Legislative Programme

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Mr. David: The hon. Gentleman did not answer my question.

Mr. Llwyd: The question was whether I condemn the leader of Caerphilly county borough council for agreeing to a PFI project, and my answer is no.

The Queen's Speech is an opportunity badly lost by new Labour.

12.4 pm

Mrs. Betty Williams (Conwy): I, too, congratulate you, Mr. Griffiths, on your elevation to Chairman.

We won our historic victory a few weeks ago and Labour achieved a second full term for the first time because the electors of Wales understood our programme. The choice was clear. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister noted in debate on the Queen's Speech that

    ``the British people decisively rejected the narrow nationalism and monomania of the Conservative party on Europe.''—[Official Report, 20 June 2001; Vol. 370, c. 55.]

Indeed they did, and my constituents endorsed that view with a further swing of 3.66 per cent. away from the Conservatives to me and the Labour party.

My constituents and others throughout north Wales also rejected the narrow nationalism represented by the Welsh National party, Plaid Cymru. I join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to the achievement of my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Mon (Albert Owen), who regained the island of Anglesey after 22 years in the clutches first of the Conservatives and then the nationalists. I am pleased that my hon. Friend is here today. We have been friends for years, and I know his strong feelings for and knowledge of his constituents. He follows in the footsteps of such eminent Labour Members as the late Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos and the late Lady Megan Lloyd George. I have no doubt that a Labour Member representing the interests of Ynys Mon again will greatly add to the House.

The priorities in the Queen's Speech are clear. Reform of public services in health, education, crime, enterprise and welfare is the key priority. I shall concentrate today on entrepreneurship and draw to the Committee's attention the pioneering work of the university of Wales, Bangor and its partners.

Many hon. Members will know that Bangor gained its Coleg ar y Bryn in the 19th century thanks to pennies collected through the chapels and house to house. Now it is a constituent college of the university of Wales and enjoys worldwide fame for its academic excellence. The university's mission is not only to maintain and develop that role in the international academic community, but to create and nurture a strong partnership with its regional community. The international academic standing that attracts world-leading researchers to Bangor benefits our local community and the economy of Wales. It informs high-quality student teaching and feeds through to the region's benefit in widening access to higher education and economic development.

Two examples of the university's contribution to the widening-access agenda are particularly relevant. First, the talent identification programme starts with pupils in year 9 in selected local schools. The university works with pupils identified by their teachers as having the ability to benefit from a university education but who, because of family background, are unlikely even to think of applying to go to university. The university works with them to boost their self-esteem and confidence, raise their ambitions and show them that university education could be for them. The programme has grown from a small start in 1998 and will next year involve more than 1,000 students from eight local schools.

The second highly significant development is the community university of North Wales. It brings university at Bangor into a close partnership with the North East Wales institute of higher education in Wrexham and the nine colleges of further education in north Wales, including Coleg Menai, based in Bangor in my constituency. The aim is simply to provide new opportunities for flexible part-time study for those in the region who, for whatever reason—geography, family, finance—have not had the opportunity to develop their full educational potential.

Last Saturday, I attended the launch in Bangor of a new part-time bachelor of arts degree in internet learning and organisations. The course recognises the crucial place of internet technology in business and other organisations. It is a distance-learning course that is substantially delivered through the internet.

The university at Bangor is already contributing to economic development, and I should like to mention two excellent examples. The first is the teaching company schemes. By now, it is generally accepted that one of the most effective ways of transferring research knowledge from a university to business and industry is through TCS partnerships, sponsored by the Department of Trade and Industry. In such a partnership, the university and the company work closely together on a development project that is of particular commercial interest to the company. I was present when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Margaret Beckett) visited the university for the recent signing of the 50th TCS partnership agreement. The network of partners now spreads over the whole of north Wales and beyond, and I believe that only two other universities in the United Kingdom have more partnerships than Bangor.

Secondly, the university is responding to the challenge of the European objective 1 initiative, which brings to the region many new opportunities for genuine and fundamental change to the economy. The university intends to provide all the support that it can and is involved in working up some 25 projects with various local partners. Early in the university's response was the establishment of the Centre for Enterprise and Regional Development under the leadership of Professor Dylan Jones-Evans. With objective 1 support, the centre is introducing e-MBAs to make management training available electronically to people working in small and medium enterprises so that it is not necessary for them to take time off work to attend courses. The training will include tourism, leisure, hospitality and heritage management, which are important areas of employment in our local economy that are currently short of management skills. The centre will also concentrate on developing entrepreneurial skills in the region. In parallel, a new initiative in the university is designed to raise awareness of entrepreneurial career opportunities among students and staff.

With the support of the Welsh Development Agency, the university established new chairs in computer science and opto-electronic materials chemistry. The two new professors, Ken Hawick and Stuart Irvine, are now leading the development of two major bids for objective 1 funding to establish centres for advanced software technology and for opto-electronic materials. Both centres will have a huge impact on the regional economy.

I have highlighted some of the work that is carried out at my local university in support of an entrepreneurial economy. The university is highly successful and recognised throughout the UK and beyond, and I am very proud of its achievements. Our ancestors who contributed their pennies more than 100 years ago invested wisely, and we should not forget that. The work in Bangor now goes hand in hand with Government plans for lifelong learning and entrepreneurship.

However, success in the region is marred by the occasional employer whose industrial relations practices have not changed since the start of the previous century. People in my constituency still talk about the tyranny experienced by their families at the hands of Lord Penrhyn. I am sorry to say that a company near Caernarfon today actively pursues similar practices. Friction Dynamics Ltd. is located in the Caernarfon constituency but affects many of my constituents.

I urge my hon. Friends to support early-day motion 40, which was tabled last week. The motion deplores the attitude and behaviour of the employer in the dispute at Friction Dynamics Ltd. in demanding, without negotiation, that the workers accept a change in their working conditions and take a cut of 15 per cent. in their pay, which has already been frozen for four years. It also rejects the employers' negative attitude to discussions with workers' representatives, held under the auspices of the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, and their most recent move to dismiss the workers involved in the legitimate dispute. It applauds the workers' reasonable attitude and their determination to pursue a just settlement, and calls on the employers to withdraw the dismissal notices and enter into meaningful negotiations forthwith. Such attitudes and behaviour on the part of employers is not acceptable to any reasonable person in this day and age.

Hywel Williams (Caernarfon): I thank the hon. Lady for supporting the early- day motion that I tabled last week. The strike at Friction Dynamics Ltd. is about not a demand for increased pay but an enforced 15 per cent. reduction in pay and an enforced change in working conditions. The workers have been out on strike for nine weeks and have in the past two weeks received dismissal notices—sent out when the owner of the factory, Mr. Smith, had left for the United States to attend to other business interests. I ask members of the Committee to add their name to my early-day motion so that we can be sure that the employer returns to meaningful discussions, under the auspices of ACAS, rather than pursuing his current line of behaviour.

Mrs. Williams: I thank the hon. Gentleman for repeating what I said. I reiterate that I urge my hon. Friends to consider signing the early-day motion.

The Government's agenda is about maintaining progress towards full employment. We wish to help business and enterprise flourish. Companies such as Friction Dynamics Ltd. will do so only if it changes and recognises that employees are assets to be cherished and not chattels to be abused at will. I look forward to the vigorous pursuance of Government policies on both sides of the House so that we can all enjoy the benefit of long-term social development, harmony and prosperity.

12.16 pm

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