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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Don Touhig): The Government take tackling illegal drug use extremely seriously. We work in partnership with a range of bodies, including the National Assembly, the police and the voluntary sector.
Mr. Edwards: I assure my hon. Friend that the Welsh Affairs Committee has received evidence from the chief constables of Wales about the success of Operation Tarian in combating illegal drug use. Will he join me in congratulating Gwent police on co-ordinating Operation Reptile and today's announcement of important seizures of drugs, arrests and the taking out of a significant drugs gang? Will he assure me that the Government will continue to support the police in their fight against the drugs trade?
Yes, I certainly will do that. Indeed, I welcome the announcement today of Operation Reptile. My hon. Friend mentioned Operation Tarian, which came about as a result of the close collaboration between the Home Office, the Wales Office and the National Assembly. Operation Tarian is a police intelligence gathering unit whose aim is to prevent hard drugs from coming into Wales, and it is now in its second year of operation. In year one, 1.7 kg of heroin
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and cocaine were seized, representing assets worth about £1.7 million. So far this year, about 1 kg of heroin and cocaine have been seized, and 17 individuals have been convicted for supplying illegal drugs. The operation is making good progress and shows the determination of all of usthe Government, the police and the voluntary sectorwho are working in partnership to combat this menace in society.
Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) (PC): I acknowledge the success of Operation Tarian, but there remains a serious drugs problem throughout Wales. The Gracious Speech mentioned intervention, which obviously is good, but may I remind the Minister that there are fewer than 40 rehabilitation beds in the whole of Wales? Regrettably, many towns in Wales need 40 beds each. This is a mammoth task. Will the Minister redouble his efforts to ensure that this matter is properly resourced in Wales?
Mr. Touhig: Yes, I accept the hon. Gentleman's point. Indeed, he raised it at the Welsh Grand Committee yesterday as well. The drug intervention programme that was launched last year aims to get drug misuse offenders out of crime and into treatment, and the Home Office has made about £5 million available to the Assembly in Wales for that purpose. The Assembly has also launched its own tackling substance misuse partnership approach scheme, which has five modules: community prescribing, needle and syringe exchange, residential rehabilitation, in-patient detoxification and co-occurring mental health and substance misuse. All these measures are working together to tackle this matter, but I recognise that intervention must come as quickly as possible. It is so important to identify that window of opportunity when someone wants to kick their drug habit, so that the system can be there to get them off drugs and bring them the support they need.
Mr. Bill Wiggin (Leominster) (Con): The Minister is right to say that drug and alcohol abuse is an escalating problem in Wales. There are only two rehabilitation homes registered for substance misuse in Wales, yet Rhoserchan is threatened with closure while deaths directly caused by illegal drug misuse in Wales have doubled since 1997. What will the Minister do to prevent this home from closing?
I am not aware of the case to which the hon. Gentleman refers, but he will be aware that tackling this issue is a matter for my colleagues in the Assembly. They have certainly increased the funding for combating substance misuse across Wales. They have created the substance misuse action fund, and substantially increased the amount of funding available from £3.3 million in 200203 to £18.5 million by 200708. That is an increase of 550 per cent. I regularly have meetings with the Assembly Minister responsible for social affairs, and I value and appreciate the interventions and programmes that the Assembly is progressing. However, I shall certainly take note of the issue that the hon. Gentleman has raised, and if it is appropriate to do so I shall raise it with my colleague Minister in the Assembly.
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The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain): Following the Government's lead, the police, community safety partnerships and others in Wales are increasingly using the wide range of powers that we have put in place to tackle antisocial behaviour, and 114 antisocial behaviour orders have been issued in Wales as of June 2004.
Alan Howarth: Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in five wards of Newport, East, crime has been reduced by 15 per cent in six months, thanks to the extra police officers that the Government have provided, and to their deployment to individual wards, enabling them to develop much closer local knowledge? Is he further aware that my constituents greatly look forward to the benefits of tackling antisocial behaviour that will come from the additional police community support officers whom the Government have just announced they will fund from the neighbourhood policing fund?
Mr. Hain: Indeed, and the truth is that it is Labour that is making Wales more safe and secure, in our local neighbourhoods and right across the country, and tackling antisocial behaviour despite opposition from the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives to some of the measures that we have introduced in the House of Commons. We are also recruiting extra community support officers300 are already in place, with more to comeand we have 800 extra police officers as well. I am delighted that Newport is one of the new action areas that are leading the drive against antisocial behaviour.
Mr. Bill Wiggin (Leominster) (Con): Findings from the 200304 crime survey report that 92 per cent. of people think that antisocial behaviour has not improved. The chief constable of North Wales told the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs that ASBOs were taking up to four days of court time, and in a Swansea school a cancer victim had her hair set on fire. I am sure that the Minister was appalled by that. Why is he the only one who thinks that things are getting better in Wales?
Mr. Hain: If the hon. Gentleman represented an area in Wales, he would know that things are getting better because of the action that we are taking. The truth is that antisocial behaviour, not just in Wales but right across the UK, is a serious problem and has been growing over the decades. We are the Government who are taking action to introduce more antisocial behaviour orders, and working with local authorities, and we will continue to do that despite the sniping from the Conservatives.
Mrs. Betty Williams (Conwy)
(Lab): My right hon. Friend will be aware that antisocial behaviour was tackled in the walled town of Conwy by using a dispersal order earlier this year. That was a success, as my constituents do not now feel as intimidated as they used to when going out to evening events. Does he have any
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data available at this stage to show how successful the use of dispersal orders is in Wales, and whether they are widely used in the rest of Wales?
Mr. Hain: I do not have that data to hand, but I agree that such orders can be extremely successful, and ought to be pursued by local police officers and the authorities generally. The point is that they are used right at the beginning, before antisocial behaviour takes hold and wrecks a neighbourhood. Measures are now available, and they should be used by all concerned.
5. Hywel Williams (Caernarfon) (PC): What discussions he has had with the First Minister of the National Assembly for Wales regarding job losses in the Department for Work and Pensions within objective 1 areas in Wales. 
The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain): The First Minister and I have discussed the effect of the efficiency review on civil service jobs in Wales, and the new Department for Work and Pensions contact centre jobs coming to Wales, including 250 jobs at Bangor.
Hywel Williams: I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. I am surprised that he did not mention the fact that 2,600 jobs are being destroyed in Wales by this change, 1,700 of which are in objective 1 areasthe areas that the Government define as being most in need of economic regeneration and as being poor. In that regard, what has he done to make sure that the interests of Wales are fully considered when Government policy is discussed in Westminster?
Mr. Hain: We do not accept the figure that the hon. Gentleman quotes in respect of likely job changes and job losses. We are seeking greater efficiency by shifting jobs and resources from back-office staff to front-line services. I would have thought that he welcomed that. I recently met the leaders of the Public and Commercial Services Union in Wales. There are 430 new Department for Work and Pensions jobs in contact centres in Pembroke dock, Bangor and Bridgend, 500 new DWP jobs already in the pension centre in Swansea, 600 new Office for National Statistics jobs coming to Newport, 385 new DWP jobs already in Wrexham and 85 new Customs and Revenue jobs already in Cardiff. Jobs are changing, but more and more investment is bringing more and more jobs into Wales, across the public and private sectors.
Ian Lucas (Wrexham)
(Lab): Wrexham welcomes the redeployment of jobs concluded in February 2004, but there is concern about the integration of Jobcentre Plus and the Pension Service in Wrexham, which could lead to redundancies in the town. Will my right hon. Friend have a word with the relevant Minister in the
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Department for Work and Pensions to ensure that there are no compulsory redundancies in the Pension Service in Wrexham?
Mr. Hain: I will certainly investigate that matter. The objective has been to avoid compulsory redundancies, and the recent discussions with the unions concerned have sought to achieve that objective.
Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): The Chancellor says that he wants to move city-based public sector jobs out to the regions, including to Wrexham. Staff in local centres such as that in Newtown fear that their jobs might also be moved to Wrexham, which, ironically, would mean shifting work from smaller to larger conurbations. I do not expect the Secretary of State to make policy at the Dispatch Box, but would he be willing to meet a delegation of Department for Work and Pensions staff to discuss their concerns and the case for keeping work at existing rural locations such as Newtown?
Mr. Hain: I understand the hon. Gentleman's point, and we will consider a meeting. He will also want to know, however, as I said a moment ago, that I met the leaders of the PCS and our discussions and contacts will remain.
Mr. Bill Wiggin (Leominster) (Con): The Secretary of State was talking about the number of jobs created in north Wales. Whether the number of jobs lost from the Department for Work and Pensions is 2,600 or some other number, it will mean that people will now have to telephone a call centre in Bangor. Will that achieve better delivery of front-line services, or will it experience the same problems as out-of-hours general practitioner services?
The truth is that we are providing more and more jobs in the public sector, in front-line services and in the private sector as a result of the dynamism of the Welsh economy. That contrasts with the dreadful record under the Conservatives. Talking of Conservative policies, may I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he cleared with the shadow Chancellor the fact that the Welsh budget will not be affected by the £35 billion of savings and cuts that the shadow Chancellor wants to make? England, not Wales, will have to bear the cost of those savings.
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