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National Emergencies

4. Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York): What discussions he has had with ministerial and National Assembly colleagues about contingency planning for national emergencies. [83070]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Peter Hain): I have regular meetings with ministerial and National Assembly colleagues in which we discuss a range of topics including contingency planning.

Miss McIntosh : I am delighted that the Secretary of State has found his place. Will he join me in expressing concern about who has responsibility in the event of a national emergency in Wales? The National Audit Office has said that the health service across Britain would struggle to cope. This place is responsible for security, defence and foreign policy. The First Minister is responsible for the side effects. Who is ultimately responsible?

Peter Hain: I should first acknowledge that the hon. Lady has the civil contingencies college in her constituency, which helps to train people to deal with national emergencies. The idea that the preparations for national emergencies—be they attacks by al-Qaeda or other threats—are not full and comprehensive is simply nonsense. At a time when we face the threat of attack, is the hon. Lady really suggesting that a time-consuming and costly wholesale reorganisation of Whitehall is the way forward, as the Conservatives have suggested? The truth is that the National Assembly and the Government are well prepared and ready to take on any threat, should it arise.

Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West): Will the Secretary of State bear in mind that the National Audit Office report that was just referred to revealed that, in England, there is incredible variability in the state of preparedness in the health service for a national emergency, particularly a terrorist attack? Will he draw the NAO report to the attention of our colleagues in Wales? Will he also ask them to ensure, given the restructuring that is going on in the health service in Wales, that we will still be able to maintain focused, co-ordinated preparations to protect the people of Wales?

Peter Hain: I am grateful for my right hon. Friend's question. I assure him that we have a United Kingdom national reserve stock of pharmaceuticals and equipment ready for rapid deployment in the event of any such attack. In Wales, there is a rapid response team to manage, for example, cases of smallpox, in the event of a biological attack being waged. The National Assembly has undoubtedly made preparations, but my right hon. Friend's point will be well taken.

Governmental Institutions

5. David Burnside (South Antrim): What assessment he has made of the democratic accountability of

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governmental institutions in Wales since the establishment of the National Assembly for Wales. [83071]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Peter Hain): The National Assembly for Wales has helped to make the Government of Wales more accountable to the people of Wales.

David Burnside : I am interested in the Secretary of State's comment that the Assembly has improved democratic accountability. Under this Government, the nation has gone through major constitutional change in three parts of the kingdom—Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland—with three different kinds of institution devolved to those three parts. Will the right hon. Gentleman enter into talks with his predecessor, now in the Northern Ireland Office, and pass on to him the benefits of the form of devolution in Wales—administrative devolution—which might be more appropriate for Northern Ireland than the present system, which has no collective Cabinet responsibility and a weak Committee system?

Peter Hain: No, I will not do that, because the different forms of devolution are tailored to the different needs of the different nations involved. The particular pattern of devolution that we have in Wales is Executive devolution, not legislative devolution. It has been working very well, and we are looking at ways of improving it all the time.

Denzil Davies (Llanelli): Does my right hon. Friend agree that, because Wales is the land of quangos, we have a particular problem with the lack of accountability of government institutions? Would he also agree that those who falsely promised, before the referendum, that there would be a bonfire of quangos, had no intention of honouring that promise once the referendum was won?

Peter Hain: I do not agree with my right hon. Friend. One advantage of the National Assembly, which I am sure he accepts, is that it can hold accountable all the different agencies that are answerable to it much more directly. Therefore, they can work more effectively for the people of Wales.

Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire): To what extent does that democratic accountability extend to involving leading Welsh language institutions such as the Nant Gwrtheyrn National Centre for Language and Culture in north Wales, which not only offers exceptional training in the language, but whose tutors and staff are well placed to provide guidance to Cardiff and Westminster Departments on Welsh-related matters?

Peter Hain: I take the hon. Gentleman's contribution with great interest, as I understand that he is a Welsh learner. I congratulate him on that—llongyfarchiadau.

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I very much support the Assembly's programme to extend support for the Welsh language, including an action plan announced only a week ago. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. The House is far too noisy.

Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent): The Secretary of State was one of the leading figures in the campaign for a XYes" vote in the referendum, but, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Denzil Davies) said, the commitment was not just to change the political complexion of the quangos, but to make a bonfire of them. If that was not a publicity stunt, will the Secretary of State explain why there are as many quangos as when the Welsh Assembly was set up? What discussions is he having with the First Minister, who seems equally at ease with a quango state as does the Secretary of State?

Peter Hain: First, although I shall not go into detail, I repeat the point that I made to my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli: the Assembly provides for all its agencies to be much more accountable to government in Wales than was possible when government was administered from here. The truth is that we have much more responsive and accountable government in Wales, which was not the case under the previous Conservative Government when quangos, whose membership was usually rigged, flourished.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley): I see that the Secretary of State is a Welsh learner and I wish him well in that. The fact is that the devolved system of government was voted for by a thin margin by the people of Wales, but if the Ivor Richard commission recommends further powers being transferred from Westminster to the Welsh Assembly, will the Secretary of State give the people another voice in another referendum?

Peter Hain: I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's comments on my Welsh learning ability—diolch yn fawr i chi. On the general question of increased powers, the Welsh Assembly is getting increased influence and powers as matters are devolved from here and fresh primary legislation is passed, such as that on the children's commissioner and the Health (Wales) Bill, which is going through the House. We shall await the outcome of the Richard commission and any debate on that before taking any decisions.

Bluestone Project

6. Mrs. Jackie Lawrence (Preseli Pembrokeshire): What discussions he has had with the Economic Development Secretary of the National Assembly concerning investment in the Bluestone project in west Wales. [83072]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Don Touhig): My right hon. Friend and I have regular discussions with the National Assembly's Economic Development Secretary on a range of issues, including the excellent news of Pembrokeshire's

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Bluestone project. I welcome the success of Team Wales, which is working together to deliver hundreds of jobs for the economy of west Wales.

Mrs. Lawrence : When I tabled my question, I expected to have to come here today to lobby for such investment, so that news is very welcome, as 600 much-needed full-time year-round jobs will be created in an area that depends heavily on the tourism industry. Does my hon. Friend agree that that is an example of how local indigenous business can come up with the goods and provide stable jobs when it is given the same investment as was previously reserved for inward investors?

Mr. Touhig: My hon. Friend is right. We are in an environment in which we are encouraging projects such as that in Narberth in her constituency. The £45 million of investment is most welcome and 600 year-round jobs will be provided. Indeed, the package, which involves £16.5 million, is the largest to be put together by Team Wales, which shows the commitment of the Government, our partners, the Labour-led National Assembly and the local authorities and others who are ensuring that the project is a success for west Wales.

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