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What should we do? I think that we should create a Welsh equivalent of the Youth Justice Agency of Northern Ireland—a Welsh youth justice board that could get to grips with the problem of a lack of places
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for children and young people. We should also adopt some of the innovative policies that that agency has been following for some years in Northern Ireland—for example, the use of youth conference orders, which bring the young offender, the victim and the community together to look at the appropriate way forward, based on the principle of restorative justice, which has a lot of support in other parties. That is similar to the reparation orders that were in the Children Act 2004 but are hardly ever used. Because of the nature of community life in Wales, those principles would be appropriate in our setting.

We need to phase out prison, certainly for the under-16s, as recommended over 10 years ago by the former chief inspector of prisons. Other secure environments are more appropriate for young offenders at that age.

David T.C. Davies: The hon. Gentleman is very intelligent and must realise that young people under the age of 16 do not go to prison. They go to a secure environment. For him to talk about prison in that emotive fashion is to perpetuate a certain inaccuracy about the justice system.

Adam Price: Young offender institutions are part of the Prison Service; they are part of the prison estate. That is well recognised. Of course, we have split sites in many cases as well. I argue that there are other more appropriate interventions and that we should be looking at a wider range of residential settings: both secure closed settings and open settings. Prescoed was one such open setting. Because of the problem of overcrowding, that was turned into an open adult site, with all the attendant problems. I would have imagined that the hon. Gentleman had some sympathy in those circumstances.

I turn to the issue of substance misuse. As we know, most crime is drug or alcohol-related. We need to improve and extend the detoxification and rehabilitation facilities and services available for substance misusers. We also need to start to treat misusers not just as criminals but as patients suffering a chronic and debilitating sickness known as addiction. If they break the law to fund a habit, a properly funded and publicly owned probation service should work with other agencies to implement a personal plan to avoid offending, including, where appropriate, the use of medication. In my view, that should include as a treatment option the prescription of diamorphine, or injectable pharmaceutical heroin, in standard doses for long-term addicts. A pilot is under way in three areas of England—London, the north-east and Brighton—and I understand that the preliminary results are encouraging. Clearly, we need to evaluate the pilot carefully, but if the results are positive we need to look at adding this as a treatment option for long-term heroin addicts.

There have been extensive and large-scale studies in other countries—Canada, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Switzerland—so there is a body of research for us to draw upon. The German study showed, interestingly, that those prescribed diamorphine fared better in terms of their physical and
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mental health, and that an average of £8,500 was saved in terms of reduced crime. Two thirds of property crime is heroin-related, which is why the Home Office has decided to look at the pilot in this way.

Medicalising the issue with heroin addiction—other drugs have to be dealt with differently—has another benefit; it changes the perception of the drug among young people. Instead of its being seen as something illegal and in some way therefore exciting, it would be seen as a loser’s drug, or as a medical problem that had to be dealt with. In Zurich, where they have had a 10-year pilot study of the medical prescription of heroin, there has been an 82 per cent. drop in new users, precisely for this reason.

It is important that we stress that this should not be a free-for-all, nor is it legalisation; that is an entirely different debate. It should only be for people with long-term heroin dependency—a last resort for those who have tried and failed with all other forms of treatment, including oral methadone. It should be done only under very strict and stringent medical conditions in close collaboration with the police.

As the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire said, this is not a new policy in the UK; it was known as the British model, and was the basic practice in dealing with heroin addicts from 1926 until 1968. Any GP still has the legal power to prescribe diamorphine or heroin to treat medical conditions, but must have a special licence to treat addicts with injectable heroin. There are currently three doctors in Wales who prescribe injectable heroin to addicts, so it is not an entirely new thing.

The question is whether we have a systematic policy of looking at this matter, because the guidelines are unclear. To be fair, the Government, in their updated drugs strategy in 2002, promised to widen access to prescribed diamorphine for all those with a clinical need, and in May 2003 the national treatment agency for substance misuse said that prescription may be beneficial for some heroin misusers and gave a guarded endorsement of the practice.

I think we lack a clear statement of policy that would give a lead to GPs, who may be receiving mixed messages at the moment about how this fits in with overall policy. If the evidence from the pilot is as encouraging as we understand, we could go forward and take a huge step towards breaking the power of heroin dealers and pushers on our streets. We could deprive organised crime of a core client base and make heroin trafficking unprofitable for the first time. We could free a new generation, and generations in the future, from addiction.

I hope that we can build a cross-party consensus. Deprived areas have thousands of heroin addicts—coalfield communities have a 27 per cent. higher incidence of heroin addiction—and we owe it to those communities, and to the young people of the future as well, to think innovatively, to learn the lessons of the pilots and, if they are positive, to implement a new approach in our communities.

4.4 pm

Mr. Don Touhig (Islwyn) (Lab/Co-op): As I consider Wales in the first decade of this new century, I identify one great challenge that we must address, and which is
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key to our future economic prosperity: the upskilling of our people—giving them the skills that they do not yet have so that we can attract the jobs that we do not yet have. An important milestone towards achieving that is the decision to locate the new defence training academy at St. Athan in the seat of my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan (John Smith). That is not only the right decision for Britain’s armed forces; it is yet another instance of the Labour Government’s commitment to investing in the Welsh economy.

Since 1999, the Welsh economy has grown by 11 per cent.—higher than the UK growth rate of 7 per cent.—and more than 130,000 jobs have been created. The high wage, high growth, low unemployment economy that we in Wales currently enjoy should be contrasted with the economy in the Tory years when there was decay and desperation for our people. They offered nothing to the people of Wales. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood) wants to keep awake; he has just entered the Chamber, but perhaps he needs to leave again and have another sleep. The Tories offered nothing to the people of Wales, and the electorate have rejected them time and again, as they will do yet again on 3 May.

The new training facility at St. Athan also underlines the fact that Wales needs to move forward by becoming a knowledge-based economy. The new academy will provide high quality opportunities to grow innovative training schemes through partnerships between universities, further education colleges, Welsh business and industry and the Ministry of Defence. The success of the St. Athan bid serves as a lesson to all of us. In the coming years, in order to remain competitive we must ensure that companies investing and locating in Wales gain added value as a result. Above all, I believe that the training academy, by offering a partnership for Welsh business and industry to access the finest training facilities in the world, should serve as an example to Welsh universities and colleges.

Mr. Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the defence training academy will bring tremendous benefit that will not only be focused on the vale of Glamorgan area, but will spread to the whole of south Wales, and that that benefit will in fact extend as far as Bristol and Carmarthen? It will be of great benefit, the like of which we will not have seen in south Wales in a generation.

Mr. Touhig: My hon. Friend is right. It offers Welsh business and industry and the whole economy of south-east Wales and Severn-side a great opportunity to access first-class training facilities.

If we are truly to build a knowledge-based economy, our universities and colleges must be at the forefront. They have a vital role to play in translating research excellence into commercial innovation. Thanks to Labour’s knowledge exploitation fund, Welsh business has been able to take advantage of the excellent research and technology at our Welsh universities. We must encourage Welsh companies to work more closely with universities and colleges so that they can gain access to knowledge and research to improve their competitiveness. Wales will not be able to survive as a low skill, low wage economy. We knew that when the Conservative party was in government.

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We should also take into account that party’s opposition to the national minimum wage, aided and abetted by the indifference of the Welsh nationalists and the Liberal Democrats, and the fact that when it was in power it presided over the destruction of the finest industrial apprenticeship scheme the world has ever known. That is the record that the Conservative party delivered for the people of Wales, and the people of Wales will remember that on 3 May.

Adam Price: As the son of a miner, I was hardly indifferent during the miners’ strike when the Tories were destroying our communities. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, Plaid Cymru showed solidarity with the miners at that time.

Mr. Touhig: I do not doubt the hon. Gentleman’s personal commitment. The point I was making was that when we spent 40-odd hours in this House voting through the minimum wage, Welsh nationalist Members exited themselves and went home to bed.

David T.C. Davies: As the grandson of a miner, can I point out that far more mines were shut down in the late 1960s during Wilson’s Government than were ever closed under Mrs. Thatcher’s Administration in the ’70s and ’80s?

Mr. Touhig: If the hon. Gentleman is so committed to the interests of the mining communities, I wish he had been on our side when we were fighting his party to give compensation to miners who had suffered a terrible life in the pits. I did not see his party campaigning on our side on that occasion.

When my father went down the pit at the age of 14, in 1925, it was arm muscles that were important. When my grandchildren Rebekah and Jessica enter the workplace, it will be the muscles between their ears that they will need to develop. To put it simply, the people of Wales will have to go back to school if we are to close the skills gap. No one in full-time education today will have a job for life; everyone will have to re-train and re-skill throughout their working lives. For that reason, it is vital that, whatever might follow from objective 1 funding, it should first and last be used to educate and upskill our people. We got objective 1 funding for west Wales and the valleys because our gross domestic product was below that of the rest of the United Kingdom and Europe. At the end of the day, if we have invested heavily in infrastructure projects such as bypasses and multi-storey car parks—worthy as they may be—but not given our people new skills, we will not be better off economically as a country.

Wales needs to keep ahead of the change in the global economy that places a higher premium on knowledge, innovation, research and development. However, the plain fact is that our ability to attract potential investors will be based on the skills of our work force. We have already shown that we can do it. General Dynamics, which has the contract for developing and producing the MOD’s Bowman communications system, came to my constituency despite advice from consultants who said, “Do not go to Wales; you will not find the skills base.” It ignored that advice, and now 700 highly skilled people are
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involved in research and design. Indeed, the company has spent £1.8 million on training in the past two years. If ever there was a potent symbol of the new Wales, it is the fact that General Dynamics is based at the Oakdale business park, on the site once occupied by the Oakdale colliery.

When I think of entrepreneurship in Wales, I often remember when I was a councillor and 700 jobs were lost at Panteg steelworks, in Pontypool. Ian McGregor was running steel then—he had not got to coal—and he agreed to meet me. I asked if he intended to use funding from British Steel enterprises to provide seedcorn investment to help some of the redundant steel men to set up their own businesses. He was not rude, but he gave me a strange look and said that it had not occurred to him that anybody in Wales would want to start their own business. That was how Wales was perceived in those days—when the Tory Thatcher Government were out of touch and did not give a damn. Every time I walk past that statue out there, my blood runs cold, given what that person did to the economy and people of Wales.

The implementation of the first ever entrepreneurial action plan for Wales, which seeks to put enterprise at the heart of our economic development policy, is certainly a step in the right direction. Wales accounts for nearly 15 per cent. of graduate business start-ups in the UK as a whole. However, more needs to be done to help those who are taking their first steps toward establishing a new business. Projects such as Venture Wales do excellent work in helping people to set up in business, but again, it needs to be better advertised. That means challenging the mindset in Wales. We have done much to eradicate poverty, but we still have to tackle something that, although it was touched on earlier, is rarely talked of: poverty of ambition. To me, poverty of ambition is just as real as the other form of poverty. The great socialist James Maxton once said that poverty is man-made and therefore open to change. Poverty of ambition is an attitude of mind, and it is up to us to change it—to give people hope, self-confidence and self-esteem.

Talented people have said to me that going to college or starting a business is not for them. The task that we face is to equip them with skills and confidence to meet the challenge, set up in business and set out on their own. Those who say that that is impossible should look at the example of Ireland, which in 2003 was called the most globalised economy in the world. We in Wales should be challenging for that title. However, to achieve that we need to focus heavily on using EU funding to provide the skills and technical innovation that modern business needs. I hope that in years to come, rather than talking about the Celtic tiger economy of Ireland, it will be the dragon economy of Wales that others will look to as the best example of the use of European funding.

Come the Assembly elections in May, the choice will be clear. On the one hand, voters can choose a party led by Rhodri Morgan that is committed to a programme of innovation, training and social justice. On the other, they have the Tories who have betrayed Wales in the past, the nationalists who dream of separation but never dare say so, and the Lib Dems
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who, if jumping on a bandwagon was a crime, would be serial offenders. The message to the people of Wales is that if they vote for the Tories, the nationalists or the Lib Dems—or worse, stay at home—on 3 May, they will wake up to a Tory-led coalition, a marriage of convenience. Wales would be led by a ragbag of mediocre politicians and that would only end in tears. The people of Wales deserve better than that.

A vote for Labour on 3 May will ensure continued growth in public services, prosperity and a new self-confidence in Wales that our forefathers could only dream of, but which we are creating today.

4.15 pm

David T.C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): The Secretary of State began with his memories of the night of the referendum. In the words of Max Boyce, I was there. I had campaigned against a Welsh Assembly and voted against it. Had there been another referendum on devolution in Wales, I would almost certainly have become one of the few politicians to vote themselves out of a job.

One of the reasons I stood for the Assembly was because I reflected the clear view of my constituents in south-east Wales and Monmouthshire who did not want a Welsh Assembly because they were afraid that it would lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom. The Labour party is now trying to cloak itself in the mantle of the Union when it was the one to open up Pandora’s box by embarking on that ill-thought-out constitutional reform. It was ill thought out because we now have a Parliament in Scotland, a power-sharing arrangement that sometimes works and sometimes does not work in Northern Ireland, and an Assembly for Wales—but the Government have not addressed the important issue of what we should do about England. More than 50 million taxpaying constituents in England do not have the same level of representation that we do in the Celtic nations. That is the question that needs to be answered before we go ahead with any further changes to the constitution.

For that reason, I am concerned by calls that I hear from all over the place for more powers for the Welsh Assembly, but that would only increase the constitutional problems and be more likely to speed up the break-up of the United Kingdom. Apart from the constitutional problems—

Albert Owen: The hon. Gentleman says that he hears calls from all over the place. One of those places is actually Nick Bourne and the Conservative group on the Welsh Assembly. Does he think that they should reconsider their position and oppose devolution completely?

David T.C. Davies: I am not aware that the Conservative group in the Welsh Assembly has officially published any proposals for the future of the Assembly. By the way, I shall try to keep my speech short. I like to take interventions, but I should point out to hon. Members that it is they who will not be able to speak if they intervene too many times.

One reason why I would not like to see any further powers going to the Welsh Assembly is that it has not proved to be very good at using the powers it already
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has. For example, it has powers to raise taxation through the back door by capping funding to local government. It has done that by effectively changing the formula around in a way that means that rural areas lose out. Deprivation is calculated based on how many people are on benefits, rather than average incomes, for example. As a result, in Monmouthshire the council tax for a band D house was some £384 in 1997, but that has gone up to almost £1,000 now. The majority of houses have also moved from band D into band E, meaning that people have had an increase since 1997 of some 160 per cent. in their council tax, mainly as a result of the change in formula implemented by the Welsh Assembly.

The Assembly also has powers in the health service, and we have seen what a disaster that has been. The health service in England is far better run than the health service in Wales—

Chris Ruane: Thank you very much.

David T.C. Davies: That is not something of which the hon. Gentleman should be proud. Indeed, he should be ashamed of it. It is not that the health service is in an especially good state in England, simply that it is worse in Wales.

In many rural areas, getting an ambulance is like waiting for Godot. Recently, a lady in my area made a 999 call for an ambulance. It turned up three hours later because the drivers had no satnav or maps, and got lost. By the time they arrived at her house, they had run out of fuel. They wanted her husband to fill a billycan with petrol so that they could get the lady to a hospital. That disgraceful anecdote about the ambulance service is only of many that I could tell.

Even more worrying is the second-class treatment suffered by many people in Wales on the waiting lists. A gentleman called Vincent Davis, a constituent of mine, was diagnosed in 2001 with a rare form of cancer and told that he was terminally ill. He was treated at the Royal Free hospital in Hampstead with yttrium octreotide therapy. Three cycles of that reduced his tumour by 50 per cent. and gave him several extra years of life with his family. When his cancer returned, he went back to see his doctor in Wales. His consultant, Mr. Caplin—one of the UK’s leading experts in that particular form of cancer—sent him a letter. My constituent was shocked to be told that the health authority would not fund his treatment because he was living in Wales. I took up the matter with Health Commission Wales, which said that it was not prepared to fund my constituent’s treatment because it had not been approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. Subsequently, I showed the commission a letter from NICE’s chief executive, Andrew Dillon, stating that the Department of Health had indicated that it was

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