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: I wholeheartedly agree with the hon. Gentleman and I read the recent report in the Daily Post. He is absolutely correct that five tiers of action are taken before we get to the ASBO. If problems can be sorted out before reaching the ASBO stage, that is surely efficient and good.
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Mr. Jones: Absolutely, and our report stressed that fact. We recommended the Welsh approach to the English, as some English forces are probably using far too many ASBOs. The hon. Gentleman referred to a number of tiers. Some forces sent a letter, which cut out 80 per cent. of the problemsjust one letter to the parents sorted it out. Parents often do not know what their childrenit is mainly young people involvedare doing and when informed they can intervene to prevent the bad behaviour. We call it the Welsh approach and believe that it should be used throughout the UK.
As I said, ASBOs are only one important part of the police's arsenal, but others have not yet been acknowledged. Credit should be given where it is due, which means that the Government must recognise that the number of ASBOs issued does not automatically equate to levels of success on the ground.
Finally, I make a plea. Whatever changes take place in the Welsh Affairs Committee during the next Parliament, I would like the Committee's role in working with the Assembly to be continued and enhanced.
Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): First, may I say how delighted I am that we are at last conducting our St. David's day debate? As if to build the suspense, we have had to wait more than a month. I think that I am speaking for all Members of the Opposition parties in pointing outas, rightly, did the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Wiggin)that we have had to await the passing of St. Patrick's day before being able to speak about St. David's day matters. That being the case, let us not look the gift horse in the mouth, but let us use the time as an opportunity to evaluate the words of the Secretary of State for Wales. Sadly, he is no longer in his place, and has obviously had to attend to his other job.
The Secretary of State said that he viewed his party, the Labour party, as the party of social justice, business success, low mortgages, stability and growth, so let us look further into that. To some extent, I agree, and it would be churlish and rather fatuous to imply that everything that has happened in Wales under the Labour Government is bad. From an economic standpoint, Wales has seen some success stories. One of the greatest is the Airbus organisation. The Airbus A380 is probably the most significant new passenger aircraft of the decade and it will bring considerable work opportunities and prosperity to various parts of Wales.
As I said in an earlier intervention on the Secretary of State, I believe that Wales should set for itself the goal of being one of the global centres of aerospace excellence. We certainly have the individuals able to achieve it, but what we need is a strategy that overtly focuses on spreading the know-how and value-added business opportunities across the Welsh economy. There is no reason at all why a number of sub-industries related to aerospace could not be in a position to benefit. That applies in rural areas such as my own and in urban
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areas across Wales. I hope that Wales will take that opportunity and that we will see the political direction and political will to achieve precisely that.
As an aside, I would point out that I fly aircraft myself. I wanted to apologise to the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mark Tami)but he is no longer in his placefor saying Hawarden when I should have said Broughton. I do tend to fly into Hawarden more often than Broughton because when I see the Airbus runways of Broughton, I feel that my small light aircraft is unworthy to land in such a Mecca of aerospace engineering.
The other aspect of economic development related to aerospace is the importance of having a regional air network. My feeling is that the gesture of introducing an Anglesey to Cardiff run is sensible, but that it really should stop in mid-Wales on the way. Until we find a way of getting the relatively small number of people who must get from the north to the south of Wales quickly on their journeys in an expeditious way, we will hold back the economic development of Wales. I am not suggesting that many people will commute regularly, but we all know that many senior industrialists feel that the inaccessibility of parts of Wales is a drawback that deters them from basing their businesses there.
One recent success story that I can speak about with authority is the expansion of Welshpool as a business airport, which has brought economic prosperity to the area. Bob Jones, the airport's owner, has a vision and views the airport as an important addition to the infrastructure of the mid-Wales economy, and I agree with him. The planning approvals necessary for him to expand the airport are commensurate with the strategic focus, which I hope the next Government, of whatever party, will take seriously. A partnership approach is required between the Assembly and Westminster, but I am confident that Ministers are now making the right noises. I strongly recommend that, in his summation, the Minister gives an assurance that should not be difficult to give, as he has given it before, that Labour will continue its strategic support for the expansion of a Welsh air network.
Mr. Roger Williams: I am following closely the thread of my hon. Friend's comments and he failed to mention the attractions of the international airport at Llandegly, which has just opened another runway. I would like that to be included in his network for Wales.
Lembit Öpik: My hon. Friend is describing his dream of a Eurohub in Llandegly, which has about 20 residents and a sign saying "Llandegly international airport, terminals 1 and 2." I watch developments with interest.
On manufacturing, the hon. Member for Clwyd, South (Mr. Jones) rightly outlined some of the important findings that the Welsh Affairs Committee highlighted. There is serious concern that smaller manufacturing companies are being driven to the wall, largely by competition from abroad where labour costs are lower. When focusing on the big work opportunities of 10,000 or 3,000 jobs, we must ensure that we do not take our eye off the ball and the smaller job opportunities of 20, 50 or even five jobs. First, those small companies may become large companies, and secondly, a large proportion of jobs in Wales depend on
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small companies. Never is that more evident than in mid-Wales and in rural areas of north and south Wales. The difficulty is that the dynamics of the economic cycle tend to have an effect on all small companies at once, so there may be many small business closures, as we had under the Conservatives in the late 1980s and early 1990s. We have had a period of relative stability, but whatever Government are elected after the anticipated election on 5 May, I hope that the Welsh Development Agency and Ministers at Westminster and the Welsh Assembly will ensure that small companies receive help when they most need it.
Mr. Llwyd: I agree with the hon. Gentleman, who knows that 90 per cent. of employees in Wales work in the small and medium sector. Does he recall the days of the Development Board for Rural Wales when his constituency had almost full employment and Meirionnydd Nant Conwy also did well? Unfortunately, although the Welsh Development Agency has done well in many ways, it has not performed well in the small and medium sector and all of us in mid and north Wales have suffered as a result.
Lembit Öpik: I concur with the hon. Gentleman's important point. I am not making a party political point, because Labour Members have had the same experience. I look forward to hearing the Minister's perspective.
On the upside, some companies have done superbly well. Sidoli's, Control Techniques, Laura Ashley and Texplan are four in my area that have consolidated and, despite some shaky times, become world leaders, particularly Control Techniques and Laura Ashley. However, the economic position is a mixed bag of good and badit is not as unequivocally positive as the Secretary of State suggested.
The Secretary of State spoke about other areas, so let us look at his claims. I suppose that he would say in evidence of his claim that his party is the party for social justice, but the main period of stability for the Welsh Assembly was when there was a coalition between the Liberal Democrats and the Labour party. During that period class sizes fell significantly, the Tir Gofal scheme introduced environmental opportunities for agriculture and museum charges were scrapped in Wales in advance of other parts of the United Kingdom. I would have more belief in the heady claims of the Secretary of State if those initiatives had happened at the behest of the Labour party, but they came from a Liberal Democrat manifesto. I humbly suggest that Wales was best served with the Liberal Democrats in power when we were able to provide a guiding, sage and mature hand to the impetuosity that we have come to expect from Labour.
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