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House of Commons

Wednesday 20 July 2005

The House met at half-past Eleven o'clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions


The Secretary of State was asked—

Antisocial Behaviour

1. Mrs. Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): What recent discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues and the First Minister on antisocial behaviour in Wales. [12326]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Nick Ainger): My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary recently published new guidance encouraging councils to use publicity to help to enforce individual antisocial behaviour orders.

Mrs. Moon: My local free paper, The Recorder, carries this dire warning on its front page: "Yobs will cause a death: RNLI warns 'someone will drown' in harbour". We have a problem—I have discussed it with Phil Missen, our local Royal National Lifeboat Institution organiser—with youngsters jumping 20 ft into Porthcawl harbour in front of the lifeboat as it is launched and physically and verbally abusing the lifeboat crew. What assistance can my hon. Friend offer the lifeboat crew to protect them given that my local authority is unable to confirm long-term commitment to funds for youth organisations, even the Scouts and the Guides?

Nick Ainger: I share my hon. Friend's concern about those incidents of antisocial behaviour; clearly, this case must be tackled quickly. We have given the police and local councils the tools to do that job. Between 2003 and 2006, the safer communities fund has allocated £8 million to community safety partnerships in Wales for locally determined projects aimed at tackling antisocial behaviour. Since 2003, Bridgend has received £352,000 from the fund. We have given the tools to the police and to the local councils; those powers should now be exercised and I urge Bridgend county borough council to do so.

Mr. Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire) (LD): One of the recent findings of the Select Committee on Wales was that there is no agreed uniform definition of antisocial behaviour. That means that residents in my
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constituency who live close to rugby clubs can expect antisocial behaviour and rowdiness with no action taken against the perpetrators. What action can the Minister take on having an agreed definition of antisocial behaviour so that everybody living in Wales can expect the same service and treatment from police forces?

Nick Ainger: The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting point. I would argue that the Licensing Act 2003 gives local residents the opportunity to object to the way in which licensed premises are being run, because it deals not only with what happens in the licensed premises but what happens around them. The Act gives people the opportunity to take up that matter with local police and the local authority, which is now responsible for licensing. Irrespective of whether we give a clear definition of antisocial behaviour, people know when they are experiencing it, and they should always report it and expect the authorities to react accordingly.

Albert Owen (Ynys Môn) (Lab): It is right to be tough on those who make the lives of people in our communities hell through antisocial behaviour, but does my hon. Friend agree that it is also important to reward people, particularly the young, for good social behaviour? Does he further agree that it is important that when community planning for facilities is going through, young people have an input so that they feel a sense of ownership in their own community?

Nick Ainger: Yes, I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. We need to talk about the carrots as well as the sticks. Local authorities are recognising the need to provide improved youth services and improved facilities for young people as an alternative to hanging around on street corners and causing trouble for local residents.

Welsh Language Schemes

2. Hywel Williams (Caernarfon) (PC): What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues and Ministers of the National Assembly for Wales on formulating and implementing central Government Departments' Welsh language schemes. [12327]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain): The Government believe in the principle of delivering public services to people in Wales in the language of their choice. All Departments regularly review the way in which they meet this obligation.

Hywel Williams: Twelve years on from the Welsh Language Act 1993, at least five of the great Departments of State have not produced Welsh language schemes. Will the Secretary of State institute a review of the Act and show that, at least on that issue, he is not asleep?

Mr. Hain: I will happily look into the matter but the hon. Gentleman knows that the Labour Government have a proud record of promoting the Welsh language, which is now in a healthier state than it has been for generations, with the number of Welsh speakers increasing continuously. I would have thought that the
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hon. Gentleman welcomed that. If any Departments are slipping from that high standard, I shall look into the matter.

Mrs. Siân C. James (Swansea, East) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Labour party has shown itself to be the party of the Welsh language? We have record investment and more people learning Welsh. Is not it true that Members such as my hon. Friend the Member for Conwy (Mrs. Williams) have actively promoted the language and highlighted the record investment and our commitment to that important issue?

Mr. Hain: I certainly agree with my hon. Friend, who is a proud Welsh speaker from the valleys of south Wales.

Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd) (Lab): Da iawn.

Mr. Hain: Indeed, da iawn, as my Parliamentary Private Secretary says. My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mrs. James) can speak with genuine authority on the matter, as can my hon. Friend the Member for Conwy (Mrs. Williams), who is a proud Welsh speaker from north Wales.

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): Will the Secretary of State say a big diolch yn fawr to all the people who go to Welsh language schools, especially those on the Llyn peninsula? Will he remind people that not only those who are Welsh born learn Welsh but those who recognise the traditions of Wales?

Mr. Hain: Yes, I will say a big diolch yn fawr—as big as the hon. Gentleman likes—because the Wales Office and the Labour Government are proud of the advances that have been made in the Welsh language throughout Wales. We will continue to experience such progress as long as the Government remain in power.

Single Farm Payment

3. Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby) (Con): What recent discussions he has had with the National Assembly for Wales Government on the single farm payment. [12328]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Nick Ainger): On 4 July, I met the Assembly Minister responsible for countryside matters, Carwyn Jones, and we discussed several issues, including the single payment scheme in Wales.

Mr. Robathan: I should declare that I am a farmer and in receipt of ridiculous subsidies through the common agricultural policy. As the Minister knows, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs tells us that the single farm payment is meant to make life simpler for farmers. I am not sure whether it does, but that is the way we are going. However, Wales intends to have a different scheme. How can that be right? If something is good for me if I farm in Herefordshire, surely it must also be good if I farm
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across the border in Monmouthshire. Will the Minister explain matters and what the scheme will do for Welsh hill farmers?

Nick Ainger: There is a difference in the single farm payment's calculation in England and in Wales. In England, the system ultimately depends on a single, flat-rate, area payment, starting with historic payments. In Wales, we are going to stick with historic payments because Wales has so many small farms, especially in the uplands. When the discussions were taking place, it was felt that a single farm payment based on historic payments would be the best way to continue the support for Wales's small rural farms.

Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): The Minister knows that, in an effort to remain financially viable, many farmers are diversifying into other activities, including motor cycle off-road sports. Will he confirm that farmers will not jeopardise their single farm payments by allowing those off-road activities on their land? Will he also confirm that the promised end-of-year review will consider the rights of motor sports enthusiasts, including motor cycle off-road enthusiasts, and the economic pressures that farmers face?

Nick Ainger: I think that I can help the hon. Gentleman on the issue. Under recently updated guidance, motor sports may take place on up to 28 days during the nominated 10-month period in addition to the remaining two months of the year. The updated guidance takes on board representations from motor sports interests and is an example of the Government listening to industry.

Mr. Speaker: I call Jerry Wiggin.

Bill Wiggin (Leominster) (Con): Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I shall answer for him.

Wales is using the historic method for determining single farm payments, so why cannot Welsh farmers have an interim payment until the Rural Payments Agency computers are made to work?

Nick Ainger: The payments system is on target and Welsh farmers will begin receiving their single farm payments at the beginning of the window, which is December 2005.

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