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12 Mar 2003 : Column 312—continued

Prevention of Driving Under The Influence of Drugs (Road Traffic Amendment) Bill

Mr. Nick Hawkins accordingly presented a Bill to make it an offence to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of a controlled drug; to provide powers for police officers to undertake roadside drug tests on drivers; to provide that statistics of drug-related road accidents and deaths are collected and collated; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 4 July, and to be printed [Bill 72].

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Orders of the Day


Order for Second Reading read.

Question, That the Bill be now read a Second time, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 56 (Consolidated Fund Bills), and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Question, That the Bill be now read the Third time, put forthwith, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.

Welsh Affairs

[Relevant documents: The Third Report from the Welsh Affairs Committee, Session 2002–03, The Work of the Committee in 2002, HC 263, and the Minutes of Evidence taken before the Welsh Affairs Committee on 15th October 2002 [The Wales Office Departmental Report 2002], HC 1216, Session 2001–02.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Jim Fitzpatrick.]

1.47 pm

The Secretary of State for Wales (Peter Hain): May I say, Madam Deputy Speaker, how good it is to have a Welsh Deputy Speaker in the Chair for this debate?

Wales is raising its profile as never before—we have the first Welsh Archbishop of Canterbury for 1,000 years. It is hard to open a newspaper these days without reading about a Welsh celebrity or sports personality, whether it be Tom Jones or Catherine Zeta Jones, Ryan Giggs or Colin Jackson, Julian McDonald or Huw Edwards. Now even the manager of the Liverpool football team, the Frenchman Gérard Houllier, after his team won another trophy at Cardiff's millennium stadium, has joked that he might apply for Welsh nationality. He is a wise man—and that comes from me, a Chelsea fan.

There are people in Wales today who are at the top in all walks of life—doctors, scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs. I have met some of them in my first few months as Secretary of State, and I have been greatly impressed by their commitments, talents and confidence. They are world-class people, striving to create a world-class Wales. That is why we are determined that we should never go back to the time when a generation of young people in Wales were denied employment and hope by Tory economic mismanagement and ideological dogma. Never again will the Thatchers and the Redwoods tear up the jobs and public services that we cherish—although I see that the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) may be in line for a comeback. He was the most unpopular Secretary of State in history, and I hope that he is dispatched to Wales to campaign full time for the Conservatives, especially in Monmouth and the Vale of Glamorgan.

This has been a challenging year for the Welsh economy, with stagnant global trade and many of our trading partners in or near recession. However, there are more than 60,000 more people in employment in Wales than there were a year ago. That is a better record than

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in any other UK region. Levels of economic activity are increasing sharply, and the 2.8 per cent. rise over the past year is an equally welcome sign for a valleys MP like me, as economic inactivity there has been so high for so long. Unemployment in Wales has fallen to 5.2 per cent., the same level as the rest of the UK and lower than in countries such as the United States, Canada, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain. We are building on a base of economic stability and the lowest inflation, mortgage rates and unemployment for more than a generation; a base developed not by accident or by fluke, but by the process of taking tough and sometimes unpopular decisions about spending and by the maintenance of firm principles of fiscal and monetary discipline.

Our stable economic fortunes have delivered record levels of sustained investment in public services in Wales through the 2002 spending review. We have also brought forward new measures to encourage enterprise in deprived areas and spread prosperity throughout Wales. We are making work pay through measures such as the child and working tax credits, which could benefit 350,000 families in Wales, and the national minimum wage, benefiting 70,000 Welsh workers. Wales is a leader in broadband technology with the Assembly Government investing £115 million to spread broadband use across Wales and to help our companies secure the technological advantage necessary to succeed in the global marketplace.

The objective 1 programme, together with other European structural fund programmes in Wales, has attracted projects of more than £1 billion, regenerating the economy of west Wales and the valleys and creating an estimated 6,000-plus jobs so far.

Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion): The Secretary of State cannot get away with that. The 6,000 jobs created by the objective 1 programme include 800 jobs created at a call centre in Pembrokeshire that immediately disappeared. That is part of the picture as published by the National Assembly. Also, Wales is still at the bottom of the league in terms of broadband link-up. There is a lot of work to be done on broadband and job creation in Wales.

Peter Hain: The hon. Gentleman is wrong to say that the 6,000 jobs included those at the call centre. If he checks, he will find that that those jobs are not included. I hope that he will correct his researchers on that point. Of course there is a lot to do on broadband but, as I shall say, we are driving it forward. In parts of south Wales—especially south-east Wales—there is more broadband than anywhere else in Europe. He should be welcoming that and praising it. Broadband access has been spread out across Wales. It is interesting; the nationalists always demand more but never provide the funding. That is the politics not of government, but of opposition, where they will remain.

Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend): For ever.

Peter Hain: For ever, as my hon. Friend says so powerfully.

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More than 27,000 young unemployed people have found work through the new deal, with youth unemployment cut from 12,000 under the Tories to just 1,500. More than 12,500 people in Wales are benefiting from high-quality training through modern apprenticeships; over 50 per cent. more than under the Tories.

Gareth Thomas (Clwyd, West): Is my right hon. Friend aware that unemployment in my constituency has fallen by no less than 63 per cent. since 1997, a figure surpassed by the decrease in unemployment in the seat represented by the leader of the Welsh nationalists? Is that surprising?

Peter Hain: It has nothing to do with the MP in that constituency; it is to do with the Government's brilliant economic record. If we look at the constituencies of all Welsh MPs—those here and absent from the House this afternoon—we will find that unemployment has fallen dramatically during the last six years of Labour government.

Wales is at the cutting edge of industrial collaboration. Already there are 20 centres of excellence for technology and industrial collaboration throughout the nation. As an enthusiast for manufacturing, I particularly welcome the creation of the Welsh centre for manufacturing excellence, which will help 2,000 firms in its first three years. According to the purchasing managers index commissioned by the Royal Bank of Scotland in January, businesses in Wales continue to outperform the UK average in terms of securing new orders.

Welsh towns and cities have some of the fastest-growing companies in Britain; Newport, Cardiff and Swansea are among the cities with the highest proportion of firms growing by more than 25 per cent. a year. Cardiff is one of the fastest developing cities in Europe, proud of the contribution that it makes to the world of business and commerce yet with its sights firmly set on winning the European capital of culture 2008 with an excellent bid. The latest forecasts on farm incomes indicate some optimism and confidence returning to the industry, with a distinctive Welsh strategy for the long-term future of farming, centred on high-quality produce and economic, environmental and social sustainability.

We have an historic opportunity to develop a world-class Wales with a high-quality, highly skilled economy. The Assembly elections on 1 May will be a critical factor in whether we are able to grasp this opportunity. By choosing a world-class Wales, people will be rejecting once and for all the second-class Tory Wales of low wages, low skills, low aspirations and low achievements. We have a significant advantage, in that the partnership principle works much better in the Welsh economy than in any other part of Britain. We must build on this; not just in relation to obvious examples of co-operative endeavour like Tower colliery, but with a firm acceptance that the best companies are those that work in partnership with employees to achieve the highest standards. The Wales TUC has always been a strong partner in economic development in Wales and both the TUC and the CBI Wales have responded positively to the opportunities presented by devolution. For

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example, they recently presented a joint report to the Assembly on priorities for raising skills and improving productivity.

The "team Wales" approach, bringing together all the key agencies, is a primary reason why inward investors have found Wales such an attractive place to locate. It is why companies based in Wales, like British Aerospace at Broughton, General Dynamics at Oakdale and the Ford motor company at Bridgend are succeeding in world markets and are at the forefront of technological development. All have recently made big new investments; all big votes of confidence in a Wales that is fighting off intense international competition.

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