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Cardiff Airport

5. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) (Lab): What recent discussions he has had with the Welsh Assembly Government on increasing the number of international routes flown from Cardiff International Airport. [214278]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Paul Murphy): I have regular discussions with Welsh Assembly Government Ministers concerning all matters affecting Wales, including air transport.

Ann Clwyd: As everyone is agreed that there is over-centralisation of air transport in the UK, why are 70 per cent. of air travellers in Wales still forced to go outside the country to get to their destination? Surely it is time that services from Cardiff airport were able to fly to more destinations in the world.

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Mr. Murphy: Yes, I accept my right hon. Friend’s point. She will know, of course, that from Cardiff one can go directly to 61 destinations, from Alicante to Warsaw. However, she is right that the business community in Wales in particular would like more direct flights, for example to Germany and Belgium. Cardiff International airport is working on that together with the Welsh Assembly Government.

David T.C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): Does the Secretary of State not find it extraordinary that in spite of all the concerns about climate change, internal flights in Wales are being subsidised by Welsh taxpayers? Does he not agree that any flights are good, but only if the market rates support them?

Mr. Murphy: I think that the hon. Gentleman will accept that there is a need for a north-south air link, and that the Assembly is spending taxpayers’ money well by ensuring that there is a proper link by air between the north and south of Wales. He knows how long it takes to get by road or rail from Anglesey to Cardiff. I think that it is good money well spent.

Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): The Secretary of State and I agree that Cardiff airport is crucial to the Welsh economy and that we need to secure its future. Does he agree that any road charges that might be introduced in Wales and not in England under the provisions of the Local Transport Bill, if they are on roads linking to the airport, would give it a serious competitive disadvantage against, say, Bristol airport? Is that not another reason why the Welsh provision put in the Bill at Plaid’s request should be dropped forthwith?

Mr. Murphy: I do not know of any plans to charge for roads going to the airport in Cardiff, but I understand what the hon. Lady says, and it is important to have good road links between the airport and the rest of south Wales.

Sporting Events

6. Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): What discussions he has had with the First Minister on holding national and international sporting events in Wales; and if he will make a statement. [214279]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Huw Irranca-Davies): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have regular meetings with the First Minister and other Welsh Assembly Government Ministers to discuss matters affecting Wales, including sporting events. The House will know that Wales now has an international reputation as a nation capable of winning and hosting successful major sporting events—a reputation that we hope to enhance still further.

Ian Lucas: My hon. Friend will be aware of the great enthusiasm in Wales to host the 2016 European football championships in collaboration with Scotland. Will he have a word with some of his Scottish colleagues in government to encourage them to speak to the Scottish Football Association about the joint hosting of the European championships, to mirror the success of the tournament that we have just seen?

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Huw Irranca-Davies: My hon. Friend and his Assembly counterpart Lesley Griffiths are championing the cause of the tie-up between Wales and Scotland to host the 2016 European championships. I will be more than happy to discuss it with Scottish counterparts. As he knows, Wrexham now has a reputation for hosting international football matches at the Racecourse Ground. Only last month, it held rugby matches in the International Rugby Board junior world championships.

Jenny Willott (Cardiff, Central) (LD): Clearly, one of the most important international sporting events coming up is the Olympics. I am sure that the Minister is aware that just two of the more than 600 contracts that have already been awarded for the Olympics were awarded to Welsh companies. That undermines the Government’s pledge that the wealth from the Olympics would be shared fairly across the UK. Will he meet the Minister for the Olympics to try to ensure that Wales gets its fair share of the remaining £4 billion-worth of contracts that will be coming up?

Huw Irranca-Davies: I will indeed. In fact, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I meet my right hon. Friends the Minister for the Olympics and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to stress Wales’ commercial importance for the Olympics. All Welsh Members have a role to play in encouraging business to come forward. The Olympic Delivery Authority expected to deliver 2,000 contracts before the games, and we should all encourage Welsh businesses to tender for them.

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked—


Q1. [215350] Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab): When he expects all British troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): I am sure that the whole House will first wish to join me in sending our profound condolences to the families and friends of Warrant Officer 2nd Class Dan Shirley of 13th Air Assault Support Regiment, Royal Logistics Corps, and of Lance Corporal James Johnson of 5th Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Scotland, who have given their lives in Afghanistan in the past week. We owe them, and all those who have served, an immense debt of gratitude.

Afghanistan is the front line against the Taliban. Forty nations under a UN mandate are contributing more than 50,000 troops. More than 6 million children are now in school, and there has been a 25 per cent. fall in infant mortality. We will not set an artificial timetable but, as the capability of the Afghan national security forces improves, Afghan forces will take over more and more responsibility for their own affairs.

Jeremy Corbyn: I join the Prime Minister in expressing condolences to the families of those soldiers who perished recently, and of the more than 100 others who have died during the British presence in Afghanistan. Is he aware that more than 2,000 Afghan people have died this year
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alone, and that this year the war will cost the British taxpayer £1.6 billion? Does he not think that there is a need for a re-examination of our strategy in Afghanistan? We have been there seven years, but the poppy crop is at record levels. Would it not be better to start buying the poppy crop so that it can be used for medicinal purposes and not for the drug trade, and in order to undermine the basis of the instability in the country? Should we not also set a timetable for the political dialogue that will ensure that we can withdraw British troops as soon as possible?

The Prime Minister: Responsibility for the violence and death lies with the Taliban and their supporters. Over the past few years, we have trained 58,000 soldiers in the Afghan army, and the police are now training 80,000 Afghan local police. As their capability improves, not only will we allow Afghan forces to take more control over their own country but local and national Government will also be more secure and the economic and social development programmes that we are engaged in will happen too. We have doubled the number of poppy-free provinces in the last period of time. We are continuing to fight the war against heroin as well, but I assure my hon. Friend that the reason that we are in Afghanistan is to stop the Taliban taking over there and to stop al-Qaeda coming back in that country. Our aim is to remove the threat to the Afghan people and the whole of Europe, including our own country.

Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): I join the Prime Minister in the expression of condolences, and endorse all his comments on why British troops must remain in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future. On Monday, I attended the funeral in my constituency of Lance Corporal James Bateman. He did not die in vain, and nor did any of the other seven members of 16 Air Assault Brigade who have lost their lives in Helmand province over the past month.

The Prime Minister has referred to the 43 nations that are in Afghanistan. Will he confirm, however, that the number of European NATO countries in southern Afghanistan can be counted on the fingers of one hand? Is it not time that our European allies did more to send their troops to the front line, and that they stopped relying on Britain to take the brunt?

The Prime Minister: I join the hon. Gentleman in paying tribute to his constituent, who died serving the country in a noble cause. As for the progress being made in Afghanistan, I can only report what Sir Jock Stirrup, the Chief of the Defence Staff, said only this morning. He said that

Speaking about Helmand province, he said:

That is a sign that things are improving as a result of the presence of British troops. I agree with the hon. Gentleman, too, that every country that has signed up to the coalition forces should make a contribution, and that in some cases that contribution should be bigger than the one being made at the moment. We have asked for the supply of forces and equipment. The hon. Gentleman will know that the French have agreed to put extra
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forces in Afghanistan, and they will allow the American marines to move south into Helmand province. At the same time, the Germans are offering support in policing, which will allow us to increase dramatically the number of police who are being trained in Afghanistan. As for helicopters, we have asked all European countries with helicopters to make them available for the difficult terrain in Afghanistan. But I agree with the hon. Gentleman that, as we said at the NATO meeting in Bucharest, all the countries that have signed up to this venture should make their fullest possible contribution.


Q2. [215351] Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 7 July.

The Prime Minister: I will have meetings with Ministers later today.

Chris Bryant: Robert Mugabe is a corrupt and brutal thug, who just goes to prove that someone can put their hand on the Bible and swear an oath, smile and smile and still be a complete and utter villain. Is it not the case, however, that the United Nations has been far too slow and reluctant to adopt a robust attitude to Mugabe? Is it not time that it was pointed out very clearly to him that he is no more the fairly elected President of Zimbabwe than Pinochet was of Chile?

The Prime Minister: I talked to the Secretary-General of the United Nations only this morning about what I believe are the responsibilities of the United Nations in this area. Given that the only credible election that has taken place was the one in which the Movement for Democratic Change actually recorded a victory, and given that the second round was a travesty at the hands of what is a blood-stained regime, I am pleased that, yesterday, the African Union called for an end to violence, set up a system of mediation and talked about a transitional Government in Zimbabwe. Having talked to the UN Secretary-General this morning, I think that it is right that the UN send an envoy to Zimbabwe. In the absence of real change, we will step up our sanctions and ask other countries to do so. We will press for tough action on Zimbabwe at the Security Council later today, and we will do so at the G8 in coming days. There will not be support for reconstruction in Zimbabwe until democracy is restored.

Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): I agree with every word that the Prime Minister has just said about Zimbabwe: the clearest possible message should go out that we do not recognise the illegitimate presidency of Robert Mugabe.

May I join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to Lance Corporal James Johnson and Warrant Officer 2nd Class Dan Shirley, who were killed in Afghanistan? Their fight in Afghanistan is not just about the stability of that country, but, as the Prime Minister has said, about keeping our streets safe here in Britain.

Will the Prime Minister confirm what he said on the 42 days vote: that no deals were made, no jobs were offered and no rewards were promised?

The Prime Minister: Yes.

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Mr. Cameron: I am grateful for the very short and very clear answer. Perhaps the Prime Minister can explain why, this morning, a letter has been published by The Daily Telegraph from the Labour Chief Whip to the right hon. Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) that says:

Can the Prime Minister tell us what the Chief Whip meant by “appropriately rewarded”?

The Prime Minister: We thanked the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee for doing exactly the right thing: for voting in the spirit of the report of the Home Affairs Committee and voting with the Government. As for the allegations being made about the Ulster Unionists and the Democratic Unionist party, I think that the right hon. Gentleman should listen to what they say about terrorism; they know more about it than almost anyone in the House.

Mr. Cameron: Have we not, once again, seen the Prime Minister’s utter inability to be straight with people? Why cannot he give a straight answer to a straight question? The Chief Whip —[ Interruption. ]

Mr. Speaker: Order.

Mr. Cameron: The Chief Whip, who should be wriggling with embarrassment, wrote to the Chairman of the Select Committee on Home Affairs—the job of the right hon. Member for Leicester, East—and said:


So let me ask the Prime Minister again: do not take people for fools; tell us the truth—what did he mean?

The Prime Minister: He meant that he was thanking the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee for doing exactly the right thing, and if the right hon. Gentleman has any allegation to make—

Mr. Speaker: Order.

Tom Levitt (High Peak) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend congratulate the people of New Mills in my constituency, who later this month will have the first community-owned 80 MW hydroelectric power station up and running in New Mills? Will he therefore look at the support that the Government give for small-scale community power stations and encourage green energy at a community level?

The Prime Minister: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. We support the hydroelectric power station that has been created in his constituency, and he will have seen last week the paper that was produced on renewables, showing that we had to increase our contribution to 15 per cent. That will be done by wind, wave and solar power, but it will also be done by hydroelectric power.

Mr. Nick Clegg (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD): May I add my own expressions of sympathy and condolence to the family and friends of Lance Corporal James Johnson and Warrant Officer Dan Shirley, who tragically lost their lives in Afghanistan this week?

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The Prime Minister this week published yet another Government review of the national health service, but what does it say about him and his Government that, after 11 years, one in a quarter of all British people now face mental health problems; that, every single day, more than 1,700 children are prescribed anti-depression drugs; and that millions of mental health patients—some of the most vulnerable people in the NHS—still have to wait three years to get help? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that we now have a two-tier health system in which millions of mental health patients are being left behind?

The Prime Minister: Let me just say that we have increased spending on mental health by 31 per cent. in real terms in the past 10 years. There are now 60 per cent. more consultant psychiatrists working in the national health service, and there are 20 per cent. more mental health nurses. That is possible only because of the investment that we have made in the national health service, which is far beyond what any other party offered or promised at any election, and that is why there are 80,000 more nurses, that is why we are doing 1 million operations, and that is why today, this party, and I believe the whole House, should be proud of 60 years of success in the national health service. I am proud that a Labour Government created it, and I hope that it will have the support of all parties in this House.

Mr. Clegg: The right hon. Gentleman is doing it again: he is confusing a list with an answer, and a review with action. There is a mental health crisis in this country today. Even the new president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists himself said this week that our mental health wards are “unacceptable, uninhabitable, and dangerous.” There is no excuse for the Prime Minister’s complacency. He once again relies on a promise made in a review, but when will he act to introduce a maximum waiting time and equal rights for all mental health patients?

The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman forgets that one of the purposes of our policy is that fewer people are in hospital and more care is provided in the community, but I can tell him that real investment in adult mental health places has increased by £1.2 billion, that we spent more than £5.1 billion on adult mental health services last year, compared with only £3 billion in 2001, and that capital spending on mental health hospitals and on hospital accommodation has been rising. Yes, we want to do more, but we can do more only if we invest more in the national health service as a whole. That is our commitment; it is not clear whether it is the commitment of all parties in this House.

Q3. [215352] Shona McIsaac (Cleethorpes) (Lab): My attention has been drawn to an NHS leaflet that sets out bold plans to launch GP-led health centres, where many services can be located under one roof—as well as other services, such as diagnostics—without destroying the GP-patient relationship. Given that the leaflet was distributed in 1948 at the launch of the NHS, will my right hon. Friend reaffirm his commitment to that founding principle of the NHS—unlike the Opposition, who opposed the proposals in 1948 and continue to do so now?

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