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Dentistry

4. Dr. Hywel Francis (Aberavon) (Lab): What discussions he has had with the Welsh Assembly Government on the implementation of the new dental contract in Wales. [59250]

8. Mr. Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) (Con): What recent discussions he has had with the Health Minister in the National Assembly for Wales about NHS dentistry in Wales. [59254]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Nick Ainger): I regularly meet the Assembly Health Minister to discuss dental services in Wales. A new dental contract is being introduced in April 2006 to improve both patient access and dentists' working lives.

Dr. Francis: My constituency is in the county borough of Neath-Port Talbot, where we have 10,300 new registered dental places as a result of eight pilot schemes established by the Welsh Assembly Government. I thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the efforts that he put into achieving that, along with our local health board and the Welsh Health Minister.

May I urge the Minister to make representations to the Welsh Assembly Government to ensure that such pilot schemes become a permanent feature of NHS
 
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dental services in Wales, so that all communities in Wales—rural, urban or valley—benefit from a comprehensive dental health service in the future?

Nick Ainger: My hon. Friend is right to mention the number of additional NHS dental places in his constituency. As he knows, one company, Denticare, is opening a super-surgery that will provide 10,300 extra places. Moreover, the personal dental service contract will bring further places to the Neath-Port Talbot local health board, bringing the number of new places to some 11,900. An additional 2,100 places will come on-stream by 1 April throughout Wales.

Mr. Harper: I am afraid that the rosy picture painted by the Minister will not be recognised by my constituents. In the past few weeks, many of them have received letters from dental surgeries that they attend in Wales telling them that they are no longer welcome on the NHS. Will the new dental contract that will come into force on 1 April mark the end of NHS dentistry in Wales and in England?

Nick Ainger: Yes, it will. [Interruption.] As I said, there will be 200,000 new places in Wales alone. [Interruption.] Let me run through them. Dental Care is establishing practices in Newtown, Brecon, Lampeter, Port Talbot and Swansea. There will be an additional 26,000 NHS places. Integrated Dental Holdings plans new practices in Llanelli, Wrexham and Whitland, where there will be 24,000 extra places. Oasis Healthcare will open eight new surgeries across north Wales, with 80,000 NHS places. There will be new surgeries in Denbigh, Mold, Ewloe, Flint, Rhyl, Caernarvon and Colwyn Bay. That is good news. There will be a comprehensive NHS dental system throughout Wales.

Economy

5. Jessica Morden (Newport, East) (Lab): If he will make a statement on the state of the Welsh economy. [59251]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain): The Welsh economy is strong and has shown considerable improvement in recent years. Indeed, the Bank of Scotland recently suggested that it would grow at an above-average rate in the first half of 2006, and was likely to experience even stronger growth than the United Kingdom average.

Jessica Morden: As my right hon. Friend will know, the success of the economy in Wales has led to a new confidence in the city of Newport. However, the steel industry still dominates the economy in my constituency and is currently struggling as a result of rising energy prices. What measures can be taken to alleviate the impact that that is having on Wales and on the part of the UK that is most dependent on the manufacturing industry?

Mr. Hain: My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that the Newport economy is booming. I know that manufacturing is booming as well: I recently visited EADS and International Rectifier in the Newport area. However, my hon. Friend is also right to say that Corus has suffered a big impact as a result of rising energy
 
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costs, which are a global phenomenon. We are working on that as a Government, especially with our European partners. I note that Corus announced huge profits today, and I welcome that. It is a hugely successful business.

Mark Williams (Ceredigion) (LD): Despite what the Secretary of State said in his answer, I should like to know what message he has for the 100 constituents of mine who have lost their jobs at Dairygold in Felinfach. There is a possibility of 40 more job losses at Iger near Aberystwyth. Does he accept that job losses on that scale in a rural economy have a disproportionate effect on the immediate locality?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. Before the Secretary of State replies, let me say to the House that it is grossly discourteous to colleagues who have questions to ask about Welsh affairs if their questions cannot be heard and it is difficult to hear the Minister's answer. It is also extremely disrespectful to the people of Wales as a whole.

Mr. Hain: May I point out to the hon. Gentleman that, yes, any job losses are serious, especially in a rural economy and area such as he describes, but unemployment has come down massively in his constituency under this Labour Government? There are 118,000 more people in work in Wales, business is doing better than anybody can remember and the economy in Wales is stronger than anybody can recall, including in his part of the world. Inevitably, there is a churn of jobs, but job opportunities will increasingly be found for everybody.

Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): Production of photovoltaic cells at the Sharp manufacturing plant in Wrexham has tripled in the past two years. The production of such cells offers Britain a huge manufacturing opportunity, but the domestic market needs a bit of encouragement. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, later this afternoon, the Chancellor should look kindly on the photovoltaic sector and get as many householders throughout the UK as possible to have solar cells on their roofs?

Mr. Hain: My right hon. Friend the Chancellor has told me not to reveal anything, so I certainly will not, but he is very supportive of renewable energy; indeed, he encouraged a £60 million renewable energy fund for Northern Ireland that I announced recently. The Sharp factory is a beacon for photovoltaic panels; indeed, I have them on my own roof in south Wales. Such developments are part of this Government's commitment to renewable energy.

Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): The workers in Wales will be very depressed by what the Secretary of State has just said. After nearly nine years of a Labour Government, Wales is still the poorest part of the United Kingdom. Some 28,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost since 1998, Welsh manufacturing dropped by 6 per cent. last year and Welsh industry is facing prohibitive energy prices. What is the Secretary of State actually doing about it?

Mr. Hain: I invite the hon. Lady to live in the real world of Wales, for once. Wales is booming under this
 
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Labour Government. There are more jobs, greater prosperity and better business growth than ever before and a stronger Welsh economy. She should stop talking Wales down and join the business sector and the rest of us in moving Wales forward.

Mrs. Gillan: It is not Wales that I am talking down; it is the Secretary of State and the Labour Government. Let us turn to Anglesey, which has the lowest gross value added of any region in the UK. If the Wylfa power station shuts down, 1,500 jobs and more than £42 million in wages and salaries will be lost in what is one of Wales's worst employment blackspots. The Springfield plant that provided Wylfa with fuel stopped production this month. Does that mean that the Secretary of State has failed in his discussions with the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to extend the life of that power station, and how is he now going to avert a social and economic disaster in Anglesey?

Mr. Hain: I am working very closely with my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Albert Owen), who does a brilliant job in his constituency, to see whether we can extend the life of Wylfa, but there are very real logistical and practical reasons why that is difficult, so we are looking at alternative power supplies. However, it is absolutely clear, as the hon. Lady cannot dispute, that Anglesey's economy is doing better than ever and is in a completely different state from the one it was in under the Conservatives. Then, it experienced a miserable time—manufacturing jobs were lost and businesses were closed right across Wales.


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