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Mr. Hain: Yes, it is. The hon. Gentleman would know if he ever got the chance to be in government that that is exactly the kind of hard choice that is involved. [Interruption.] I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) is muttering from a sedentary position, although I will be happy to take an intervention from him.
Mr. Llwyd: Why did the right hon. Gentleman not give that response to the hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Albert Owen) instead of covering it up and giving a rather woolly answer? The point is that there is no new money, and no new money available for that service.
Mr. Hain: I am not covering up anything and I never give woolly answers, certainly not to my hon. Friends. The Bill does not passport lumps of money to Wales. That comes from a separate channel, as the hon. Gentleman understands. The Bill is about giving the Assembly powers to do things from within its existing and future budgetary resources that it cannot do at the moment.
Chris Bryant : On the slightly different issue of how we ensure that the integrated policy is not just about transport within Wales, many of my constituents have to make regular journeys into England and, for that matter, down to London, but the new timetable does not integrate the valleys line service with the Cardiff to London line service. It is increasingly difficult for people from my constituency to get to London until quite late in the day. They also have to leave London earlier because the last train up to the valleys does not meet the last London train. Will there be a significant improvement on trains, as well as on air travel?
Mr. Hain: That is exactly the problem that we need to address, and the Bill helps us do that. I shall ask my hon. Friend the Minister to look into that to see whether we can apply ministerial pressure, along with the pressure that my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda applies as the local Member of Parliament, to improve the situation.
This is an important point. I understand how the funding works and the money will be new. The public service obligationthe application is being madewill allow the National Assembly for Wales to raise money that is matched by the European funding system. That will allow new money to come into the sector. My specific question, which the Secretary of
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State was unable to answer, concerned external flights, not intra-Wales flights, which I am fully aware will attract new money.
Mr. Hain: My hon. Friend makes the point well. I was simply trying to make it clear that if a flight originated from outside Wales or if Wales was a transit point for flights, it would not be possible to attract new money from within the Welsh budget.
Lembit Öpik: At the risk of sounding like an aviation anorakperish the thoughtthe most sensible way to fund the scheme is, if the Minister's interpretation of the regulations is right, to provide support for the intra-Wales legs of the flight from, say, Ynys Môn to Welshpool and then down to Cardiff, and for the operator to self-fund any additional journey. It would be free to fly wherever it wanted after Cardiff, but it would have to ensure that that part of the journey was visibly separated by a financial firewall from the investment in the intra-Wales network. It can be done, but it has to be accounted for carefully.
Ian Lucas : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) is wrong when he says that there is no more money? The reality is that money has increased from a budget of £7 billion at the inception of the National Assembly in 1999 to £14 billion in 2007. That is more money in anyone's language.
Mr. Hain: That is masses of more money. In fact, it is double the miserable inheritance that we were left by the Conservative Government. It would stand in sorry contrast to the desperate state that transport in Wales would be in if Plaid Cymru ever got its wish and hived Wales off into independence. There are free bus passes for pensioners and the disabled. The extra subsidy for rural bus services has made a big improvement, although there is still a lot to do. There is extra road building, such as the £300 million heads of the valley A465 road, and extra road upgrading. On rail, there are the Ebbw Vale and the Vale of Glamorgan lines to consider. Those advances in transport provision are on the back of the unprecedented economic stability, success and prosperity that the Labour Government have delivered for Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom. Long may it continue under this Government because it would be jeopardised by a Conservative Government.
David T.C. Davies : Whatever else we may say about the Secretary of State, he has been generous in giving way. He once again raises the myth of cuts under the Conservative Government. Can he name one single year between 1979 and 1997 when the money to the Welsh Office was reduced by the Conservative Government?
Most of that increase was eaten up by inflation. The hon. Gentleman knows that, under the Conservative Government of that period, the inflation rate was more than double what it has been under
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Labour. I know from personal experience of coming into the old Welsh Office in May 1997 that funding was at a dreadful level for education, health and transport. We set about the task of rebuilding Wales's infrastructure. I am surpriseduppity though he isthat he has the gall to challenge me on public spending of all things when the Conservative Government remorselessly cut public spending, closed hospitals, reduced education provision and saw the transport system go down the tubes in Wales. That is the reality.
Mr. David Jones (Clwyd, West) (Con): The Secretary of State mentioned the extension of the A55 across Anglesey. Will he concede that by far the longest stretch of that road was constructed by the last Conservative Administration?
Mr. Hain: I do not know offhand whether it was all constructed under the last Conservative Administration. The hon. Gentleman might find that some of it was in the pipeline, and was perhaps carried out, under Labour. I do not deny that fact, however.
Albert Owen: I thank the Secretary of State for giving way and the hon. Member for Clwyd, West (Mr. Jones) for leading with his chin. The very fact that the road was not finished led to the decline of many industries on Anglesey. The previous Labour Administration earmarked the project for the whole of north Wales. It was not completed under the Conservatives because Lord Roberts, who represented Conwy, built a tunnel under the River Conwy because of objections from local residents. The tunnel absorbed all the money, which meant that the A55 links to Ireland could not be completed, and that led to the decline of port communities like Holyhead.
My hon. Friends have been making the point that there is a rapid increase in investment, and in the level of quality and service, in transport in Wales after miserable decades of cuts and under-investment. That investment will carry on and transport services will continue to improve in Wales. The Bill provides a vehicle for delivering that.
In addition, the Bill will enable the Assembly to establish a public transport users committee for Wales. That is a new provision, added in response to views expressed during pre-legislative scrutiny. It will cover all public transport modesferries, air services and taxis, as well as buses and trainsensuring that the voice of the passenger is heard.
Finally, on the rail provisions that were included in the draft Bill, the equivalent arrangements, modified to reflect the reformed statutory framework, were included in the Railways Act 2005. The provisions that appeared in the draft Bill have therefore been removed.
Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD):
Is there a risk that it might become burdensome for the
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Assembly to review each local transport plan and, possibly, to vote on them if it does not approve them? How often does the Secretary of State expect it to consider local transport plans?
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