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Employment (Swansea)

5. Mrs. Siân C. James (Swansea, East) (Lab): What recent assessment he has made of employment levels in Swansea, East. [156154]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain): Up to December 2006, there were over 34,000 people in employment in Swansea East, an increase of over 3,000 in two years.

Mrs. James: I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer. I am sure that he is aware that one of the fastest growing sectors in Wales is that of information and communication technology. There has been an increase in jobs in that sector in Swansea, East, with companies such as nSure investing and benefiting from the excellent staff and opportunities in Swansea. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that there will be continued investment in this important sector and that we will drive up employment levels even higher?

Mr. Hain: Yes, indeed. What nSure is doing is very good, and I notice that Swansea is leading the way with RAP International based at the Technium Swansea. Swansea university has a Technium digital base there, and there is a £3 million Boots centre for innovation, designed to assist global researchers and entrepreneurs. That is a good sign that Swansea is leading the way and becoming a city that will make a major impact in the ICT sector, which, as my hon. Friend says, is crucial to the strength of the Welsh economy.

Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab): As well as welcoming the increase in Welsh exports, which was published last week, would my right hon. Friend join me in recognising the importance of businesses such as Machynys golf club, which bring money into Wales and provide jobs in the Llanelli area?

Mr. Hain: Yes, I do, and I visited the golf club with my hon. Friend. It is a good example of a world-class investment that shows that Llanelli and the whole region of south-west Wales is doing very well,
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compared with how it was more than 10 years ago, during the miserable experience it had under the Tories.

Economic Inactivity

6. Dr. Hywel Francis (Aberavon) (Lab): What measures the Government are planning to tackle economic inactivity in Wales. [156155]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain): The Government are planning a wide range of initiatives aiming to help those on benefits back into work in Wales, including city strategy pilots in Rhyl and the heads of the valleys, and extending pathways to work to all Wales by the end of this year.

Dr. Francis: The Secretary of State will know about the recent Bevan Foundation study, entitled “Caring and Working? A Welsh Case Study”, which addresses the barriers that carers face in returning to work. Does he agree that one of the best ways to help carers in Wales and elsewhere is to review the carer’s allowance and significantly improve their respite care? Does he also agree that the Prime Minister’s review of the national carer’s strategy and his excellent initiative to establish a carer’s commission present an ideal opportunity to assist carers and thus reduce economic inactivity in Wales?

Mr. Hain: Yes, I do. I commend my hon. Friend for his pioneering work in support of carers—he has done a fantastic job. The Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act 2004 took up much of that work. The Bevan Foundation publication on caring and working, which I have read, is very interesting and will inform our current debate on a national carer’s strategy and our intention to publish a Green Paper once we have taken the work forward.

Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): Wales has the capacity to become the capital of environmental industries for the United Kingdom and, indeed, Europe. Is the Secretary of State willing to meet a delegation representing environmental enterprises to discuss the potential of tackling economic inactivity throughout Wales at the same time as contributing to our sustainable agenda?

Mr. Hain: I would be happy to meet such a delegation. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that environmental manufacturing and environmental businesses have a vital role in a strong, modern Welsh economy, which we are building in partnership with the Welsh Assembly Government.

John Smith (Vale of Glamorgan) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that economic inactivity in south Wales will be greatly reduced by the military training academy at St. Athan, especially if we get the transport infrastructure right? Is he satisfied with the progress that the Welsh Assembly Government are making on that infrastructure?

Mr. Hain: My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary visited in the summer to look into the matter. The St. Athan project is a flagship project for Wales, which will bring in billions of pounds of investment and create
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thousands of jobs. That shows the value of the partnership between our Government here in London and the Welsh Assembly Government in Cardiff, with Wales as part of the United Kingdom, not taken out of it, as the nationalists propose, or forced to withdraw as a result of the disastrous proposals of the Leader of the Opposition to create first and second-class Members of Parliament.

Nick Ainger (Carmarthen, West and South Pembrokeshire) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will be aware of the transformation in economic success of my constituency. Ten years ago, it was an unemployment blackspot; now it has almost full employment. However, problems remain with economic inactivity. May I draw his attention to the work of the Prince’s Trust and Pembrokeshire college, which are delivering upskilling for young people, 140 of whom are based at the Cleddau activity centre, which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary visited in September?

Wearing his other hat as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions—

Mr. Speaker: Order. That will do.

Mr. Hain: I agree with my hon. Friend that the Prince’s Trust does fantastic work in Pembrokeshire and elsewhere in the country. I also agree that the transformation in the Pembrokeshire economy has been nothing short of miraculous, given the devastation that I remember seeing when I canvassed with him in the early 1990s. Now, more than 1,000 job vacancies have been advertised in his constituency alone. That shows the enormous growth in the economy in Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire and the fantastic potential for everybody there to do well, for people to get more jobs and to go from strength to strength.

Cancer Treatment

7. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): What discussions he has had with Ministers in the National Assembly for Wales Government on the treatment of patients from England for cancer in Welsh hospitals. [156156]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Huw Irranca-Davies): I am in regular contact with all my ministerial colleagues in the Welsh Assembly Government. The Welsh Assembly Government are committed to providing a world-class health service that is available to everyone, irrespective of who they are or where they live.

Michael Fabricant: The Under-Secretary knows that the geography of Wales makes transport difficult. When, for example, cancer consultants are being withdrawn from Bronglais hospital in Aberystwyth and people in that part of mid Wales have to go to Caernarfon or even across to Shrewsbury for treatment, it causes genuine difficulty. Will he speak to members of the Welsh Assembly Government to ascertain whether the situation can be resolved?

Huw Irranca-Davies: As always, I am more than happy to take up individual issues that are raised. On the Welsh Assembly Government’s commitment, the
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hon. Gentleman knows that, in 2007, £5.5 billion is being spent on health in Wales—more than £1,800 per person and more than double 1996-97 figures. Cancer services in Wales now receive £4.5 million extra. Record investment is showing record results.

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked—


Q1. [156088] Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 10 October.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall have further such meetings later today.

Robert Neill: Will the Prime Minister join me in congratulating the Conservative-controlled London borough of Bromley on achieving the highest rate of dry recycling in London and on being recognised as an exemplary authority for garden and home recycling? Would he like to come and see the work that we are doing in Bromley? I could take him and show him one of our bottle banks.

The Prime Minister The hon. Gentleman will therefore be very [ Interruption. ]

Mr. Speaker: Order. Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman will therefore be very pleased with the public expenditure settlement yesterday, which gives huge amounts of money to the environment.

Mr. David Kidney (Stafford) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend take a personal interest in helping to resolve the industrial dispute at Royal Mail? I am sure that, as the owner of the business, the Government share everybody’s concern about the interruptions in the cash flow of small businesses, in the contacts between constituents and their MPs and in the daily lives of all residents, including those in rural communities. Given that both sides of the dispute say that they share the same interest— [ Interruption. ]

Mr. Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman has made his point.

The Prime Minister: This has to be settled by negotiations between the Post Office and the work force, but there is no justification for the continuation of the dispute. It should be brought to an end on the terms that have been offered as soon as possible. I urge the work force to go back to work.

Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): The big question this week is: can we believe what the Prime Minister says? So let us start with his credibility gulf over the election. The Prime Minister was asked,
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“Hand on heart, if the polls showed a 100-seat majority, would you still have called off the election?” and he said yes. Does he expect anyone to believe that?

The Prime Minister: I will take no lectures from the Leader of the Opposition. This summer he was for grammar schools, against them and then for them again. He was for VAT on air fares and then against it. He was for parking charges and then against them. He was for museum charges and then against them. I will take no lectures from the Leader of the Opposition about that.

Mr. Cameron: He is the first Prime Minister in history to flunk an election because he thought that he was going to win it. Does he remember writing this? It is in his best-selling book about courage:

Does he realise what a phoney he now looks? Has he found a single person who believes his excuses for cancelling the election?

The Prime Minister: He talks about a clamour for an election. I looked at the Downing street website this morning. There is a petition on the website— [ Interruption. ]

Mr. Speaker: Order. Allow the Prime Minister to answer.

The Prime Minister: Certainly there is a petition on the Downing street website calling for an election. It is signed by 26 people—and not one of them is on the Conservative Front Bench. We will govern in the interests of the people, and what matters to the people is the health service, education and housing. We will govern to make housing, health and education better in this country.

Mr. Cameron: The Prime Minister is going to have to do better than that. Let us try another claim. Did the draft of the pre-Budget report, written before the Conservative party conference, include plans for the taxation of non-doms and the raising of inheritance tax? It is a simple question: yes or no?

The Prime Minister: If the right hon. Gentleman looks back to the summer and to the interviews given by the Chancellor, he will see that he talked about these very issues. We have raised the exemption on inheritance tax on 10 occasions since 1997, and we have dealt with tax avoidance in relation to non-domiciles and non-residents on many occasions since 1997. We are going to continue to take the right decisions for the country. It is very interesting that he has raised the issue of inheritance tax and non-domiciles, and I think that we can have a detailed discussion on this over the next few weeks. He will have to explain to the House, as we will explain to the House, that there are not 150,000, or even 115,000, non-domiciles who would pay this tax; there are only 15,000. When the Conservatives start to look at the official figures, they will find that they could raise only £650 million, not £3.5 billion, as they claim.
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As for inheritance tax—again, I welcome the debate that we are going to have in the country on this—we can exempt estates below £700,000 by 2010 and put money into health and education. The Conservative party are going to put £2 billion into giving money to those with estates above £950,000—£1 billion to those who are already rich. When the debate is held in the country, people will choose our policies and reject theirs.

Mr. Cameron: I tell you what: if you have got some questions about our policy, find a bit of courage, discover a bit of bottle, get in your car, go down to Buckingham palace and call that election.

The Prime Minister now tells us that he was planning to change the rules on inheritance tax and non-doms all along. He is treating the British people like fools. Next, he will be telling us how much he admires Margaret Thatcher! Let us try another example of straight talking from the Prime Minister. Your manifesto said— [ Interruption. ] The Prime Minister said that the Labour manifesto was an issue of trust. That manifesto promised a referendum on the European constitution. Do you understand how not holding that referendum damages your credibility?

The Prime Minister: If we were having a debate on the euro, we would have a referendum. If it was the old treaty, we would have a referendum. But because we have won in negotiations, by standing up for British interests, all the red lines that we asked for have been achieved. When the intergovernmental conference reports, he will see very clearly that these red lines have been achieved. I just ask the right hon. Gentleman to look at the issue of the referendum. Every single shadow Cabinet member who was in this Parliament in 1992 voted against a referendum on the Maastricht treaty. Every country apart from Ireland that wanted a referendum a few months ago no longer wants one. We stand up for the British national interest, and we will continue to do so.

Mr. Cameron: Nobody believes him. The Labour-dominated European Scrutiny Committee says that the EU treaty is “substantially equivalent” to the constitution. It says that pretending otherwise is “misleading”. When Labour MPs say this, why should anyone believe the Prime Minister?

The Prime Minister: Because I have the report here and it makes a distinction between the treaty— [ Interruption. ] Oh yes— [ Interruption. ] Well, if people want a debate about the future, they should read the full report. It makes a distinction between the treaty itself and its effect on Britain with the protocols, the opt-ins, the exemptions, the emergency brake and the veto. What the Leader of the Opposition forgets is that we went to Brussels and negotiated for Britain the opt-out, the protocol, the opt-in and the emergency brake. We have stood up for the British national interest. That is more than the Conservative party ever did over Maastricht.

Mr. Cameron: What we will not forget—and what the British people will not forget—is that the Prime Minister made a promise and he has broken it. We have a Prime Minister who will not talk straight about the
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election, who will not own up on inheritance tax and who will not keep his promises on an EU referendum. Never have the British people been treated with such cynicism. For 10 years the Prime Minister plotted and schemed to have this job—and for what? No conviction, just calculation; no vision, just a vacuum. Last week he lost his political authority, and this week he is losing his moral authority. How long are we going to have to wait before the past makes way for the future?

The Prime Minister: This is the man who wanted an end to the Punch and Judy show! This is the man who wanted an end to name calling! We are the Government who have created 10 years of economic stability in this country. We are the Government who adopted the minimum wage—against Conservative advice. We are the Government who made the Bank of England independent—against Conservative advice. We are the Government who have delivered record rises in health expenditure—against Conservative advice. We are the Government who are improving our education system—against Conservative advice. We will continue to govern in the interests of the whole country.

Martin Salter (Reading, West) (Lab): Yesterday the Chancellor of the Exchequer revealed that an increase in the inheritance tax threshold to £1 million would hand an eye-watering windfall of £1 billion to just 1 per cent. of the richest estates in this country. Has the Prime Minister had an opportunity to cross-reference those figures with the Register of Members’ Interests to find out how many Members would benefit from the Conservative proposals?

The Prime Minister: Let us have this debate about the future of inheritance tax. I welcome such a debate, because there is a choice to be made between those who favour raising the threshold to £700,000 and using the extra money to spend on health and education, and those who want a £1 million threshold, which would mean giving £1 billion to the top 1.5 per cent. in this country. I know how the British people will feel about that issue: they will want investment in health and education, as well as the improvements in inheritance tax. Once the Conservative party settles down, it will realise that by publishing its election manifesto early, it has ensured that that will be dissected week by week in the House of Commons.

Sir Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife) (LD): As the Prime Minister has stolen Liberal Democrat policies in order to help the better-off, will he also steal Liberal Democrat policies in order to assist lower and middle-income families, and cut the basic rate of income tax to 16p in the pound?

The Prime Minister: We are cutting the basic rate of income tax, from 22p to 20p in the pound—but what we will not do is follow Liberal party policy, which would cut the basic rate by another 4p, costing £12 billion and putting the public finances at risk. In exactly the same way as the Conservative party, the Liberals would put the management of the economy at risk. We will not follow that policy.

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