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Internet Crime Prevention

4. Alun Michael (Cardiff, South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op): What recent discussions he has had with the First Minister on Welsh initiatives to prevent internet crime. [261327]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Wayne David): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has regular discussions with the First Minister on a range of issues affecting Wales. The UK and Welsh Assembly Governments are working closely with law enforcement bodies, industry and financial institutions to combat crimes committed over the internet.

Alun Michael: I ask for an assurance that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the First Minister will give continued support to e-Crime Wales, which, along with the Yorkshire e-business centre, provides the best example of how to tackle online crime. Does my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary agree that digital inclusion requires Wales specifically and the UK generally to be made the safest place to do business online, whether that business is personal or commercial?

Mr. David: My right hon. Friend makes a good point. The digital inclusion agenda must include the measures he talks about. He referred to e-Crime Wales, and it is holding a series of business breakfasts around Wales in February and March this year, to keep businesses up to date with the latest threats, and to tell them what steps they can take to minimise the risks of the damaging effects of e-crime. Moreover, e-Crime Wales has produced a number of extremely useful fact sheets on its website for business and individuals. All of that clearly shows that we are firmly committed to developing this agenda for the safety of everyone.

David T.C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): Does the Minister agree that there is little prospect of doing anything meaningful about internet crime when Welsh police forces are facing such drastic cuts to their budgets that they have to reduce the numbers of front-line police officers in many parts of the Principality?

Mr. David: The fact of the matter is, of course, that there is no reduction in front-line policing. Of course there are efficiency measures taking shape, and bureaucracy is being reduced, but we are seeing better front-line policing throughout the length and breadth of Wales. That is very significant and far different from what the Opposition would do if they ever had power, for goodness’ sake.

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Government Funding

5. Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): What recent discussions he has had with the First Minister on the mechanisms for allocation of central Government funding to Wales. [261328]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Paul Murphy): I have regular discussions with the First Minister on a range of issues, including central funding.

Mr. Bone: I am grateful to the Secretary of State for his response, but in Wales £8,577 per person is spent on public expenditure. In my constituency it is only £6,936. My constituents pay the same taxes as those in Wales. Is it fair that each man, woman and child in Wellingborough is £1,641 a year worse off?

Mr. Murphy: I do not know the rate of deprivation in Wellingborough, but large parts of Wales are seriously deprived because of the run-down of traditional industries. The Barnett formula, which deals with central funding for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, was based on the needs of those different parts of our United Kingdom. That is the reason why that difference is in place.

John Smith (Vale of Glamorgan) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend assure me that any discussions that he has about central funding and the mechanism used do not undervalue the role of defence expenditure in projects such as the defence technical academy in my constituency at St. Athan? Will he join me in welcoming the news that the joint director for technical training in the military is going to move to St. Athan in April, in anticipation of the construction of the new college?

Mr. Murphy: Of course I will, and I congratulate my hon. Friend on his tenacity in dealing with this issue. Billions of pounds of public spending will come to his constituency and the surrounding constituencies, and I know that he has played a very significant role in ensuring that that is the case.

Jenny Willott (Cardiff, Central) (LD): Central funding for policing in Wales has left south Wales with a shortfall of £10 million since 2005 and with an estimated shortfall of £7.7 million over the next three years. I have already written to the Home Secretary about that and have not yet had a reply. Will the Secretary of State take the matter up with the Home Office, to tackle that unfair and dangerous funding gap?

Mr. Murphy: The hon. Lady will be pleased to know that I met the Home Secretary last week on that very issue, and further discussions are ongoing.

Adam Price (Carmarthen, East and Dinefwr) (PC): The Assembly Finance Committee this week, and the Labour party in Scotland through its submission to the Calman commission, have made the case for borrowing powers to be given to the devolved Administrations. Does the Secretary of State see some merit in that proposal?

Mr. Murphy: I cannot see an enormous amount of merit in it at this stage, because of course if there is borrowing, money has to be found from somewhere to pay off the borrowing. However, I know that further discussions are being held on the matter. [Interruption.]

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Mr. Speaker: Order. Before I call the next question, I should say that it is unfair to hon. Members who are here for Welsh questions that there is so much private conversation.

Unemployment Support

6. Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab): What recent discussions he has had with the First Minister on assistance for those who have lost their jobs in the current economic downturn. [261329]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Wayne David): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has regular discussions with the First Minister about assistance for those who have lost their jobs in Wales, not least at the all-Wales economic summits that he attends. I would also point out that I have recently visited Llanelli to talk with local businesses, as my hon. Friend well knows.

Nia Griffith: My hon. Friend will know that balancing the books in Wales depends on a £9 billion subsidy from the rest of the UK. How could the help that he has described be provided if an independent Wales had to depend entirely on Welsh tax revenue?

Mr. David: My hon. Friend makes a very valid point. It is extremely important in these difficult economic times that we all pull together in the UK, not pull apart. I find it strange, as she does, that Plaid Cymru is demanding £3 billion from the UK Government at the same time that it is calling for independence.

Mr. Speaker: I call Mark Pritchard.

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): rose—

Mr. Speaker: I call David Taylor. No, I apologise, the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard) did stand up.

Business Support

7. Mark Pritchard: What discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues and the Welsh Assembly Government on schemes to assist businesses in Wales during the economic downturn. [261330]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Paul Murphy): I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer that I gave the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mark Williams).

Mark Pritchard: I am delighted to have given the Secretary of State more time to think about his answer. He knows that Shimizu, a fine Japanese company, has factories in Welshpool and in Hortonwood in my constituency. The difference is that, on the Welsh side of the border, it receives taxpayer subsidies for wages and training. That is good news; we want people in jobs in Wales, but what about the people of Shropshire and my constituents, who would like a similar subsidy from the regional development agency?

Mr. Murphy: As the hon. Gentleman knows, one great benefit of devolution is that we can have several schemes to help businesses in Wales that might not be available in England. However, there are also effective schemes across the border in England, such as Train to Gain, the help that the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform gives small and medium-sized
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enterprises, and the Department for Work and Pensions schemes. There are plenty of schemes—it is important that the hon. Gentleman makes his constituents aware of them.

Barnett Formula

8. David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the mechanisms of the Barnett formula in allocating funding to Wales; and if he will make a statement. [261331]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Paul Murphy): The Barnett formula has been used for almost 30 years, and my hon. Friend has been asking the same question for the past 10 of them. I understand that the Treasury has no plans to review the funding arrangements.

David Taylor: More than 10 million people in the English midlands have a similar socio-economic and demographic profile to that of the people of Wales. They look over Offa’s dyke with some envy at the public expenditure that is possible through the Barnett formula. Will my right hon. Friend see me to ascertain how we in the English midlands can get such support? Is he willing for us to have honorary status in Wales as Powys, East?

Mr. Murphy: I am happy for my hon. Friend to have honorary status in Wales. However, he knows that the well trusted formula has helped Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland for more than 30 years. I understand that the midlands, too, can benefit from other sources.

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked—


Q1. [262192] Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab): If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 11 March.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I know that the House will want to join me in expressing our sincerest condolences to the families and friends of Sappers Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar of 38 Engineer Regiment, who were brutally murdered in Northern Ireland on Saturday evening, and to the family and friends of Constable Stephen Carroll, who was murdered while on police duty on Monday. At times like these, we remember the professional courage and dedication of our armed forces and the police. I believe that, at all times, the whole country will want to—and should—give our full support to the men and women who serve our country. The House will also wish to extend our best wishes for recovery to the soldiers and civilians who were injured in Saturday’s attack.

The peace marches today on the streets of Northern Ireland show what I saw there on Monday, and what we see throughout the country: the unity against violence of the people and their representatives; the defiance and the determination to stand up to the evil of criminal violence, and the unyielding resolution to say with one voice that the peace that the people of Northern Ireland are building no murderers should ever be allowed to destroy.

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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.

Andrew Miller: I know that I speak for the House when I associate myself with the Prime Minister’s remarks about those who were killed and injured serving our country, and with his remarks about Northern Ireland.

My right hon. Friend knows of my worries about the vehicle industry and its supply chain. I know that a lot is happening, such as discussions with the industry and its trade unions. However, when will the banks get their act together to help stimulate demand, not only for vehicles, but all our manufactured goods?

The Prime Minister: I thank my hon. Friend for his constant support for the car industry and, of course, Ellesmere Port in his constituency.

At the car summit today, the business Minister is explaining the £2.3 billion of support that is available for the car industry. To ensure that the banks serve companies and the public interest in future in this wholly new world, we are reshaping them. First, they have had to sign lending agreements worth £44 billion of extra investment, which will take place this year. We are also regulating the banks for remuneration and risk, levels of cash flow and cross-border capital flows. We want to achieve an international understanding so that other countries will do exactly what we are doing.

Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): May I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the kind words that you said a fortnight ago about the loss of my son, Ivan? I particularly want to thank the Prime Minister for what he said. It came straight from the heart and it meant a great deal to Samantha and to me. We have had letters from right across the House of Commons and from thousands of people in the country. It has been a great comfort to know that others are thinking of us. A lot of letters have come from families who themselves have lost children. If there is a common theme in them, it is that although the loss never goes away, there does come a day when you look back at your child’s life and you think happy thoughts about their life rather than feel sorrow at their death. I hope that that day will come for us, too.

Today, I join the Prime Minister in mourning the dreadful losses of the three British families of Sappers Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar and Constable Stephen Carroll. On the day when we remember the service of our soldiers, we should remind those who protest against them that they have the right to do so only because British soldiers put their lives on the line.

On Northern Ireland, let us be clear about the nature of these crimes: they were committed by callous killers, capable of shooting men in cold blood and standing over their wounded bodies and murdering them. Does the Prime Minister agree with me that the most important thing in Northern Ireland today is that everyone works with the police so that these killers can be found, caught, charged and convicted?

The Prime Minister: Let me welcome back the Leader of the Opposition. I understand the grief that he and his family have been going through.

In Northern Ireland today we are seeing a degree of unity among the political parties that some people thought they would never see in their lifetimes. We are
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seeing all parties call for the citizens of Northern Ireland to co-operate with the police; we are seeing all parties condemning the violence; and we are seeing all parties asking those people who have information to help the police track down these killers. As the House will know, two men have been arrested as a result of the police killing and the hunt is on for the people who brutally murdered the soldiers on Saturday evening.

I can say to the House that we will do everything we can to enhance security arrangements in Northern Ireland. I have talked directly to Chief Constable Hugh Orde about that and we will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that he has available to him all the arrangements necessary to enhance security there. I believe that out of tragedy we are seeing a unity, which shows the determination that, although a few murderers may try to disrupt the process, the whole of the people of Northern Ireland want not only to see justice done but to send a message that the political process is here to stay and is working.

Mr. Cameron: The Prime Minister is absolutely right about that unity. It is remarkable—and it is remarkably welcome—that every political party in Northern Ireland, including individuals who were once bombers and terrorists, are calling on people to co-operate with the police. Does he agree that that highlights the importance of our reaction, which should be to say that Northern Ireland is not on the brink and is not staring into an abyss, but instead needs effective policing, the co-operation of the public and the measured reaction of politicians? Are not those the things that we need to ensure that these murderers never win?

The Prime Minister: I agree entirely with the right hon. Gentleman, and I see the assent of all parties sitting in the House to what we are both saying about the importance of people working together to hunt down these criminals. We are dealing with a small minority. The Real IRA and Continuity IRA have claimed credit for the killings in a way that is sickening, and they seem not to be able to distinguish between the needs of the armed services and civilians. Calling civilians “collaborators” was totally despicable. We will do everything in our power to track down these killers, but we will also do everything in our power to support the police and the armed forces.

It is right to raise the support that we give to our armed forces in every part of the country. Homecoming parades should be what people in the communities concerned want them to be, and that is a celebration and a commemoration of the great service and dedication of our armed forces in every part of the country. I believe that the country wishes the homecoming parades that are going on in Watford, Windsor and Bolton to go ahead without interruption. There is a right to freedom of speech, but there is not a right to disruption and to public disorder. It is our duty to ensure that order is kept.

Mr. Cameron: The whole House will have agreed with the Prime Minister about the value of the homecoming parades, but may I turn to another issue?

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