Previous SectionIndexHome Page

12 Mar 2003 : Column 355—continued

Mr. Llwyd: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman has been here a long while, but evidently does not understand much about how this

12 Mar 2003 : Column 356

place works. If he is going to attack my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarfon (Hywel Williams), should he not have given notice of that?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: It would certainly be in accordance with the conventions and etiquette of the House to give notice in advance if sharp, critical comments are to be made about another Member. No doubt, the hon. Member for Clwyd, South (Mr. Jones) will consider his remarks in the light of that ruling.

Mr. Jones: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for that ruling. I did not think I was making sharp comments about the hon. Member for Caernarfon; I was defending my position on the matter. The hon. Gentleman was in his place but left as I got up to speak, so I am embarrassed by his absence rather than by the fact that I was raising the matter. I had assumed that he would be here, but he has left the Chamber. I apologise for the fact that he did not know that I was about to mention him in my speech, but it is difficult for me to anticipate his movements.

I was trying to point out that the reluctance of inward investors to put their money into north Wales had nothing to do with accents, but more to do with extremist members of Plaid Cymru and others—I do not include the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) in this—who espouse anti-incomer and anti-English views to their economic detriment.

Mr. Simon Thomas: The hon. Gentleman said that he was not present for the opening speeches. Had he been present, he would have heard me intervene on the Secretary of State to point out that an independent review by the GMB judged the Plaid Cymru-controlled authority of Gwynedd, which I think is the area to which he is referring, as having the third or second best rate of economic development in the country. His calumnious words have no basis in fact whatsoever. He should know that a new call centre has just opened in Caernarfon selling books throughout the United Kingdom.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. We might try to steer the debate into calmer waters. Mr. Speaker accepted what the hon. Member for Clwyd, South (Mr. Jones) told him about needing to be absent. Considering the hon. Gentleman's seniority and role in Welsh affairs, it was perfectly proper to call him at the time that he was called. He has said nothing in reference to hon. Members that I judged to be out of order, although I always appeal for moderation of language at any time.

Mr. Jones: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I find the intervention by the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas) rather strange. I was making the point that in my Westminster Hall debate, the hon. Member for Caernarfon did not acknowledge that there was a huge upturn in economic activity—in fact, he did precisely the opposite. I am sorry that he is not present, but he did not even acknowledge what the hon. Member for Ceredigion just confirmed. There has been a huge amount of economic investment, but it happened under the Labour Government. It was churlish of the hon. Member for Caernarfon not to do that because the debate was about economic development and unemployment in Wales.

12 Mar 2003 : Column 357

Youth unemployment in Caernarfon has gone down by 89 per cent. Caernarfon has done better than my constituency, which has experienced a reduction of 85 per cent. Caernarfon's overall unemployment rate has gone down by 43 per cent., which is better than that of my constituency, which has gone down by 31 per cent. However, the hon. Member for Caernarfon implied that that was not good enough. He must accept that we have a right to find out why he thinks that things could be better.

Mrs. Lawrence: What does my hon. Friend think about Plaid Cymru's alternative budget, published on 11 April 2002? It proposes abolishing the upper limit for national insurance contributions, restricting personal allowances to the standard rate, introducing a new 50 per cent. top rate on taxable income, and increasing the basic rate of income tax. Does he think that that will assist economic development in Wales generally?

Mr. Jones: Obviously I do not think that it would, but the document implies that Plaid Cymru would tax the rest of the UK just to fund investment in Wales. Given the party's separatist agenda of splitting Wales from the UK, I doubt whether the UK Government would allow the input of £13 billion from the Exchequer to Wales. Plaid Cymru Members would spend their time better by persuading those in their back yards to let go of the 1930s attitude of the founder of Welsh nationalism, Saunders Lewis. He hated the English-speaking people of these islands and had regular contact with Mussolini.

Paul Flynn: Having been taught by Saunders Lewis—I think that I am one of the few people in the House who knew him—I recognise him as one of the greatest literary figures in Wales. He was a man of genius and vision, and such slurs are cheap and unworthy of my hon. Friend.

Mr. Jones: I was talking not about Saunders Lewis's literary abilities but about his contact with nationalist movements in Europe. That has nothing to do with his writing, which I am sure is very good.

On the antics of the nationalists, a headline in The Sunday Times of 2 March screamed at readers, "Rail union plans to ditch Labour and fund Plaid Cymru". The article went on to say:

I shall not read it all because the story turned out to be absolute rubbish. I asked my office to contact the RMT last week about its intention to

The reply was most interesting. My office was told unequivocally:

Albert Owen: Will my hon. Friend give way on that point?

Mr. Jones: I am afraid that I cannot, as I am about to be cut off.

12 Mar 2003 : Column 358

If the nationalists are mounting a charm offensive on the unions, they should not tell untruths about senior union leaders, especially two weeks before such leaders are due to speak at their conference at their invitation. If the nationalists wants to be seen as donning the mantle of the people's party in Wales, they clearly have a great deal to learn.

4.30 pm

Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion): I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Clwyd, South (Mr. Jones), Chairman of the Welsh Affairs Committee. I am sure that he would be delighted to attend our conference on Saturday in Llangollen in his constituency, where he would hear for himself the words of the RMT leader, who could explain exactly his views on the future funding of the Labour party.

Mr. Martyn Jones: I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman so early in his speech. I am grateful to him for telling me that, because neither he nor any of his hon. Friends had told me that they were going to my constituency on that day. If he issues an invitation and he tells me where, I shall be delighted to welcome him to my constituency.

Mr. Thomas: That was an invitation. I should be delighted to welcome the hon. Gentleman to the conference—despite the fact that that part of Llangollen will be Plaid Cymru territory for a short period. I am sure that he recognises that before Saturday there are still several days in which right hon. and hon. Members could have given him notice of their presence in the town.

I am delighted to follow the hon. Gentleman not because of what he said, most of which was absolute rubbish, but because I want to talk about a feature of the work of the Welsh Affairs Committee. Hon. Members who have served in this House much longer than I—possibly including the hon. Gentleman—will remember that about 10 years ago the Committee conducted an investigation into planning policy in Ceredigion. As a result, for the past seven or eight years, planning decisions that are out of line with the county of Ceredigion's local plan have been referred latterly to the Welsh Assembly and previously to the Secretary of State. That is in recognition of Ceredigion county council's failure to uphold planning policy and to act in accordance with planning guidelines. In the next few minutes, I shall explain to the House that the situation has not improved since the Committee's report. Indeed, it is about to worsen considerably.

The collusion cabinet in Ceredigion—I would not call it a coalition—led by the independents but, unfortunately, supported by the Liberal Democrats has just produced a unitary development plan for the county that utterly fails to take into account the county's needs and the views expressed by its residents. We have had a draft version and then a deposited version of the plan, to which about 10,000 objections were made. The independents and the Liberal Democrats who try to run Ceredigion county council have failed to accept any of those objections and have pressed on regardless with a unitary development plan that the vast majority of residents hold in contempt.

12 Mar 2003 : Column 359

It is worth hon. Members hearing a little of the reasoning—mine, at least—behind why those councillors are prepared to continue with a development plan that is so unacceptable to the people of Ceredigion.

Next Section

IndexHome Page