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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Wayne David): The Secretary of State and I regularly hold such meetings. For example, I recently met the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Garston (Maria Eagle) to discuss the importance of a new prison in north Wales that would have a positive impact on offender manager in that area, by enabling prisoners to remain close to their families-a proven factor in reducing reoffending.
Mr. David: I understand from the hon. Lady's comments that she is against a new prison in north Wales. There is a strong case for such a prison. One of the central factors is, of course, that it would not only serve north Wales, or Wales as a whole, but receive prisoners from the north-west of England, so its catchment area would be far wider.
Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North) (Lab): Is my hon. Friend aware of the success made in Wales in tackling offending by women-in particular, the success of the Women's Turnaround Project, based in Cardiff, which aims to stop women reoffending and going to prison? Will he congratulate that project?
Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) (PC): May I first associate myself fully with the words of the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan)? On offender management, does the Minister realise that the £24 million cut in the probation service budget for England and Wales means that over 90 per cent. of newly qualified probation officers in Wales will not be offered a job? In his next routine meeting with the Ministry of Justice, will he show his concern about that terrible statistic?
Mr. David: It is important that we have a modernisation agenda and ensure that the probation service is as effective as possible-I believe that that is happening-and I welcome the fact that, as I understand it, the hon. Gentleman is to serve on an inquiry panel that has been recently set up by the Howard League for Penal Reform. I am sure that he would agree that we must ensure that a disproportionately large number of ex-service personnel do not enter our prisons.
Albert Owen (Ynys Môn) (Lab): The Minister will be aware that in its report on prisons in Wales, the Welsh Affairs Committee was unanimous in its support for a new prison in north Wales. Equally, we were disappointed that the Caernarfon site was deemed not suitable. Does the Minister agree that we need to build a consensus across the local authorities to identify suitable sites, because the economic benefit of a new prison will be immense in terms of jobs?
Mr. David: My hon. Friend is correct. There will be an enormous economic benefit to the area that is fortunate enough to have a new prison. I am pleased that my hon. Friend had a successful meeting yesterday with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. There is a common agenda that we can work on and take forward.
Mark Williams (Ceredigion) (LD): Further to the question from the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd), will the Minister consider the case of Dyfed Powys probation service, where only one of seven trained individuals has been given a full-time job, and six have been given temporary contracts until next March? What assurance can the Minister give us about funding after next March?
Mr. David: That very much depends on what happens when the general election comes, and the result of that general election. One thing we can be certain about: if the Conservative party gets into power, we will see catastrophic cuts in the Prison Service, the probation service and elsewhere. That is the stark choice that we face.
Mr. David Jones (Clwyd, West) (Con):
Further to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Angela Watkinson), the Ministry of Justice has made it clear that it is looking for a number of 1,500-place prisons, and that they should be located in the areas from which the most prisoners come. Since only some 650 prisoners in the entire system come from
north Wales, is there not a concern that the exercise that the Ministry is conducting may be a cosmetic one? Will the Minister and the Secretary of State use their good offices to ensure that the Ministry of Justice is fully aware of the pressing need for a new prison in north Wales?
Mr. David: I find the logic somewhat perverse. The early part of the hon. Gentleman's comments came across to me as an argument against a prison in north Wales. But it is very important that we all pull together; we have the same argument. We recognise, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Albert Owen) said, that there is an economic case to be made for a prison in north Wales. There is also a need to ensure that prisoners from north Wales who speak Welsh are actively catered for.
The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain): The £1 billion future jobs fund is already creating 4,200 jobs where they are most needed in Wales. Nearly 1,500 jobs will be created in Carmarthenshire and Swansea alone, helping many of my hon. Friend's young constituents to find jobs.
Nia Griffith: Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating Carmarthenshire Training on its success on securing a good cross-section of employment opportunities from private sector, third sector and county council employers, and encourage it in its future bid for another 190 jobs? Will he do everything he can to encourage other council departments and employers to provide similar opportunities?
Mr. Hain: Yes, I am happy to congratulate Carmarthenshire on an excellent bid, which I was delighted to announce recently. I also join my hon. Friend in saying that we need more top-quality bids. That is why I have written to fellow Members of Parliament in Wales saying, "Please encourage your county councils and training providers to come forward with vital job schemes, because young people who lose jobs or who have never worked, as we saw in the 1980s and1990s, may never work in their lives. We must make sure that we provide them with the support now to get them into work." [Interruption.]
Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd) (Lab): Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I shall try to raise my decibel level for you. Does my right hon. Friend agree that in times of economic downturn, what the public are looking for is the helping hand of Government intervention, such as the future jobs fund, city strategy and "Fit for Work" initiatives. What they do not want is laissez-faire, let the recession-
Mr. Hain: I think you will be pleased to know, Mr. Speaker, that my hon. Friend has helped to spearhead one of the most successful job creation projects in his town of Rhyll. It is based on a city strategy project, which has won an important scheme under the future jobs fund. That is exactly the point that he makes. We need a Government not who will cut spending, but who will continue to invest to make sure that we recover from the recession and move forward into growth. Cuts policies will not achieve that.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Wayne David): Safeguarding jobs and improving access to training is, of course, a priority. In Wales, economic summits have led to an additional £20 million to support apprenticeships and the Welsh Assembly Government budget provides for a further £20.5 million to deliver education and training for the young people hit hardest by the recession.
Ann Winterton: Unemployment in Wales is rising faster than anywhere in the United Kingdom, while manufacturing capacity and output is going in the opposite direction. May I suggest to the Minister that he examine the small to medium-sized business sector, because such companies are best able to get finance and take on people who are properly trained, and best fitted to assist with the very high unemployment rates in Wales?
Mr. David: The situation in Wales is nowhere near as bad as it was in the 1980s and 1990s when the hon. Lady's party was in power; that is something that the people of Wales will never forget. Moreover, people recognise that we are on the side of the people. We are introducing measures that are having a material impact on people's lives and on the Welsh economy. The people of Wales appreciate that. If a different party were in power, the people of Wales would certainly regret it.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): Today is the first Armistice day we have commemorated since the last surviving members of our armed forces who fought in the first world war passed from our midst. The whole House will want to pay our tribute to them and our tribute to the succeeding generations of our men and women who have paid the full price for our freedom. Today we also pay a special tribute to the outstanding work across the generations of the Royal British Legion.
The whole House will also wish to join me in expressing our profound condolences to the families, the friends and the colleagues of those members of our armed forces who have lost their lives in Afghanistan. Today we mourn, from 1st Battalion the Grenadier Guards, Warrant Officer Class 1 Regimental Sergeant Major Darren Chant, Sergeant Matthew Telford and Guardsman James Major; from the Royal Military Police, Acting Corporal Steven Boote and Corporal Nicholas Webster-Smith; from 3rd Battalion the Rifles, Acting Serjeant Phillip Scott; from 2nd Battalion the Rifles, Rifleman Philip Allen; and from 4th Battalion the Rifles, Rifleman Samuel Bassett. As we remember them, and the debt that we owe them, we remember and honour the courage and the selflessness of all our armed forces now serving in Afghanistan. Each day we can be extraordinarily proud of their professionalism, their dedication and their bravery.
Miss Begg: I am sure that the whole House will want to associate itself with the Prime Minister's condolences and, on this Armistice day, to express our gratitude to all the brave men and women who have died in the service of our nation over the years. But we also have to think of those military personnel who are currently serving. Therefore, what is my right hon. Friend doing to make sure that our troops have enough of the right equipment, and can he tell us when we can expect the decision from our American allies about their troop deployment in Afghanistan?
The Prime Minister: We are the first country to have agreed to send additional troops for the next stage of the mission in Afghanistan, and we are seeking to persuade other countries to join us in this. I have an assurance from the chiefs of staff that every one of our armed forces who serve in Afghanistan are and will be fully equipped.
I have also talked to President Obama, and I expect him to announce in a few days what his numbers for Afghanistan will be. At the same time, I am talking to President Karzai to make sure that large numbers of Afghan troops are recruited who are able to be trained by the British forces. Our strategy is to train up the Afghan forces so that they are in a position to take responsibility for their country.
As for equipment, the extra money that we are spending means that there are more vehicles in the field and more helicopters going into the field. As I have said, I have an assurance from the chiefs of our forces that every serving member of our armed forces who goes to Afghanistan will be not only fully trained but fully equipped for the job.
Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): I join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to Serjeant Phillip Scott, Rifleman Philip Allen, Rifleman Samuel Bassett, Warrant Officer Class 1 Darren Chant, Sergeant Matthew Telford, Guardsman James Major, Corporal Steven Boote and Corporal Nicholas Webster-Smith. As the Prime Minister said, on this Armistice day we should remember all those servicemen and women who have given their lives in the service of our country. Their sacrifice must never be forgotten.
I join the Prime Minister in praising the work of the Royal British Legion. All of us know from our constituency surgeries that it is one of the most effective organisations
for looking after the families and those who have served, and everyone in this House, I know, will want to pay it a tribute today.
Today, the youth unemployment rate has reached a record high in our country. Almost 1 million young people-that is one in five-cannot find work. The Prime Minister once promised "to abolish youth unemployment". Does he accept that he has failed?
The Prime Minister: I am pleased that the right hon. Gentleman allows us to discuss today employment opportunities for young people, because we are the Government who introduced this summer, knowing the problems that young people faced, the summer school leavers' guarantee. It has meant that tens of thousands of young people are now able to be in education or training or in work, where otherwise they would be unemployed. That was opposed by the Conservative party.
We have also made it clear that young people who are 18 to 24 will get help, if they are unemployed, to get back to work, and already 95,000 young people are getting the help that is necessary, so that soon they will have the training and work that is necessary for them to get back to work. I have to say about the youth unemployment figures that the right hon. Gentleman quotes that 250,000 of that number are full-time students looking for part-time work, and they are not fully unemployed. No Government in Europe are doing more to help young people who are out of work.
Mr. Cameron: The Prime Minister is living in a parallel universe. The figures announced today are that there are 943,000 young people who cannot find work in our country. He talks about other European countries; the whole of Germany has 537,000 young people unemployed, and France has 765,000. We, I repeat, have 943,000. He said:
"Our plan is nothing less than to abolish youth unemployment."
Anyone must accept that he has failed. He also promised full employment. In fact, unemployment is up by almost 500,000 since he came to power. He promised that no young person should spend years without a job. In fact, the number of young people unemployed for more than a year has gone up by 50 per cent. Does he accept that on any of these yardsticks-youth unemployment, total unemployment, the amount of time young people are unemployed-he has failed?
The Prime Minister: No; there are 700,000 more young people in work than in 1997. Nothing that the right hon. Gentleman can say can change the fact that there are more people in full-time education and in work under this Government than there were when we took over. As for youth unemployment, he knows perfectly well that the rate of youth unemployment in Spain is 40 per cent and that the rate in Ireland is nearly 30 per cent. What we have tried to do, facing a situation in which young people face the prospect of unemployment, is to give them jobs, but every measure has been opposed by the Opposition. They opposed our summer school leavers' guarantee. They opposed the new deal efforts for 18 to 24-year-olds and want to abolish the new deal in its entirety. They oppose education maintenance allowances. Nothing that they would do would make unemployment lower; it would make unemployment higher.
Mr. Cameron: As ever, the Prime Minister is completely wrong. Our plan to get Britain working will help more people and help them more quickly, and it is fully funded, because we have taken tough decisions about the deficit. The Prime Minister ought to know about it-after all, it was drawn up by David Freud, who was his welfare guru, one of the many people who have left the bunker and come to work for us. [Interruption.]
The Prime Minister: Let me say that we have put £1 billion into the future jobs fund to provide 100,000 jobs for young people, with another 50,000 in areas of high unemployment. I simply ask the right hon. Gentleman, does he support our measure or not?
Mr. Cameron: We have set out schemes far greater than anything that the Prime Minister has come up with. If we want to spend a little time on the Prime Minister's schemes, what about the mortgage rescue scheme, which was meant to help thousands? How many has it helped? Just 16 families. What about the capital for enterprise fund? It was meant to transform British businesses. How many has it helped? Just five. What about the asset-backed securities guarantee? How many assets has it backed? None-zero. The Prime Minister says that he is investing money, but I have here a leaked memo from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. [Interruption.] They do not want to listen. It is 11 pages, and the Prime Minister has got a copy, too-it was sent to Peter Mandelson, so it must be important. It calls for a cut in apprenticeship rates of 10 per cent., a cut in the adult learning budget of 10 per cent. and a cut in development loans of 50 per cent. Does that leaked memo not tell us that, far from the Prime Minister's mantra about investment, he is planning cuts, because of the mess he has made of our finances?
The Prime Minister: Every time we mention policy, he loses it. The right hon. Gentleman cannot answer the question about whether he supports the measures that we are taking now to help young people back into work. As for his claims about mortgages, all the forecasts were that repossessions would be at the level of the 1990s, but they are half that level. The reason the mortgage rescue support scheme has not had a lot of people on it is that it has not had to be used, because we have helped them in other ways. The scheme was the fall-back option if we could not help people in other ways. Every time that the right hon. Gentleman tries to talk about policy, he does not have a clue about what is happening.
Mr. Cameron: The fact is that the Prime Minister's policies are not working. The people who have lost out are the 943,000 young people who have lost their jobs under his Government. He has given us the deepest and longest recession since the war and the fastest rising unemployment. Why cannot he admit- [Interruption.]
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