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3. Angela Watkinson (Upminster) (Con): How many Welsh residents are held in English prisons. [155770]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Don Touhig): Information on a prisoner's place of residence prior to sentence or remand in custody is not held centrally.

At 30 November 2003, there were 1,580 prisoners in English prisons who had been committed or sentenced by courts in Wales.

Angela Watkinson : The Minister will appreciate the importance of family visits to prisoners serving custodial sentences as part of their rehabilitation and to prevent re-offending. Does he share my concern for those 1,580 prisoner families currently having to travel very long distances to make family visits? What plans are there to increase prison capacity in Wales?

Mr. Touhig: There are no prisons in mid and north Wales. Prisoners accommodated in England are probably closer to their homes than if they were in

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prisons in south Wales. There are currently about 2,400 places available in prisons in Wales. There are no plans to increase that number at present.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): If there were plans to extend accommodation by the building of new prisons, would my hon. Friend ensure that they were run by the public sector and not the private sector?

Mr. Touhig: Clearly, that is a matter for the Home Office, and I have no responsibility for it.

Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) (PC): As we are now in the period of the big conversation, will the Minister meet me briefly to have perhaps a medium-sized conversation about this subject? The truth is that at any given time 700 or 800 prisoners from north and mid-Wales are accommodated elsewhere. It is a human rights question. Given that the figures now stack up, and that the Prison Service has said that a prison is needed, may I meet him to describe precisely the views that people in north and mid-Wales seem to have on this issue?

Mr. Touhig: The Government continue to investigate options for providing further increases in capacity. I understand the hon. Gentleman's point, and I shall happily meet him at any time on it.

CAP Reform

4. Andrew George (St. Ives) (LD): What recent discussions he has had with Welsh Assembly Secretaries on common agricultural policy reform. [155771]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Don Touhig): My right hon. Friend has regular meetings with the First Secretary, and I meet the Assembly Secretary for Environment, Planning and Countryside to discuss a variety of issues. Indeed, we have a video conference planned for tomorrow.

Andrew George: I thank the Minister for that response, but is he aware of the impact of operating two agricultural support systems across the board? What assessment has he made of the potential market distortions, particularly on the Welsh border and also for cross-border farms? In his discussions with Welsh Assembly Secretaries, has he discussed how long the historic payments will be able to continue, because surely the transitional period must come to an end?

Mr. Touhig: My colleagues in the Welsh Assembly have undertaken a detailed analysis of the options, and the single farm payment is the one they have chosen. They believe that it is the right one, because it would certainly benefit the majority of farmers who have a large percentage of holdings right across Wales.

The issue of cross-border matters is not yet resolved. Discussions are going on between the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Ministers in the devolved Administrations. The Welsh Assembly's decision to go down the single payment route has been

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roundly welcomed by all the farming unions across Wales. I talked to farmers last week, and they certainly welcomed it.

Albert Owen (Ynys Môn) (Lab): At the heart of CAP reform is a fairer and more equitable distribution of prices and profits. What discussion has my hon. Friend had with his colleagues in DEFRA and the Welsh Assembly Government about the price consumers pay for milk and the price paid to farmers? The current balance means that there is very little investment in the farming industry in Wales, and the consumer is being ripped off.

Mr. Touhig: I understand my hon. Friend's point. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I travel around Wales, we often meet farmers and members of farmers' unions who complain about the price they are obtaining from the major suppliers—the supermarkets and so on. I understand that farmers' unions have been taking the issue up very strongly, and I know that my hon. Friend is also very concerned about it. We must keep the matter under review and make sure that farmers secure a good deal for the milk they produce.

Mr. Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire) (LD): The mid-term review goes on, but the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has failed to introduce the fallen stock scheme and has postponed the abolition of the over-30 month scheme. Will the Minister have discussions with his ministerial colleagues in DEFRA about those issues, because Welsh farmers cannot plan for the future?

Mr. Touhig: My impression is that farming in Wales is much more confident than it was a year ago—indeed, farm incomes are increasing. I take on board the point that the hon. Gentleman makes and, of course, I have ongoing discussions with my colleagues in the Assembly who have responsibility for those matters and my colleagues in DEFRA. The matters figure in our discussions at all times.

Digital Television

5. Mr. Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab): What discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues about the provision of digital television in Wales. [155772]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain): I have had regular discussions, because I am keen to see digital coverage right across Wales as soon as possible.

Mr. David : The Secretary of State will be aware that many people in south Wales, such as those in the Rhymney valley, for example, cannot get Channel 4, five or digital television. Will he do everything possible to make it absolutely certain that Wales will be one of the areas that switch to digital as quickly as possible?

Mr. Hain: I assure my hon. Friend that I join him in that objective because I am keen to see Wales become the first fully digital part of the United Kingdom.

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Indeed, Greg Dyke, the former director-general, suggested that to me, and we are taking the matter forward.

Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): The Labour First Minister, Rhodri Morgan, has asked the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

broadcasting, and Liberal Democrats agree. Will the Secretary of State commit himself to ensuring that the thousands of Welsh viewers who find themselves in that situation can sign up to the Solus card scheme so that they do not have to subscribe to private broadcasters such as Sky to access public service broadcasting?

Mr. Hain: The hon. Gentleman has a persuasive case to make, and I want digital television to be extended to his constituency as well. May I take this opportunity to thank him for his efforts in helping to defend the earth from attack from asteroids through the conference that he is organising? He is doing a great service for the House and the people of Great Britain.

Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): Is my right hon. Friend aware that in my constituency of Wrexham it is possible to access the BBC2W channel only by subscribing to Sky and Rupert Murdoch? Does he agree that that is a completely unacceptable state of affairs and that the BBC, as a matter of urgency, should supply digital television through an alternative source?

Mr. Hain: I know that the BBC wants to supply digital television through whatever sources it can to whoever they can get it to throughout Wales. I shall certainly ensure that the controller of BBC Wales is aware of my hon. Friend's concerns about that matter.


6. Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire) (Con): What action the Government are taking to help the farming industry in Wales. [155773]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Don Touhig): The UK Government, in partnership with the Welsh Assembly, which plays a crucial role, negotiate farming issues at EU level that will continue to encourage prosperity in the Welsh farming industry. The recent Welsh Assembly strategy to implement common agricultural policy reform is a positive result of the negotiations.

Andrew Selous : Farmers in Wales receive the lowest milk price in the European Union, with farm-gate prices having fallen from 26p per litre in 1996 to 18p per litre today. On top of that, the CAP reform that the Government negotiated will have an adverse effect on milk production. What is the Minister doing to ensure that Welsh dairy farmers receive a price for their milk that is greater than the cost of production?

Mr. Touhig: The decision to implement CAP reform in Wales has been widely welcomed throughout Wales by the farming community, the farming unions—the

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Farmers Union of Wales and the National Farmers Union—and the Country Landowners Association. Farming has had a difficult time over the past couple of years. The hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Wiggin) recently asked me questions about farm incomes, and I can tell him that they have gone up by £2,000 to more than £16,000 in the current year. That is not high enough, but the figure is moving in the right direction. When I had discussions at an agricultural college in Ruthin in north-east Wales last week, I was encouraged by the response of farmers and those who work in the industry about their future. There is growing encouragement. [Hon. Members: "What about milk?"] I shall come to milk—

Mr. Speaker: Order. May I stop the Minister? His answer has been too long.

Gareth Thomas (Clwyd, West) (Lab): My hon. Friend has already referred to the meeting that he had in my constituency last week at Llysfasi agricultural college. Incidentally, I hope that he enjoyed the rather splendid lunch that was offered. Does he recall the view of the experts present that the prospects for agriculture in Wales had improved greatly and that CAP reform negotiations were particularly good as far as Welsh farmers were concerned?

Mr. Touhig: Yes, I very much enjoyed the visit to the college and I had a splendid lunch. I thank my hon. Friend and the college staff for providing it; it was excellent. I certainly had a good visit to the first-class milking parlour at the college, and I was greatly encouraged by what I learned from those who operate the parlour. There is a good future for farmers working together in partnership with the Labour Government. As we all know, farmers do better under a Labour Government.

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