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Mrs. Betty Williams: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hayes: Because I have been so harsh on the hon. Lady and she is so charming, I happily give way.

Mrs. Williams: I said that there were some misperceptions among the public about crime detection in north Wales.

Mr. Hayes: I understood the hon. Lady but the British crime survey is a reflection of perceptions about crime.

The Library informs me that in 1998–99 to 2001–02, before the method of reporting was changed, violence against the person in Wales rose 13.7 per cent, and that, in those same years, robbery rose 20.8 per cent.

The truth is that the picture is, of course, mixed. However, before the method of reporting crime changed, there were significant rises in crime in critical areas. They damaged people's lives, and it is no wonder that people are fearful about crime. In Wales, the number of special constables has fallen, just as it has fallen in the rest of the kingdom under this Government.

On farming, I was pleased to hear what the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Mr. Williams) had to say. He is always a doughty defender of farmers' interests, and he spoke with great authority on a subject to which other hon. Members contributed.

Farmers have suffered a dreadful plight since this Government came to power in 1997. Last year, 700 jobs in Welsh farming were lost. The National Farmers

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Union has said that the average income on Welsh farms in January 2003 amounted to little over £9,000. The situation was much worse for the many farmers who fall below that average. Other problems include bovine tuberculosis and the plight of the dairy industry. The Government pretend that they will deal with those matters through reforms to the common agricultural policy, but that cannot be done.

In summary, I say that although the Government are spending in Wales, they are also spinning, squandering and failing there. As Aneurin Bevan said, we do not need to look at the crystal ball when we have the record book. The Government's record book is a sad one—sad for the people of Wales, for the Welsh Members, who, I acknowledge, represent their constituents honestly, and for the kingdom. On this St. David's day debate, I hope that all hon. Members will stand up for the people of Wales and, to a man and woman, condemn the Government and this part-time Secretary of State.

5.51 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Don Touhig): Once again we have had an excellent and wide-ranging debate. Geraldus Cambrensis—Gerald of Wales—wrote of the Welsh in 1183 that

Clearly, there are some ornaments among the Opposition Members who have taken part in today's debate, which reminded me of those words.

The greatest Welshman in history was, of course, Aneurin Bevan. He spoke in the very first Welsh day debate here in 1944, and talked of the great problems facing Wales at that time . He said:

What he said was right then, and would have been right during those 18 dark years of Tory rule. But Nye Bevan would see a different Wales today. The story that emerges from the speeches made by Labour colleagues in this debate shows that, under a Labour Government, Wales is changing for the better.

Unemployment used to be the blight on our communities, and it was once described by the Tories as price worth paying. While this Government have been in office, it has fallen to 41,000, from 168,000 under the Conservatives. We are tackling the problem of unemployment in Wales. That does not mean that jobs have not been lost. Of course that has happened, but we are also working together to ensure that we bring new, quality jobs to the people of Wales.

It is not just in our economy that is doing well. There is a greater confidence in Wales, and the BBC presenter John Humphreys said recently:

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That confidence in the people of Wales stands in stark contrast to the whingeing, carping tale of doom and gloom being spun by Opposition parties.

We have heard today of the work of the Welsh Affairs Committee, and I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, South (Mr. Jones) and the work of the Committee in the past year.

The Queen's Speech this year was good for Wales. Not only did it contain the Public Audit (Wales) Bill, there was also the Fire and Rescue Services Bill and the Higher Education Bill, both of which will have important Welsh clauses. Other Bills with important implications for Wales include the Children's Bill, the Civil Contingencies Bill, the Housing Bill, the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill and the Traffic Management Bill. Two draft Bills, the Charities Bill and the Transport Bill, are also important for Wales.

All of those measures bear testimony to this Government's commitment to devolution and to giving the Assembly in Cardiff the opportunity to produce policies best tailored to Wales. I do not doubt they will be vigorously debated by hon. Members in this House.

The hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Wiggin) spoke at length, and he was entertaining. I commend his website to my hon. Friends, which shows him posing with Labour Ministers—he also finds room for pictures of his hairdresser and of the owner of his local Indian restaurant. However, his website does not include any pictures of members of the shadow Cabinet—he has impeccable taste and has gone up in my estimation as a result. A speech by the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox), the Conservative party chairman, calling for a return to the values of Thatcherism was on his website until recently. In Wales, we know about the values of Thatcherism: the Conservatives closed 70 hospitals and 271 pits, decimated communities and put thousands of Welsh people on the dole.

The hon. Gentleman discussed the NHS and said that he wants greater power for patients. He wants patients to have the power to start paying for the NHS, which would happen if the Tories were to return to power. The patients' passport would mean that patients would pay £1,900 for a cataract removal, £4,600 for a hip replacement, £5,700 for a knee replacement and £8,500 for a heart bypass. He discussed waiting times but ignored yesterday's figures, which show an across-the-board improvement on waiting times.

The hon. Gentleman discussed crime, but after the letter from the chief constable of North Wales, no one can take him seriously. His suggestion that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales prompted the chief constable to write that letter is a slur, a disgrace, and unworthy of a Front-Bench spokesman. It should be withdrawn.

The hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) made an excellent contribution. Whether or not we agree with him, he was forthright about the Richard commission and the chief constable of North Wales. We enjoy his contributions, and he is missed from the position that he used to occupy on the Conservative Front Bench.

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I shall move from the diffident Tories to our own daffodil Tories. Robert Kennedy said:

Time after time, the Welsh nationalists prove that he was right. The hon. Member for Caernarfon (Hywel Williams) made an important point—he asked questions about it a while ago—about affordable housing in his constituency. There are around 15,500 second homes in Wales, which comprises less than 1.5 per cent. of the housing stock, and the figure is declining overall. He discussed how the Chancellor's Budget proposals will affect pensions and holiday homes. The important point is that if a member of a small, self-directed pension scheme were to use its funds to buy a holiday home for their own use or for the use of their families, they would be subject to a tax charge and would not benefit.

The Liberal Democrats managed to dredge up a few points that they have not already e-mailed to the Labour party. Once again, they proved that it is not only their asteroid policy that is focused on outer space. They have given us promise after promise after promise, which proves that their commitment to the environment is consistent—the extra money that they have pledged has been recycled time after time.

The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik) is a constitutional anorak, spending 10 minutes of his time discussing the Labour party's excellent debate on the Richard commission. I advise him to wait until the Richard commission reports.

The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Mr. Williams) raised an important matter. I regret that I have not received the note that he planned to send to me; as soon as I receive it, I shall get in touch with him.

A number of my hon. Friends made important comments, and I am sorry that I cannot address all of them in my response.

We have come a long way since the first Welsh day debate in 1944. The story of Wales in that 60 years is a tale of ups and downs—ups under Labour and downs under the Conservatives. Today, I see a confident partnership in Wales between Labour working in Government in Westminster and Labour working in partnership in the Assembly. Time and again, the people of Wales have been presented with a choice between Labour representatives, Tories, the nationalists, who would isolate us, or Liberal Democrats, and the important point is that they choose Labour. The story of Wales as a nation of success, prosperity, and social justice is a Labour story delivered by Labour Governments and supported by Labour Assembly Members and Labour Members of Parliament. We have a good record, and when we go before the people of Wales in a couple of months' time in the European and local council elections, they will give Labour a resounding vote of confidence once again.

It being Six o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

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