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Mr. Wiggin: I think that we all agree that that is nonsense.

It is finally clear that more regulations from Whitehall or Cardiff will not reduce the length of time that people must wait for treatment. Since the Assembly took over responsibility for health in Wales in 1999, waiting lists have escalated rapidly. Overall, 307,608 people are on a waiting list for treatment, 40,000 of whom have waited over 12 months, and 14,815 people in Wales have been waiting over 18 months. The divide with services across the border—Welsh people are disadvantaged simply because they live in Wales—is unacceptable. How can the Labour Government in Wales have got it so wrong? How can this be allowed to happen and continue?

Only by trusting the people, both patients and professionals, can we reverse that trend. At the moment, the state runs health care in Britain, but we want that control to pass to patients. Even under this Government, there are proposals that will deliver real

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improvements to health in Wales. However, what is needed, and what the Conservatives will undertake, is the removal of the mass of regulations so that patients are allowed to make the choices that will determine where and when they go to hospital. We will give patients a passport to health that will provide that freedom of choice and control, as well as allowing the medical profession more flexibility and freedom in handling the individual requirements of a modern population.

Albert Owen: On health passports, can the hon. Gentleman explain to people in my constituency who are on fixed incomes how far they would have to travel and how much of their own money they would have to put towards those passports?

Mr. Wiggin: One of the dangers of this is that people misunderstand the fact that having extra freedom does not mean that they have to use it. People would not lose anything. If they decided that they did not want to change—[Interruption.] I am trying to respond to the hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Albert Owen). If they wanted to travel further, they would be free to do so—they cannot at the moment—but if they chose not to take advantage of that, they would not have to. This is about giving extra freedoms, not taking things away. I think that the hon. Gentleman's constituents would agree that he should support that.

Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): Is that the same as the freedom for everyone to send their child to Eton?

Mr. Wiggin: I do not believe that it has ever been illegal to send one's child to Eton. The hon. Gentlemen's intervention is extraordinary—clearly, he did not go there.

Welsh Conservatives recently announced their five-point plan to rescue the Welsh NHS from its relentless decline. They will channel money directly to NHS trusts, with a fundamental review of NHS structures; reduce bureaucracy in the Health Minister's Department; encourage and reward NHS trusts that meet targets and tackle financial deficits; use spare capacity at NHS and private hospitals in England and hospitals abroad to reduce waiting lists; and make better use of the private finance initiative for a programme of hospital building.

People want to become doctors and nurses because they believe in caring for others. We have first-class professionals who want to respond to the needs of the patient but are unable to do so because they are operating within a second-class system as Ministers' targets, bureaucracy and directives unnecessarily take away their freedom to deliver quality care. That must change. Something must be done quickly for the health service to deliver quality medical care for the people of Wales. At the current rate, the total number of people on waiting lists in Wales will hit 0.5 million in six years and 1 million by 2024.

Waiting lists are not the only measure of Labour's health care failure in Wales. For example, 4,802 patients were left for more than 12 hours in accident and emergency between October 2002 and September 2003, compared with 1,517 the year before. Of the 10 UK health authorities with the worst health care records, six

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are in Wales. That means that the proportion of people in Wales who are too ill to work is 23.37 per cent.; in England, it is 17.93 per cent.

The repair bill for NHS buildings in Wales stands at more than £465 million—a figure that has risen by £147 million since 1999. The Labour Assembly Government's pledge to spend £550 million on modernising GP surgeries and hospitals will not even cover that growing backlog of repair costs. Jane Hutt may want to tackle waiting lists more than anybody else, but it is not her good intentions that count. Her good intentions to tackle certain diseases, increase bureaucracy and set up 96 administrative groups are making the lives of many people in Wales worse because they have no control over health treatment.

Mrs. Betty Williams (Conwy) (Lab): Assuming that the hon. Gentleman's facts and figures are entirely accurate, does he recognise that the Assembly has a good record in terms of its orthopaedic initiative? When that started in 2001, more than 2,000 people waited for more than 18 months—now, only 15 do so.

Mr. Wiggin: I am delighted to hear that a waiting list has fallen, but the sad thing is that they are not all falling. When we consider what is best for the people of Wales, as we should in the debate in honour of St. David's day, we should look at all the waiting lists—cherry-picking one good statistic is not the right way to sell the benefits of Jane Hutt. I am citing the statistics for the whole of Wales. I am grateful to the hon. Lady for drawing attention to that, because I should point out that they are all taken from parliamentary answers to the Wales Office or the Department of Health.

It is the consequences of Labour politicians' actions, not their intentions, that matter. It is important that control should be passed to patients, giving them the opportunity to choose where and when they are treated.

There has been a huge escalation in crime in Wales. However, because of the changes in crime recording practices, it is difficult, but not impossible, to assess Labour's record on crime since 1997 without the police whining, as did the north Wales chief constable, that it is unfair. Those changes were down to further Whitehall interference. However, because three out of four of the Welsh police forces introduced the national crime recording standard prior to its official introduction on 1 April 2002, we have one year where we can compare crime statistics without causing confusion or being accused of being misleading or unfair. According to the Home Office, during the past year, overall crime in Wales has risen by 21 per cent., with a 20 per cent. rise in north Wales and a 22 per cent. increase in south Wales. Over the past year, throughout Wales there was a 44 per cent. increase in violent crime; in north Wales, the increase was 52 per cent. Violent crime has risen almost twice as fast in Wales as in Greater Manchester or London.

In addition to those increases in crime, Cardiff prison is recorded as overcrowded and exceeding its maximum capacity, and 1,580 Welsh prisoners are in English prisons because there is not enough prison capacity in Wales. Despite that, the Home Office wrote to me in answer to a parliamentary question saying that there are no plans to build any more prisons in Wales, but that

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accommodation requirements will be kept under review. Clearly, accommodation requirements for Welsh prisoners are far exceeding capacity. Bearing in mind the importance of families in preventing reoffending, there should be plans to build more prisons in Wales so that families do not have so far to travel.

Mr. Hain: On the hon. Gentleman's points about crime, he will know that the chief constable of North Wales police wrote to him challenging in the strongest terms the statement that he made at Welsh questions last month. The chief constable wrote:

He went on:

Will he apologise to the chief constable of North Wales police?

Mr. Wiggin: Is the Secretary of State seriously suggesting that if crime statistics are going up we should tell lies about it? I will not do that. Is he also suggesting that the chief constable of North Wales police was happily reading Hansard, or can he confirm whether he encouraged him to see the statistics to which I referred? [Hon. Members: "Withdraw."] I cannot withdraw, because I have not had a reply from the Secretary of Sate. Can he also say whether we should ignore facts that are produced by the Home Office?

Mr. Hain: The hon. Gentleman should withdraw that statement, because the letter from the chief constable of North Wales police arrived unsolicited to him, and was copied to me and no doubt to others who are interested. I put it to him directly: will he apologise to the chief constable of North Wales police? What is his reply in relation to providing a misleading impression through erroneous statistics, as the chief constable said? In fact, there has been progress on all recorded crime for north Wales—it is 4.4 per cent. down. Recorded burglary of dwellings is 15.9 per cent. down, recorded violent crime is 4.5 per cent. down, and recorded vehicle crime is 5 per cent. down. Those are the figures that are provided, and he ought to apologise to the chief constable and the people of north Wales.

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