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Cabinet Committees

6. Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore) (Lab): What recent discussions she has had with the Prime Minister on the representation of the interests of Wales in Cabinet Committees. [3037]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mrs Cheryl Gillan): I have regular discussions with the Prime Minister and Cabinet colleagues on a range of issues affecting Wales.

Huw Irranca-Davies: May I add my congratulations to the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan) and her ministerial colleague on their elevation to the Government Front Bench, but will she confirm that the previous Secretary of State sat on as many as a dozen Cabinet Committees and his ministerial colleague sat on up to a dozen as well, and in the light of that-and of the delay in the referendum date, as well as the appointment of a lovable rogue whom I like very much indeed but is an arch devo-sceptic as Chairman of the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs, and the attack on Welsh MPs-will she tell us why this is not telling the Welsh that they-

Mr Speaker: Put in the question mark! I call the Secretary of State.

Mrs Gillan: Oh dear me. I think the hon. Gentleman needs to catch up with the procedures of the House because I believe Select Committee Chairmen are now elected. That has nothing to do with the Government. Perhaps if the hon. Gentleman had spent less time sitting on Committees he would know about the changes that were made in the House. I must remind him that what impresses the electorate is not the number of Committees a Member sits on, but what they do for Wales. We have already done more for Wales in the five weeks we have been in office than the previous Administration did over 13 years. The hon. Gentleman might also like to note that we have reduced the number of the Committees that he sat on in his ministerial capacity to 11. It is better to have a small set of fully functioning Committees where relevant people continually discuss related issues than for Members to be able to boast that they are sitting on a lot of Committees.

David T. C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): May I also give a warm welcome to the Secretary of State for Wales and say, as somebody who might well be chairing a Committee, that I am sure that the vast majority of people in Wales will want us out and about in Wales trying to put right the problems that the Labour party created rather than sitting around in Committee Rooms?

Mrs Gillan: May I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing his new position on the Welsh Affairs Committee? I wish him well, and I hope he will bring education about devolution to this House, because I remember reading the last Select Committee report, which said
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that it was disappointing that, even after 13 years of the previous Administration, the Welsh Affairs Committee had found that

The ignorance of devolution arose under the last Government, and I hope my hon. Friend will, through the good offices of his Select Committee, put that right.

Mr Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab): I congratulate the right hon. Lady on her appointment as the Secretary of State for Wales. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr Hain) has said, she is the first woman Secretary of State for Wales. However, she follows a time-honoured tradition of Conservative Welsh Secretaries who represent English constituencies. She represents Amersham and Chesham, or is it Chesham and Amersham? Anyhow, it is somewhere in Buckinghamshire. Could the Governor-General, or should I say the Secretary of State for Wales, tell me how many times she has visited Wales since her appointment?

Mrs Gillan: I do not know whether I should welcome the hon. Gentleman's remarks or just feel sorry for him. I have lost count of the number of times I have been in Wales since I was appointed, but I think it is about nine or 10 already. If that is the best he can do for a question-to ask how many times I have been on a train-when we are facing such economic troubles in this country, then I do feel sorry for him, which was my first emotion.

Manufacturing Industry

7. Mr David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab): When she next expects to discuss with ministerial colleagues the situation of manufacturing industry in Wales. [3038]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr David Jones): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has discussed various aspects of the Welsh economy, including manufacturing, with ministerial colleagues and will continue to do so in the coming weeks and months.

Mr Hanson: How many representations has the Minister made regarding the future jobs fund and the damaging loss of more than 600 jobs in north Wales? If he made representations, why were they so ineffective, and if he did not make representations, what is his purpose in life?

Mr Jones: The future jobs fund is an uneconomic way of funding new employment, and it does not provide real jobs. Yesterday's Budget statement provided firm foundations for real jobs in Wales, and that is the way that Wales will go.

Nick Smith (Blaenau Gwent) (Lab): Would not jobs and manufacturing in Wales be helped by a decent employment initiative? The future jobs fund has provided 500 jobs in Blaenau Gwent in recent years. It has had a terrific impact in an area with high unemployment of nearly 12%. Will the Minister or the Secretary of State please visit Blaenau Gwent? I invite them to come and find out about employment in my borough.

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Mr Jones: I refer the hon. Gentleman to my answer to the right hon. Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson), but, yes, I would be delighted to visit Blaenau Gwent. I look forward to receiving his formal invitation.

Defence Technical College

9. Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): What recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Defence on the proposed defence technical college at St Athan. [3041]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mrs Cheryl Gillan): This proposal is being considered as part of the strategic defence and security review, which was debated in the House on Monday. The review is due to be completed by October and I will ensure that the Secretary of State for Defence is made fully aware of the importance of our armed forces to Wales.

Chris Bryant: I do not feel sorry for the right hon. Lady; I welcome her wholeheartedly to her post. However, she gave a rather partisan answer to the earlier question about the defence technical college in St Athan, and I urge her to recognise that this issue has involved a cross-party alliance in Wales. All the political parties in Wales have been supporting it, so will she meet a cross-party group of MPs so that they may put the arguments strongly? This is about protecting our armed forces, particularly the soldiers from Wales, who deserve the best training they can possibly get.

Mrs Gillan: I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on having raised this matter not once but three times in the past week or so. I have read the replies to him from both the Secretary of State for Defence and the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister said:

I would be delighted to meet a cross-party group to discuss the future of St Athan. The hon. Gentleman will know that it was one of the first things that I signed up to when I was appointed as shadow Secretary of State for Wales. I will not demur from that support.

Public Expenditure

10. Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): What her most recent estimate is of the level of public expenditure per capita in Wales in 2010-11. [3043]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr David Jones): The latest public expenditure statistical analysis published by the Treasury in April included data up to 2008-09, in which identifiable public expenditure per head on services for Wales was £9,209 while the UK average was £8,206.

Mr Bone: Would the Minister agree that it is the quality of public money spent that matters, not the amount? Will the Government concentrate on quality rather than quantity?

Mr Jones: My hon. Friend is entirely right. The former Government seemed to regard it as a matter of success that they spent money that the country could not afford.
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We recognise the need for Wales to be properly funded, but yesterday's Budget statement provides a firm foundation for good-quality jobs in Wales.

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab): May I join the Secretary of State in paying tribute to Lord Walker? I do so genuinely, but I am led to reflect on the fact that, since 1987, the Conservative party has not had a shadow Secretary of State or Secretary of State who represented a Welsh seat.

On the issue of law-making powers for the Welsh Assembly: after the boundary changes, what is the Secretary of State's opinion of how many Members the Assembly ought to have?

Mr Jones: Bizarrely, the question appears to be addressed to my right hon. Friend, whereas in fact I am answering. We must await the report of the Electoral Commission, when in due course that issue will be considered.

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked-


Q1. [3682] Lisa Nandy (Wigan) (Lab): If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 23 June.

The Prime Minister (Mr David Cameron): I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in paying tribute to Marine Paul Warren from 40 Commando Royal Marines, who died on Monday, and to the member of 40 Commando Royal Marines who died yesterday. We should constantly remember, and show our support for, the services and sacrifices made on our behalf by our armed forces and their families.

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall have further such meetings later today.

Lisa Nandy: The coalfield communities regeneration programme breathed new life into places such as Wigan after the devastation caused by the pit closures in the 1980s. Michael Clapham's review is very welcome, but the decision to freeze the funding will devastate our economy all over again. Can the Prime Minister reassure my constituents that he is not simply seeking to close down the coalfields all over again?

The Prime Minister: Of course I can give the hon. Lady that assurance. Let me first of all congratulate her on her election to this House, and say how much we want to make sure, in spite of the difficult decisions that we have had to make in the Budget, that we go on helping and regenerating communities that face difficulties. I have visited the site in Wigan where the new Lads and Girls club is to be built. That is the result of excellent joint work between the private and public sectors, and we need many more projects like it. We will have more to say about that next week.

Q2. [3683] Simon Hart (Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire) (Con): The Prime Minister will be aware of the vital contribution of the 23,000 Territorial
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Army and other reservists who have fought in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Balkans in the last six years. So far, 22 have lost their lives in those operations, and the ones who survive are twice as likely to get post-traumatic stress disorder than their regular counterparts. What recognition and support can my right hon. Friend give to the thousands of employers who routinely allow staff to volunteer, train and engage in reservist activity and who, by doing so, are critical to our military success in those operations?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise the contribution that our Territorial Army plays in serving our country. He is also right to remind us how many people have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are some 600 volunteer reservists serving today. Standing up for our armed forces is not just a Government responsibility: it is a social responsibility, and something that we should all do. We should pay tribute to those businesses that help people to volunteer and take part. We should remember their service in doing that as well.

Ms Harriet Harman (Camberwell and Peckham) (Lab): May I join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to Marine Paul Warren from 40 Commando Royal Marines, who died on Monday, and to the member of 40 Commando Royal Marines who died yesterday? They fought with bravery and they died in the service of their country.

The Chancellor announced yesterday that the Government will bring forward relinking the basic state pension to earnings to 2011 rather than 2012. Can the Prime Minister tell us how much money the Treasury has set aside to pay for that next year?

The Prime Minister: Actually, what the Chancellor did yesterday was more complex than that. He said- [ Interruption. ] This is an extremely important point, and hon. Members will want to listen. We have a triple lock in place to make sure that the pension upgrade is at the highest level possible. Next year, therefore, because of what we expect will happen with the retail prices index, the pension will be upgraded and increased along with it. When the right hon. and learned Lady gets to the Dispatch Box the next time, will she confirm that Labour's plans were to uprate benefits by less than the consumer price index?

Ms Harman: There was nothing complicated at all about the question, but it was one that the Prime Minister did not seem to want to answer. The answer is that the Government have not set aside a single penny for that big promise to pensioners. Next year prices are due to go up more than earnings, so bringing forward the earnings link by a year does not give pensioners anything extra. But although pensioners get nothing from that change we all know they will pay more in VAT. The Chancellor promised to provide help for pensioners. I am sure that pensioners, including those in the Southwark Pensioners Action Group, or SPAG, which the hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes), knows well, will want to know: are pensioners better off or worse off as a result of the Budget?

The Prime Minister: I have to say to the right hon. and learned Lady that there is a danger in asking the second question without having listened to the first
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answer. The first answer is that the pension will be uprated by RPI, which is likely to be higher than earnings next year. In terms of how much money we are putting into the state pension system- [ Interruption. ] How much, they ask? We are putting in £1 billion over the Parliament-£1 billion. What a contrast. In 13 years, Labour never linked the pension back to earnings. We have done it in two months.

Ms Harman: The Prime Minister is not being straight about this. We know that there will be no increase in the pension from linking it with earnings a year early. A pensioner will not benefit from the cut in tax from raising the personal allowance either, because they do not get that if they are over 65, but they will pay more VAT. The Chancellor promised to help pensioners. Will the Prime Minister not admit that pensioners will be worse off under his Budget?

The Prime Minister: Perhaps I could recommend to the right hon. and learned Lady the Budget Red Book, although in her case I suspect it is the unread book. If she looks at page 41, she will see £1 billion going into the state pension system in this Parliament. What a contrast. We all remember the 75p increase for pensioners. Under our triple lock system, that can never happen again.

Ms Harman: Page 41, table 2.1, item 48 states:

Money set aside: zero. The Prime Minister is not being straight about his promise to pensioners.

Can I ask the Prime Minister about families with children? Families with children, with an income of less than £40,000, may be breathing a sigh of relief that they still have their tax credits, as that was on the news last night. But is it right? Can he confirm that-as he promised in the election-families on less than £40,000 will not lose their tax credit?

The Prime Minister: What we are doing is making sure that the less well-off families get the most money. What a contrast again. Since 2004, child poverty went up by 100,000 under a Labour Government. In this Budget, child poverty does not go up by a single family.

Ms Harman: Once again, the Prime Minister is not answering the question. The truth is that, despite the Chancellor's promise, the Budget small print shows big cuts in eligibility for tax credit. The Prime Minister promised that no family on less than £40,000 a year would lose child tax credit. Will he admit that that is not the case? Will he admit that there are families on a joint income of £30,000 who will lose all their tax credits?

The Prime Minister: The point that the right hon. and learned Lady has got to address is who left us in this mess. Who left a budget deficit of £155 billion, with absolutely no proposals to deal with it? Who put forward- [ Interruption. ]

Mr Speaker: Order. I apologise for interrupting the Prime Minister. This level of barracking is unacceptable, and I can tell the House that it is detested by the electorate. It must stop.

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The Prime Minister: Thank you, Mr Speaker.

Who put forward £50 billion of cuts, without outlining a single penny piece? The whole country can see what is happening here: one party put us into this mess; two parties are working together to get us out of it.

Ms Harman: I think that what the electorate detest is broken promises, and people will want to know how the right hon. Gentleman's Budget will affect them. He was not straight with pensioners. He was not straight with families. He was not straight on VAT. When the Chancellor got up to present his Budget, he proclaimed:

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