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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Wayne David): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have regular meetings with Home Office Ministers and, as a member of the National Policing Board and the National Crime Reduction Board, I am involved in discussions on a range of policing issues, including funding. The funding settlement that we have provided for the next three years clearly reflects the Government's continuing commitment to improving policing and further reducing crime.
Jenny Willott: South Wales police is facing possibly the worst financial crisis of any force, due to systematic underfunding under the police funding formula and the lack of extra funding for capital city policing. It is already closing four police stations in central Cardiff and now the new head of the Association of Chief Police Officers has warned that police officer cuts are likely. Will the Minister make urgent representations to his Home Office colleagues to ensure that South Wales police finally receives extra funding for policing the Welsh capital city?
Mr. David: It is important to put the hon. Lady's question in context and recognise that the number of police officers in Wales has increased by almost 1,000 in the past few years-a significant improvement. Throughout the length and breadth of Wales, including south Wales, people will testify to the fact that they want more proactive local and neighbourhood policing and that it is being delivered. I recognise the hon. Lady's points about the situation in south Wales, but let us also be clear that her Liberal party colleagues on the local authority in Cardiff have been reluctant to make the necessary increase in precept, which would allow proper funding. I am meeting the chief constable of South Wales in the near future to discuss her concerns and I am sure that she will mention the need to discuss the possibility of designating Cardiff as a capital city.
Mrs. Siân C. James (Swansea, East) (Lab): In these days when finances are so important to the police, we must praise their work at community level. That key role is recognised in the Building Britain's Future document. In my constituency of Swansea, East there are several community organisations, such as J.R. GroundForce in Blaenymaes and Portmead, which do a brilliant job. During the summer recess, will the Minister visit that excellent community project, which works hand in hand with the police in my constituency?
Mr. David: Yes, I am aware of the excellent work that is being done in Swansea by the police, my hon. Friend and local authorities working together to create a strong community partnership to ensure safer communities. I am well aware of the Blaenymaes and Portmead community endeavours. I would be more than happy to visit her constituency and perhaps some of those projects in the summer recess.
The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain): As a result of the Government's efforts, European structural funds have made a huge contribution throughout Wales, with some £1.54 billion awarded in the last spending round generating more than £3.8 billion in investments.
Chris Ruane: I thank my right hon. Friend for that response and for his brave decision in 1998 to include Denbighshire and Conwy in the objective 1 bid for Wales. We were left out and my right hon. Friend included us. Over the course of objective 1 funding, we hope to draw down £500 million in those two counties alone. Why did the previous Conservative Government not draw down objective 1 funding, despite the closure of Shotton steelworks, and the decline of agriculture and traditional seaside tourism? [ Interruption. ]
Mr. Speaker: Order. There is a real hubbub of private conversations on both sides of the House. It is unfair to the hon. Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane) and to the Secretary of State who is about to reply.
Mr. Hain: I thank my hon. Friend for what he has said. Indeed, it was his persuasive case on that issue, put together with his colleagues, that allowed us to extend the boundary to include his constituency. Yes, he is absolutely right: because of their anti-European stance, our predecessors in government refused to draw down the enormous funding available for west Wales and the valleys, first under objective 1 and now under convergence funding. If they got back into power, that funding would be at risk again. That is the choice facing the people in my hon. Friend's constituency and right across west Wales and the valleys.
The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain): I have regular discussions with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. We will not let short-term job losses turn into long-term unemployment, nor will we allow communities to be scarred by worklessness for a generation once again.
Bob Spink: The Secretary of State is right to mention long-term unemployment, because Wales was disproportionately affected by the loss of traditional industries, which took place as long ago as the '80s. Certain regions of Wales are still suffering from that, so will he redouble his efforts with the Welsh Assembly to ensure that further education is funded and that there are no cuts? That is the way forward.
Mr. Hain: Yes indeed. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: the period of Conservative Government in the 1980s and 1990s devastated communities right across Wales, including in my constituency. That is why, this time, compared with the 1980s and 1990s, we are investing in people, new jobs and skills, including in further education colleges, to ensure that the recession of this period is not as devastating as the misery that was caused in the 1980s and 1990s.
Mr. Stephen Crabb (Preseli Pembrokeshire) (Con): The latest unemployment statistics show that young people in Wales are among the hardest hit of any group in this recession. They are bearing the brunt of the downturn. Youth unemployment is going up and the pool of those not in education, employment or training is going up. Young people are also being hit as apprenticeships are being cut, as jobs are being lost, so could the Secretary of State please tell us today what he is doing to help Wales's young generation in 2009?
Mr. Hain: Yes, I am very happy to. First, the Welsh Assembly Government have announced a £20 million package to support new apprenticeships. Secondly, we established the future jobs fund. Thirdly, we have guaranteed help for all young people aged 18 to 24 who have been claiming jobseeker's allowance for 12 months. That will provide opportunities for young people, who I agree are facing genuine problems at the present time-a stark contrast with the 1990s and 1980s, when a whole generation of youngsters was thrown on to the scrap heap by the hon. Gentleman's Tory Government.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Wayne David): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I were both very proud to have played a part in Armed Forces day 2009. We are extremely grateful for the opportunity to pay tribute to the men and women of our armed forces. I have already had many discussions with Ministers about the preparations for next year's Armed Forces day, and I am very pleased that the 2010 national ceremony will be held in Cardiff.
Mrs. Moon: I thank my hon. Friend for his response. During this year's armed forces celebrations, veterans' organisations in Bridgend and Porthcawl held wonderful celebrations. Will he ensure that the Assembly Government help to co-ordinate and promote the various towns and local communities that will want to hold their own celebrations on that national day next year in Wales?
Mr. David: Yes, my hon. Friend makes a very good point indeed. It is important to have effective co-ordination in national celebrations, but a lot depends on what happens at the local level. One of the things that we have been doing successfully is having negotiations not only here in London, but with the Welsh Assembly Government and local authorities. I am sure that, in preparing for next year's Armed Forces day, those discussions will continue and bear fruit.
Mark Williams (Ceredigion) (LD): As part of those celebrations across Wales and beyond, will the Minister make a specific commitment to endorsing the work of the Royal British Legion and, in particular, the huge amount of pastoral work that it does in supporting ex-servicemen across the country? We are talking not just about an act of remembrance, but about an act of celebration of work that is ongoing.
Mr. David: One of the good things about Armed Forces day, and Veterans day before it, is the close co-operation with the Royal British Legion. I pay tribute to the commitment that the Royal British Legion has displayed, and I am sure that those discussions will continue to be effective in planning for the future. The hon. Gentleman is perfectly right that Armed Forces day is not simply a celebration of the tremendous commitment that our armed forces have shown in the past, but a celebration of the dedication that they display today.
Mr. David: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Wales has a long, proud history of steelmaking, and the UK Government and the Welsh Assembly Government remain committed to supporting the industry. We fully recognise that these are difficult times, but my hon. Friend can be assured that this Government stand four-square alongside the industry.
Dr. Francis: I thank the Minister for his reply. In order to build on the very good relations that have long existed between the steel unions-led by the largest union, Community-and the employers, Corus, will he and the Secretary of State consider working with the First Minister of the Welsh Assembly Government to call a Welsh steel summit to ensure the long-term security and integrity of steelmaking in Wales?
Mr. David: I know that the UK-level steel summit has been extremely successful, and I believe that my hon. Friend has made a good point. Wales would certainly benefit from having a similar summit, bringing together Corus, the union Community, members of local communities and everyone who has a stake in the future of the industry. I certainly believe that that would be useful.
Mr. Maples: In 2006, we sent 3,000 troops into Afghanistan as part of a reconstruction mission. Now, our objectives are to defeat terrorism and to make Afghanistan a stable and effective state. Many of my constituents are not convinced that we have a credible strategy for achieving those objectives. Will the Prime Minister look again at those objectives in the context of what is achievable, so that I can explain to people in my constituency how we are to judge success?
The Prime Minister: I have to say to the hon. Gentleman's constituents that, since 2001, our objective has been to restrain, contain and defeat terrorism by acting in Afghanistan and working with the Pakistan Government. It was true that, in 2001, al-Qaeda was based in Afghanistan and given cover by the Taliban there. It is also true that it is now based mainly in north Pakistan. We have to make sure that terrorism cannot hit the streets of Britain, and that is why we cannot allow the Taliban or al-Qaeda-related activities to flourish in Afghanistan, and why we cannot allow the Pakistan Government to be overrun by people who are operating through al-Qaeda and the Pakistan Taliban. What I think is encouraging-and why I think that the hon. Gentleman should be able to tell his constituents that things are moving forward-is that, for the first time, the Pakistan Government are taking direct action in a systematic way, with the support of the population of Pakistan, against the Taliban and against al-Qaeda in Pakistan. That means that we have complementary action in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and that is a necessary means of defeating terrorism in the world.
Miss Anne Begg (Aberdeen, South) (Lab):
My right hon. Friend asked your predecessor, Mr. Speaker, to set up a Speaker's Conference to report on how we could increase the numbers of women, people from ethnic minorities and disabled people being elected to this House. This morning, the conference has published an interim report that makes proposals to increase the diversity of candidates standing for all the parties at the next general election as a step towards restoring people's
faith in the democratic process, and in this House in particular. Will my right hon. Friend commit the Government to giving their wholehearted support to the important recommendations in the report, and encourage the leaders of all the parties in the House to do the same?
The Prime Minister: We should thank my hon. Friend, who was vice-chairman of the group that has submitted the interim report today. This is an important opportunity further to increase the number of women and disabled, black, Asian and minority ethnic people in our Parliament. The Government are committed to ensuring greater diversity of representation in public and political life-
Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): Yesterday, the whole country shared in the sorrow of our armed forces' families as they saw their loved ones come home. We support our troops and the reasons for their being in Afghanistan, but is not there a need for an even tighter definition of our mission? We are not trying to build a perfect democracy; we must focus solely on building security and stability so that the terrorists can never return. We have been in Afghanistan for eight years now. Does the Prime Minister agree with me that, if we are to maintain public support here and, vitally, in Afghanistan, we will have to show greater urgency and make more visible progress?
The Prime Minister: The whole country joins the people of Wootton Bassett in the dignified way in which they recognise the service and sacrifice of our armed forces. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the people of Wootton Bassett who have to endure great tragedies and effectively see them happen as they welcome back the people who have died on behalf of our country. I hope-in fact, I know so-that everybody in the House will thank them for what they did yesterday.
The purpose of our mission in Afghanistan is very clear: it is to prevent terrorism coming to the streets of Britain. We are complementing the military action we are taking with action to build up the Afghan forces-the police and the military forces-and with economic and social development programmes that we are pursuing in Afghanistan to give people in that country a stake in the future.
As I have said, we must work on two fronts. We must ensure that we attack terrorism in Pakistan as well as defeat what is happening in Afghanistan. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will understand that we increased the number of forces from 8,100 to 9,000 so that we could clear ground and make it safe for the population of many areas of Afghanistan to vote in the coming general election and at the same time to enjoy the schools and the hospitals that are denied to them by the activities of the Taliban.
I want to thank our forces involved in Operation Panther's Claw for what they are doing. They have the support of the whole country, and they have the resources and equipment they need. Of course we keep under
review the numbers and the equipment needed for the future. I have said that we will look again at this after we have seen the Afghan election pass, peacefully and democratically, we hope. At the same time, I have talked to President Karzai about Afghanistan's own responsibilities-that the Afghans should provide army and police to Operation Panther's Claw. President Karzai has promised that he will provide additional resources for that purpose, and I believe that that is now starting to happen. I have also said to President Karzai that after October-[Hon. Members: "Come on"] I think it is important for the House to know this-after October, we are prepared to do more work mentoring and training the Afghan security services. We will consider that as we make our decisions on what we do after October.
Mr. Cameron: Of course, the most recent focus on building up the Afghan army and on the co-ordination between Afghanistan and Pakistan is right, but I think it would help to acknowledge that some of the early objectives were slightly lofty, slightly vague and the co-ordination was not there. I think we will take people with us for the future if we actually admit to some of the things that were got wrong in the past.
Let me ask some specific questions about helicopters and Afghanistan. Is not the basic problem this: the number of helicopters in Afghanistan is simply insufficient? Will the Prime Minister confirm that the American marines, who have approximately the same number of troops as us in Helmand, are supported by some 100 helicopters, whereas our troops are supported by fewer than 30? That is the case, isn't it?
The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman is right to raise issues about the equipment so that I can assure him that we are doing everything that we can. [Hon. Members: "Answer."] I must point out that Lieutenant-Colonel Nick Richardson, who is on the ground in Afghanistan, has said:
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