly there is a limit to the number of people who can participate in any one delegation. Where council meetings cover issues of particular interest to the devolved administrations, the priority must be to accommodate Ministers from the devolved Administrations wherever possible.
25. Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what discussions he has had with the National Assembly Government First Secretary and other Government colleagues concerning the pension situation of Welsh steel workers. 
Peter Hain : My predecessor had regular meetings with Cabinet colleagues and the First Minister of the National Assembly for Wales and discussed a range of issues including steelworkers pensions. I will of course continue to take a close interest and this will include discussions with stakeholders.
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The issue of ASW workers' pensions was also raised at Welsh Affairs Committee on 15 October 2002, at which my predecessor participated. The Government is trying to address the issue of security for pension scheme members and will consider this in the forthcoming Green Paper.
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