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Jenny Randerson, the Assembly Member who is also a Liberal Democrat, was the key mechanic of the legislation that made that possible. The hon. Lady should declare an interest. I understand her need to defend the Welsh Assembly, but I am askingit is for the voters to decide whom they believewhy,
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if it was the unbridled and committed policy of the Labour party to increase environmental opportunities for farmers, decrease class sizes and reintroduce school milk, has that happened only in places where the Liberal Democrats have been in power?
The Secretary of State said that his party was pro-devolution. I know that some Labour Members are, and perhaps he is too. However, it is frustrating to see the First Minister of the Welsh Assembly apparently dragging his feet and stalling in the face of a great opportunity to work hand in hand with other pro-devolution parties such as the Liberal Democrats to deliver the recommendations of the Richard commission. In the same context, it is all very well for the Secretary of State to say that his party is working hard to resolve the issues of the Welsh health service, but we all know that there is a disparity and that Labour has failed to deliver the improvements that have been seen across the border. That is even more galling for the reasons given by my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Mr. Williams), which are mainly that there are different waiting times for the same hospitals because of the existence of a border. The Secretary of State uttered fine words in his promises to reform that, but we must judge on results and at the moment the results are scant indeed.
Before moving on to the Conservatives, I want to raise a local issue of such importance that it needs to go on the record. Right hon. and hon. Members will be aware of the projected development of a large liquid natural gas facility in Pembroke Dock. It unquestionably has potential for jobs and will increase the economic prosperity of the area, but I am worried that the safety aspects of having such a large LNG plant there have not been sufficiently considered. The explosive potential of LNG is significant, and although it does not explode in the same way as TNT, it is capable of causing a large enough conflagration to incinerate the neighbourhood. I make the point because those who are concerned about the health and safety aspects are frustrated that the matter has not been sufficiently aired in this Chamber. I hope that the Minister will go at least as far as saying that he will consider those concerns. For a bonus for 10, it would be excellent if he was willing to meet and discuss those concerns with the objectors.
I enjoyed the contribution of the hon. Member for Leominster, but did not understand it. He said that despite the cuts in public spending that his party promised, the budget in Wales would be immune[Interruption.] I am happy to have a dialogue with him if he wishes to intervene, but that must wait. I am still troubledI sometimes wake up at night thinking about thisabout the exchange in the Welsh Grand Committee when the Secretary of State said:
"It is useful to have all this on the record; is the hon. Gentleman saying that he has a unique exemption for Wales from the shadow Chancellor's £35 billion worth of cuts and that Wales will be completely immune to those cuts?"
Mr. Wiggin: I urge the hon. Gentleman not to lose sleep at night and, particularly, not to listen to the Secretary of State when he talks about Conservative policy. I can confirm that there are no plans to cut the Welsh block grant.
Lembit Öpik: Perhaps I was, but I am happy with that. I got an A in economics. [Interruption.] Perhaps they were robbed, but that is not a get-out for the hon. Member for Leominster. I simply fail to understand how he can get up and tell us that the block grant for Wales is immune from the Tory spending plans when everybody here knows that there is a direct link between what is spent in England and what goes into Wales. I have explicitly heard from him that he does not intend to reform the Barnett formula. Therefore, there is only one possible logical conclusion: he is wrong.
If the hon. Gentleman wants to intervene to explain the position, I will be happy to hear him, but I do not understand why he expects anyone in the Chamber to accept something that is patently wrong, and I do not expect any member of the electorate in Wales to be hoodwinked.
Huw Irranca-Davies: The hon. Gentleman is making a valid point, but he is being a little harsh. Perhaps he will agree that it would be worth while for the Conservative Front-Bench spokesman on Wales to write to Members who take part in this debate to set out clearly exactly what is happening and how the Welsh block will somehow be protected without cuts elsewhere.
Mr. Wiggin: I understand why the hon. Gentleman is getting in such a pickle over this, and he has my full sympathy. His view start with the premise that he believes what the Secretary of State has told him about the £35 billion of cuts, and that premise is fundamentally wrong.
Lembit Öpik: The best that I can do is assume that the Secretary of State is naive for believing what the hon. Gentleman has said. I am pretty sure that the Secretary of State quoted him, but let us not be distracted by that. A good suggestion has been made, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will seek to clear the matter up. It is very much in his interest to do so, because I will not mislead the public about Conservative party policy if it is explained to me in a way that I can understand. At this point, I sincerely believe that he is trying to say something that he cannot support. My conclusion is that, if the Conservatives form the next Government, the Barnett formula would mean an effective cut in what is planned for Wales.
Given the offer that we have both made to the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Wiggin), does the hon. Gentleman agree that if we fail
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to have an explanation, the only version that we can give to the electorate in our respective constituencies is that there is no explanation for what has just been said?
Lembit Öpik: Gun crime, indeed. I note with interest the reluctance of the hon. Member for Leominster to go looking for crime with the hon. Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies). On this occasion, I will defend the hon. Member for Leominster, because he knows that such an endeavour would be pointless. Once people got wind of the fact that he, as the shadow Secretary of State for Wales, was roaming the streets, they would stay at home for their own safety. Crime would be almost zero. It raises the spectre that he might choose to pick on the hon. Member for Ogmore just to keep the crime statistics up on that evening.
My serious concern is that the hon. Member for Leominster simply cannot expect anyone in the Chamber or any elector in Wales to attempt to forget what actually happened when the Conservatives were in government: crime doubled. If that is a testimony to failed policies, so be it. This debate is not primarily about crime, but I counsel Conservatives to recognise that the best guide to future behaviour is past experience. Therefore, there is a long way to go for many of us before we can believe that the Conservatives' policies will reduce crime. [Interruption.] I hear the hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans), and he reminds me of another point that I nearly did not make, but now it is too late.
Conservative Members voiced considerable criticism of the cost of the new building for the Welsh Assembly, but I do not like hypocrisy. I point out that some have sailed close to the wind when it comes to hypocrisy, so I would never suggest that any Member of the Chamber is a hypocrite. I would be ruled out of order if I did. I simply observe that the hon. Member for Ribble Valleywho is probably one of the finest Secretaries of State for Wales that there never was and, I fear, never will behas consistently criticised the Welsh Assembly for thinking of spending about £67 million on a building, while he accepted a room in Portcullis House, which cost three and a half times that amount.
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