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Mr. Wiggin: This is very interesting. Let me quote what the Secretary of State said about the chief constable of North Wales police. On the BBC's "Question Time", he rejected Brunstrom's view on the sale of heroin. He said:
Mr. Hain: The hon. Gentleman has had a letter from the chief constable of North Wales police about an allegation that he originally made across the Dispatch Box on the Floor of the House. The chief constable has asked him to withdraw his allegations, and the misleading impression and erroneous picture that he presented. The chief constable deserves a reply, as does the House, because the hon. Gentleman made those allegations at the Dispatch Box. I remind him that the subject was not heroin, but crime statistics.
Mr. Wiggin: I have written back to the chief constable, but I do not see how any Member of the House should be denied from quoting the written answer that he gets in reply to a question to the Home Office. How can a Member of the House be expected to withdraw statistics given to him by the Government? It is therefore impossible for me to withdraw, and I do not recall that the chief constable of North Wales police asked me to do so. He made those comments that the Secretary of State quoted, but I do not believe that it is possible to withdraw Home Office statistics. However much the Secretary of State would like it to be otherwise, the fact remains that overall crime in Wales has risen by 21 per cent., with a 20 per cent. rise in north Wales. That is what the Home Office is telling everybody, and that is what I am telling the Secretary of State. It is no good his asking me to withdraw that, because I cannot undo the crime. If I could, I would. I cannot deny that crime has gone up.
Mr. Wiggin: It is absolutely ridiculous to try to spin the chief constable's letter in that way. If crime is going up, I will not try to mislead people in Wales. The Secretary of State should not even suggest that the chief constable is right on that. Of course we should not be putting fear into people's minds, but neither should we be denying it when things are going wrong. The Secretary of State is very much out of order in suggesting that anyone should deny the facts, given that in a parliamentary answer
Mr. Wiggin: That is important, because there is now a difference in the way in which crime statistics are recorded, which the Government have implemented. That is why I chose carefully the crime statistics from 200102 to 200203.
Mr. Wiggin: It is not, because those are the statistics drawn up after the change that the Government made to the way in which they are recorded. If the chief constable of North Wales police does not like the way in which the facts are put out, he should complain to the Government who changed that, not complain about people reading them out, as I did. He should complain not about the facts, but about the Government who make the rules change.
I should like to go on about the way in which the chief constable of North Wales police has behaved. That letter was unworthy of him. He should spend more time pursuing criminals rather than pursuing politicians.
Mr. Wiggin: No matter how much Labour Members might like to portray me as a criminal, at this stage I am not[Interruption.] Well, I shall not be visiting north Wales and breaking the speed limit, that is for sure.
On education in Wales, testing for schoolchildren in English and maths at key stage 1 was abolished in 2002. Recently, the Welsh Assembly review group on the national curriculum recommended that key stages 2 and 3 be phased out, leaving only one formal set of tests for children before their GCSEs. We believe that the tests should be retained. Testing at 11 and 14 is important, provided that the tests are conducted properly, because they highlight schools that are not meeting required standards. It is not a case of naming and shaming schools, but if a school is failing, its pupils will fail. That must be put right. If there is only one set of formal examinations before the age of 16, there are not enough chances to put that right.
Education funding in Wales is in crisis. There was shock and anger in mid-Wales at the beginning of this year when it was announced that there would be a 2 per cent. cut in the education budgetwhich amounts to £1 millionto make savings across the board. However, there will still be a 9.5 per cent. increase in the Powys council tax.
Instead of dealing with failure to meet targets at key stages 3 and 4, the Labour Members of the Welsh Assembly have been busying themselves with free school breakfasts. Dr. Chris Howard of the teaching union NAHT Cymru has aptly labelled the Assembly Government's scheme a "dog's dinner". Teachers are dedicated and committed, but cannot perform to the best of their ability because of a system that hinders, rather than helps, them. Parents should be able to decide which school would provide their child with the best education. Every parent has the right to expect that their child will fulfil their potential, but for that, we need an
The Secretary of State persistently emphasises the higher employment figures. In the past year there has been a welcome increase of 61,000 in the number of jobs, which has taken the Welsh employment rate to 72.1 per cent. Such increases, however, must always be weighed against the fact that the employment rate still lags behind the UK average of 74.5 per cent. It is also important to remember that 45 per cent. of jobs created since 1997 are in the public sector, funded by the taxpayer, although the public sector accounts for only 22.2 per cent. of employment. That is unsustainable unless the Government revise their strategy on the private sector. Increasing the number of taxpayer-funded jobs cannot help to sustain a more competitive economy.
It has been estimated that 10,000 call centre jobs will be lost in Wales. Currently 24,000 such jobs contribute £400 million to the Welsh economy. The expected loss will have a substantial impact not only on the lives of the 10,000 made redundantlet us not forget thembut on an important sector of the Welsh economy. While I differ from the Secretary of State's view that the Welsh economy will benefit from the loss of 10,000 jobs, I hope that he will stick to his later, contradictory, statement that he would fight for every call centre job in Wales.