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Devolved Government

5. Andrew Rosindell (Romford) (Con): What his policy is on increasing the National Assembly for Wales’s legislative competence. [177787]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain): We are committed to giving the National Assembly for Wales new law-making powers through the provisions of the Government of Wales Act 2006.

Andrew Rosindell: I thank the Secretary of State for his reply, but does he accept that there has been no consultation among the people of Wales on the new powers for the Assembly? Why will he not allow the people of Wales to choose, in a referendum, whether they want the Assembly to have those powers?

Mr. Hain: Parliament is the proper source for granting extra powers and passing the legislation so to do. The powers that are now being exercised through Orders in Council and the framework powers being established in primary legislation are within the terms of the settlement endorsed by the people of Wales in a referendum in 1997, which the hon. Gentleman’s party opposed.

Mr. David Jones (Clwyd, West) (Con): Last year, the Welsh Assembly Government applied to the Wales Office for framework powers conferring legislative competence to be included in the Planning Bill. Six months later, the Bill has had its Second Reading and is now in Committee, yet the draft clauses relating to those powers have still not been produced. Will the Secretary of State please tell us whether that unacceptable delay is the product of deliberate policy, administrative oversight or simple incompetence?

Mr. Hain: As the hon. Gentleman knows—I think that he was present for it—there was a briefing on the Planning Bill given by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Wales and the Minister concerned last week. At that briefing, it was explained why the complexities involved meant that the framework clause was not yet ready. When it is ready, the hon. Gentleman will be given an opportunity, as
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will his hon. Friends and all other Members who have an interest, to question the Ministers concerned. The measure will be subject to proper scrutiny, as it will be throughout the process as it goes into the Bill and is debated in the House.

Ryder Cup

6. Paul Flynn (Newport, West) (Lab): What discussions he has had on preparations for the Ryder cup to be held in Newport in 2010. [177788]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Huw Irranca-Davies): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have regular discussions with colleagues in the Welsh Assembly Government and elsewhere about issues affecting Wales, including the preparation for major events. In fact, I am planning to meet representatives of Ryder cup Wales in the near future to discuss the preparations for 2010.

Paul Flynn: Will my hon. Friend redouble his efforts to ensure that the great enthusiasm of all of Wales for the Ryder cup is shared by people throughout the UK? Is he looking forward, as I am, to that glorious day in 2010—a few months after the next general election—when I, the newly re-elected Member for Newport, West, will welcome the right hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain) to Newport to congratulate him on his eighth successive year of distinguished service as Secretary of State for Wales?

Huw Irranca-Davies: My right hon. Friend, who has been a huge supporter of the Ryder cup, will indeed look forward to that glorious day and to the re-election of my hon. Friend. Certainly, the Ryder cup is welcomed across Wales and the UK—with its massive investment in infrastructure and jobs, the involvement of the private sector in Newport, and new hotel development. It is a great tribute to the work that Wales has done in remodelling itself as the venue for top-class sporting events.

Adam Price (Carmarthen, East and Dinefwr) (PC): Of course, the Ryder cup will not be a success if people are unable to get to it, so will the Minister give an assurance that the construction of Crossrail along the Great Western main line, which is due to commence in 2010, will not cause huge disruption to train services from Paddington to Newport?

Huw Irranca-Davies: The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point and I am happy to take up that issue. It is important to have the infrastructure in place so that people can make use of it. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will welcome not only the massive investment in Newport but the legacy of the Ryder cup in Wales, the wider investment in golf across Wales and the fact that Wales now stages the rugby world cup, the Heineken cup final, the FA cup final and the Wales rally GB. Wales is now truly the destination for world-class sporting events.

Mrs. Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): What assessment has been made of the impact of the 2010 Ryder cup on my constituency in respect of economic, tourism, social and sporting prowess? Bridgend has
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some of the best golf courses in the UK, including the Royal Porthcawl, which is very popular with the Japanese ambassador, who regularly plays there.

Huw Irranca-Davies: My hon. Friend is unusually well informed about the activities of the Japanese ambassador, but it is indeed true that he plays there every month. It is estimated that the Ryder cup brought £88 million into the Irish economy in the tournament week alone and studies are progressing on how much it will bring into the wider Welsh economy and Bridgend. I have no doubt that our success in getting the Ryder cup will once again put us at the highest level in attracting investment and providing a sporting legacy for Wales.


7. Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle) (Con): What recent discussions he has had with the First Minister on the environment in Wales. [177789]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain): I have regular discussions, for instance on our joint support for the Severn barrage, which will be by far the biggest renewable energy project in Britain.

Gregory Barker: How will the opening, in the teeth of local opposition, of Britain’s largest ever open-cast coal mine near Merthyr Tydfil help the UK meet its 2020 carbon reduction targets?

Mr. Hain: There is still a demand—indeed, an increasing demand—for Welsh coal and proper environmental standards apply to such applications and projects. We will need to move towards clean coal through carbon capture and storage in order to ensure that, where coal makes a contribution to our future energy mix, it is clean.

Defence Training Programme

8. John Smith (Vale of Glamorgan) (Lab): What progress is being made on the Defence Training Programme at RAF St. Athan; and if he will make a statement. [177790]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Huw Irranca-Davies): I welcome the progress made so far on delivering an excellent package that meets our defence training needs. Work is expected to begin at St. Athan as early as next year.

John Smith: I thank my hon. Friend for that reply and I thank him and the Secretary of State for their work in attracting this multi-billion pound investment to Wales. If all of Wales is to benefit from it, we must get the planning right. Will my hon. Friend agree to meet me to discuss the local authority’s planning strategy to ensure that it appreciates the sheer scale and strategic importance of this economy-changing development?

Huw Irranca-Davies: My hon. Friend once again proves why he recently won the campaigner of the year prize at the Welsh politicians’ awards for his work on St. Athan. It was thoroughly deserved. I am more than
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happy to meet him once again, as will be my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. The St. Athan development will bring £11 billion-worth of investment, creating thousands of direct and indirect jobs from 2013. It is the largest single Government investment in Wales and is thoroughly to be welcomed.

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): Is the Minister aware that, according to a recent survey by the Public and Commercial Services union, 72 per cent. of the defence personnel who are expected to move to Wales from RAF Cosford in my constituency are either unwilling or unable to do so? Is it not about time we were given some transparency in the planning problems mentioned by the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan (John Smith)?

Huw Irranca-Davies: The hon. Gentleman is a good advocate for his constituents. He will know that Cosford has been recommended for 102 Logistics Brigade and 1 Signal Brigade when they return from Germany, subject to development plans and value for money. If the defence community is located at Cosford, Metrix will remain committed to a learning centre and design facility there.

I should welcome it if, for once, the hon. Gentleman actually stood up and said what a good job this is for Wales, particularly given his role on the Welsh Affairs Committee.

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked—


Q1. [179207] Mr. Robert Flello (Stoke-on-Trent, South) (Lab): If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 16 January.

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.

Mr. Flello: Despite a decade of economic stability with low inflation and low interest rates, my constituents— [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. Hon. Members must let the hon. Gentleman give his good news.

Mr. Flello: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Despite those achievements, my constituents are now understandably concerned about the way in which global economic issues affect them. How does my right hon. Friend feel that these events compare with those of the early 1990s, when Britain was plunged into recession after recession?

The Prime Minister: It is right that people are concerned about what is happening in the global economy, and it is right that people want to know, as a result of global financial turbulence, what will happen to our economy over the next few months. That is why
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I am pleased to say that yesterday’s inflation figures showed that our inflation rate was 2.1 per cent., half the rate in America, and why I am also pleased to report that today’s employment figures showed that employment had risen by 175,000 in the last quarter, and was up by a quarter of a million over the year. Unemployment is down, the claimant count is down and inactivity is down. Under our Government, unemployment is down and employment up: we have the best employment record in history.

Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): Last year, the Government promised that they would get back all the taxpayers’ money lent to Northern Rock. Can the Prime Minister tell us the exact amount of both the loans and the guarantees, and will he repeat today the pledge that all the taxpayers’ money will be paid back?

The Prime Minister: That is our intention. If I may say so, I welcome the chance to bring the House up to date on what is happening with Northern Rock. Northern Rock shareholders and depositors were let down by bad management. It was a bad business plan.

In September, the Leader of the Opposition was good enough to say that he overwhelmingly supported our action. The action that we took was first to ensure that there was stability in the economy, and we said that to ensure stability we would secure the deposits of all Northern Rock depositors. We also said that we would stand behind the company with support from the Bank of England. In the next few weeks we will consider how we can find buyers for Northern Rock, and I think everyone in the House would say that we should rule out no option in doing so. That is the right course to take.

Let me tell all Members what comes first. We had to intervene to ensure stability, so that the instability of Northern Rock would not spread across the economy. That is what we have achieved over the past four months, and the Opposition should be supporting us, not criticising us.

Mr. Cameron: I asked the Prime Minister a very specific question about the figures. I think that the taxpayers, each of whom is currently lending about £1,800 to this bank, would like the figures to be confirmed in the House of Commons. It has been reported that the taxpayer is exposed to the tune of £55 billion: £26 billion of emergency loans and £29 billion of guarantees. Will the Prime Minister confirm those specific figures?

The Prime Minister: The Governor of the Bank of England announces the figures on what is happening every week, but I have to ask the Leader of the Opposition: he said in September— [ Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. The Prime Minister is in order.

The Prime Minister: The Leader of the Opposition wholeheartedly supported our action. He said that it was right to inject “liquidity to Northern Rock”. Is he changing his mind?

Mr. Cameron rose— [ Interruption.]

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Mr. Speaker: Let the Leader of the Opposition answer in the way he wants to answer— [ Interruption.] Order. He does not have to answer the Prime Minister's question.

Mr. Cameron: I asked the Prime Minister a specific question about the figures, which he simply could not bear to read out. That is what taxpayers who are worried about supporting the bank and about the extent of the support are asking about.

Let me ask the Prime Minister something else. At the time that the guarantee was given, was he advised that the level of taxpayer support could reach this huge level of £55 billion?

The Prime Minister: I have said that we will do what is necessary to protect the stability of the economy. I do not apologise for taking the action that is necessary because it has ensured the stability of the economy. Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition will answer the question: does he still support our action?

Mr. Cameron: For once, I did not ask the Prime Minister for an apology. I just asked him a straight question about the figures and whether he was advised about how bad it could be. He will not give an answer, so we do not know whether he was advised that the taxpayer could be in to the tune of £55 billion.

Let me ask the Prime Minister another specific question and see whether he can answer this one. Can he give an assurance that the level of support required from the taxpayer cannot get any higher than £55 billion?

The Prime Minister: It is precisely for that reason that we do not provide a running commentary on figures. Under any Government, including the previous Government, it was not the practice to pre-empt what the Bank of England does, which is to announce the figures itself, but I have to return to this point. We intervened to ensure stability in the economy and to ensure that Northern Rock would not spread across the economy to the rest of the financial system. We also intervened to protect depositors. Both those objectives in the past four months have been achieved. Is the right hon. Gentleman now telling me that, from a position of wholeheartedly supporting that action, he is now against it—yes or no?

Mr. Cameron: I will tell you what you did. When it came to the need for a total guarantee of deposits, you dithered and delayed. When it came to the opportunity of pushing for a sale with Lloyds TSB, you dithered and delayed, and when it came to the advice that you were getting to sell the bank straight after the bank run, you dithered and delayed. Why did you dither and delay? It was because you were planning a general election. Will the Prime Minister confirm that he received advice from his financial advisers to push for an immediate sale after the bank run?

The Prime Minister: No, and there was no offer from Lloyds TSB, as the right hon. Gentleman alleges. He should return to the substance of the issue: if we had not intervened to save Northern Rock, there was a danger that that would spread across the whole economy. He supported our doing that in September.
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Does he still support us now? If we had not intervened, depositors would have lost their money. Their money has been protected. He supported us in September on that. Does he support us now? I say that we have taken the right, consistent action in the interests of the stability of the economy. To go backwards and forwards as he is doing would put the stability of the economy at risk.

Mr. Cameron: The substance of the issue is that it is the Prime Minister’s regulatory system, it is his bank failure, it is his dithering, and it is his failure to deal with this issue. If it is the case, as he says, that he was not advised to go for an immediate sale, can he explain why the Bank of England was quoted as saying that he was

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