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The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain): I have regular discussions with Cabinet colleagues. The Government's new deal has helped to reduce unemployment in Wales, with more than 70,000 people finding work through the programme.
Mrs. Lawrence: I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree that there is no better example of the successful way in which Wales is working than the take-up of the new deal for lone parents? Will he tell the House what he feels the impact would be of the Tories' plans to scrap the new deal, particularly on lone parents in areas such as mine whose lives have been dramatically
Mr. Hain: I agree with my hon. Friend that the new deal has been a fantastic success right across Wales, with 35,000 young people, 19,900 lone parents and 7,400 disabled people securing new jobs through it. That is why it would be absolutely catastrophic if a policy were adopted to abolish the new deal, as has been advocated by the Tories and the Liberal Democrats.
Alan Howarth (Newport, East) (Lab): Is my right hon. Friend aware that thanks to the new deal, to successful education and training policies, to a business-friendly strategy by Newport city council and to the Government's good management of the economy, unemployment in Newport has halved since 1997[Interruption.]
Mr. Hain: Yes is the answer to that question! May I take this opportunity to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend's work as the Member representing Newport, East? I want to acknowledge that it will be a loss for the House when he stands down at the end of this Parliament.
We have had a fantastic record of job creation under Labour, with both the Assembly and our Westminster Government working in partnership. Unemployment in Wales is now at its lowest for nearly 30 years, and at half the level that we inherited from the last Conservative Government.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Don Touhig):
My right hon. Friend and I have regular discussions with ministerial colleagues on matters affecting Wales. Over the past year, the police,
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community safety partnerships and others in Wales have increasingly used the wide range of powers put in place to tackle antisocial behaviour. Last week, Cardiff, Newport and Swansea were included among 50 new antisocial behaviour action areas.
Ian Lucas: One of the most successful innovations associated with antisocial behaviour is the introduction of alley gating, which has been introduced in Caia Park in my constituency and is very popular with my constituents. Unfortunately, however, the provisions introduced by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 have not yet been implemented by the Assembly, which is preventing a more rapid introduction of alley gating in Caia Park. Will my hon. Friend have discussions with the National Assembly for Wales to establish what steps it intends to take to introduce this legislation in Wales as soon as possible?
Mr. Touhig: I am aware of the success of the alley gating project in Caia Park in my hon. Friend's constituency[Interruption.] I can say that with a straight face. Indeed, £250,000 has been set aside by my colleagues in the Assembly for such projects. I am also aware of my hon. Friend's concerns about the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. It is a matter for the Assembly to decide on the commencement of the relevant orders under that Act, but I will take up the points that he has raised with my colleague Minister there.
Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion) (PC): In the week in which a 12-year-old girl in my constituency admitted in court that she had provided the drugs that killed a schoolboy, may I ask the Minister what steps are being taken under the antisocial behaviour initiatives to deal with illegal drug dealing on our streets? In particular, will he tell me what is going to come out of the Prime Minister's announcement last week about empowering local communities to take more steps in regard to the people whom they can identify as problematic in their area? What detailed discussions are going on with National Assembly Ministers about implementing these proposals?
Mr. Touhig: I very much regret the incident to which the hon. Gentleman referred. My colleagues in the Assembly have a proactive policy of funding and supporting drug agencies. Indeed, I spent a day with one agency, as a fly on the wall, observing the good work that it was doing. It is also important that investment is going into education, so that young people can be made aware of the dangers of using drugs. They are an awful blight on our society, both in the hon. Gentleman's rural constituency and in my urban constituency.
We must work together as community partnerships because this problem will not be solved by the police alone. The community has to be proactive. There was an incident in my constituency in which a drug pusher was trying to sell drugs to children in primary schools and the local community rose up, turned up outside the school and phoned the police to give them the person's car number. We must be vigilant in all that we do. We are working closely with our colleagues in this regard, and they have a good record to date.
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Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore) (Lab): The antisocial behaviour measures that have been implemented throughout Wales have been welcomed by my constituents, although they would like more of them to be used in my area. Does my hon. Friend agree that equally important is having eyes and ears on the ground to implement these measures? In addition to the extra policing and the community support officers, will he join me in actively encouraging local authorities, including my own in Bridgend, to consider the use of community or neighbourhood wardens?
Mr. Touhig: My hon. Friend is right to refer to the effects of the antisocial behaviour orders. Indeed, 114 have been issued in Wales. I take his point about the community wardens, and in my own borough the new Labour-controlled council is introducing a scheme. What is important is that that supplements and supports the work being done by the police. It encourages the community to participate in combating antisocial behaviour problems. Often, wardens act as professional witnesses when the community or the public are afraid to come forward, perhaps as a result of witnessing antisocial behaviour. I commend the schemes and I hope that authorities across Wales look seriously at the work being done in Newport and the work we are now doing in Caerphilly.
Mr. Bill Wiggin (Leominster) (Con): For ASBOs to work, people with them must not breach them. When I asked how many of the 114 issued in Wales had been breached, the Minister did not give me the figures for 2003. Bearing it in mind that it is now November 2004, why was that?
Mr. Touhig: I knew that I should have signed off that question yesterday. This is the latest information I have that I can give the hon. Gentleman. When there are further figures available and if he asks the question again, I will give him the most up-to-date figures I have.
Mr. Stephen Pound (Ealing, North) (Lab): I am sure that my hon. Friend will have been as delighted as I was to witness the Damascene conversion of the Liberal Democrats, who now support that legislation. What can be done to encourage those who put political prejudice over the interests of the nation to see the error of their ways? How can he reach out to the recalcitrant and the opportunistic?
Mr. Touhig: There are many potential St. Pauls on the other side of the House. Indeed, the Liberal Democrat record is not a good one. Frankly, they have opposed at every level in the House legislation that we have put through to combat antisocial behaviour, yet [Interruption.] Oh yes they haveyet in local constituencies they campaign on issues of antisocial behaviour. They want to deprive the police and local authorities of powers
Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North)
(Lab): I very much welcome the fact that Cardiff has been chosen as one of the pilot areas to tackle antisocial behaviour. What does
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that means for the people in my constituency of Cardiff, North and, in particular, for the residents of Fishguard road in Llanishen, who are suffering due to rowdiness, graffiti and drunkenness from a very small group of young people?
Mr. Touhig: I would hope that the resources that will now go into the antisocial behaviour action areas in Cardiff, Newport and Swansea will improve the situation to which my hon. Friend refers. Resources and manpower will now be committed to tackling serious problems of antisocial behaviour in those communities. A minority of people are involved in such activity in our communities across Wales and it is important that the community work together with the police, the local authorities and other agencies to tackle it. It will not disappear overnight, but if we work together in partnership we will start to see the tide turn.
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