Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Regimental Names

4. Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) (PC): What representations he has made to Cabinet colleagues regarding safeguarding the names of the Royal Welch Fusiliers and the Royal Regiment of Wales. [209959]
26 Jan 2005 : Column 289

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain): The executive committee of the Army Board took the decision to rename a large number of regiments. I am sympathetic to the questions that have been raised in many quarters and suggest that hon. Members write to the executive committee with their concerns.

Mr. Llwyd: May I draw the Secretary of State's attention to early-day motion 566, which is supported by every political party in Wales and others? The issue is, of course, whether the Royal Welch Fusiliers, the Royal Regiment of Wales and the Royal Welsh Regiment can maintain their identities by keeping their cap badges and so on. Will the Secretary of State have a word with his Cabinet colleagues between now and the end of the month, because an all-party group is going to see the Secretary of State for Defence on 8 February? Those honourable regiments have many decades of history, and we need to keep them. The decision will adversely affect recruitment.

Mr. Speaker: Order. That question is far too long.

Mr. Hain: Apart from his point about recruitment, I agree with the hon. Gentleman and understand the points that he is making. It is important not to forget that, on the whole, the restructuring has been quite positive for Wales—for example, the number of Welsh battalions has not been reduced, the number of Welsh soldiers has not been cut and the role of Wales's two famous regiments has not been diminished. The hon. Gentleman knows that those regiments retain their unique identities within the new, larger Welsh regiments, and regimental traditions, cultures, local connections and so on will be maintained within the new arrangements. I have discussed the matter in detail with the Secretary of State for Defence and urge the hon. Gentleman to take my earlier advice and make representations to the executive committee of the Army Board, which was responsible for the decision.

Albert Owen (Ynys Môn) (Lab): My right hon. Friend knows that my constituents have strong feelings about the proposed name changes. Last Friday, I met ex-service personnel, including members of the Royal Welch Fusiliers Comrades Association. Does my right hon. Friend agree that ex-service personnel should be consulted directly on any future name changes, because they are best placed to preserve the strong traditions and hiraeth of Welsh regiments?

Mr. Hain: I agree with the sentiment expressed by my hon. Friend and am aware of the important history and current role of the Royal Welch Fusiliers. His constituents in Anglesey have made a big contribution to the Royal Welch Fusiliers, and I urge him to make representations to the executive committee of the Army Board, which was responsible for the original recommendation.

Mr. Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire) (LD): Before the all-party group meets the Secretary of State for Defence, will the Secretary of State for Wales sort out the misinformation that the Welsh regiments did not ask to be treated on a similar basis to the Scottish
26 Jan 2005 : Column 290
regiments, because we know that the colonel of the Royal Welch Fusiliers wrote to General Sir Michael Jackson about that very issue?

Mr. Hain: I have been advised that the Army Board took advice from senior military leaders in Wales, but, given the reaction, the hon. Gentleman's point should be heard.

Gareth Thomas (Clwyd, West) (Lab): The Secretary of State is a man of influence and some charm. Surely he can prevail upon the top brass to do something as simple as removing a few sets of brackets, because for some of us that is all the issue boils down to.

Mr. Hain: Apart from his point about influence and charm, my hon. Friend has made his case eloquently. The Secretary of State for Defence is aware of the feelings of Welsh Members of Parliament, and he has listened. The executive committee of the Army Board is the appropriate place to make any representations.

Mr. Bill Wiggin (Leominster) (Con): The Army Board clearly took the advice of the colonel commandant of the Prince of Wales Division, who may well have made a mistake. Will the Secretary of State persuade the Secretary of State for Defence to listen to Major-General Brian Plummer, who is colonel of the regiment, so that Wales is treated equally to Scotland?

Mr. Hain: Given the feeling in Wales, the executive committee of the Army Board should listen to such figures and others, and I am sure that that is what will happen.

Mrs. Betty Williams (Conwy) (Lab): I hear what my right hon. Friend says about the executive committee, but can he explain a little further what representations have been made and what discussions have taken place between the generals on the board and various organisations in Wales? I am sure that he is aware of the great disquiet among the Welsh public about what we term a mistake.

Mr. Hain: I understand the strong feelings that my hon. Friend expresses. As I said, I have discussed the matter with the Secretary of State for Defence, who is well aware of those considerations. I am sure that the executive committee of the Army Board will want to look closely at any representations that are made.

Allergy Sufferers

5. Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire) (Con): What discussions he has had with the National Assembly for Wales' Minister for Health and Social Services on the treatment of allergy sufferers in Wales. [209960]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain): I met the new Health Minister last week.

Andrew Selous: Given that three out of 10 adults and four out of 10 children suffer from allergies, why do patients from north Wales have to travel to Manchester,
26 Jan 2005 : Column 291
Liverpool or Birmingham to see an immunologist, and why is the nearest full-time allergy clinic to Wales in Leicester?

Mr. Hain: I understand the hon. Gentleman's concern. He will be pleased to know that notwithstanding the situation regarding north Wales, an extra consultant is being recruited at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff. However, that does not negate his point, which has already been made by the Select Committee on Health.

Welsh Economy

6. Alan Howarth (Newport, East) (Lab): What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the effects of the Chancellor's proposals in the pre-Budget report on the economy in Wales. [209961]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain): Regular ones. As a result of the pre-Budget report, an additional £38.5 million will be invested in Wales, including measures to improve skills, productivity and entrepreneurship and council tax support.

Alan Howarth: Are not increases in skills and knowledge key to the continuing progress of the Welsh economy? Has my right hon. Friend discussed with Cabinet colleagues how we will carry forward in Wales the implications of the Chancellor's announcements that there will be, at one end of the spectrum, an additional £11.6 million to improve basic skills and, at the other end, tax reforms to assist 13 universities and research institutes in Wales to launch spin-off companies? Has he also discussed with ministerial colleagues what would be the implications for business confidence of the abolition of the National Assembly for Wales?

Mr. Hain: I agree with my right hon. Friend. Indeed, the investment in skills, the support for the council tax and support for business that will flow through in the coming months under this Government could all be jeopardised by £35 billion of Conservative cuts.

On instability resulting from the abolition of the Assembly, I note that the shadow spokesman on Wales has said:

The Tory leader in the Assembly has said:

while the Leader of the Opposition has said:

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con): What we do know is that Wales would do better without a Labour Government. Why have they turned their backs on manufacturing in Wales? There was a time when Wales was proud to be a world exporter of manufacturing goods; now we are an exporter of manufacturing jobs. Is it not a fact that as a result of the climate change levy and the sea of red tape introduced by this Government, Wales has lost thousands of manufacturing jobs over the past seven years?
26 Jan 2005 : Column 292

Mr. Hain: That from the former spokesman for a Conservative Government who massacred 100,000 manufacturing jobs in Wales and plunged Wales into economic instability with high inflation, mortgages doubling, interest rates rising, and unemployment at historically high levels. The most recent figures show that the manufacturing sector in Wales expanded at a faster rate than the service sector. According to the Royal Bank of Scotland, manufacturers reported strong sales and investment in new products. Wales is succeeding and our economy is getting stronger under a Labour Government. All that would be put at risk if the Tories were re-elected. Wales is working—do not let the Tories wreck it.

Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore) (Lab): The manufacturing sector in my area has been doing very well under this Government. However, the Secretary of State will be aware of last week's announcement of 300 job losses at Sony in Bridgend and Pencoed. In his discussions with Cabinet colleagues and counterparts in the National Assembly for Wales, will he do all that he can to ensure that the 1,200 existing jobs are retained and that additional production lines are brought to Bridgend, which will ensure not only that 30 years of production continue but that we give another 30 years to the loyal work force at Sony in Bridgend and Pencoed?

Mr. Hain: I am sure that Sony Bridgend and Pencoed will continue to play a vital role in the south Wales economy, as it has done for many decades. We are proud to have it there. My hon. Friend will understand that the specific television sets that it used to build are going out of fashion because flat screens are becoming more popular, and that change is responsible for the job cuts. However, it is an example of the success of the Welsh economy under the Government that even such job losses do not disturb the overall employment growth and success of the Welsh economy, where business confidence is higher than for many a long year.

Next Section IndexHome Page