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Lord Waddington: My Lords, does the Green Paper address in any way the problem of young people who suffer from schizophrenia but are no menace to society provided they continue to take the drugs prescribed for them? It is surely no kindness to these young people to allow them to give up treatment and therefore to become incapacitated. Should not, for instance, the law allow the parents of someone who is schizophrenic some say in his welfare so as to bring influence to bear on that person even though he has become an adult in order to prevent his becoming incapacitated and a menace to both himself and the public?
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I see the force in what the noble Lord says. That issue is certainly within the ambit of the Green Paper but it is one on which the Government reserve their position until consultation is concluded.
Baroness Young: My Lords, I have one concern which is central to this serious issue. The noble and learned Lord said several times that there could be no question of euthanasia. However, my noble friend Lord Kingsland pointed out one example of where this might be possible--the question of living wills and people changing their view and also a conflict of evidence as time has gone by.
There is surely another concern with regard to any prospective legislation. When the Abortion Act was going through Parliament a great many promises and statements were made which subsequently have not proved to be the case. It would be of great concern to us if it were thought that something we were doing would ultimately lead to euthanasia.
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I certainly appreciate that states of affairs which are permitted by doctors can be viewed by some as euthanasia and can be viewed by others as proper medical treatment. The Government are opposed to euthanasia in any form. The
Lord Milverton: My Lords, with our scientific and technical knowledge continuing to grow, we need to be aware that in keeping a life going we are not really helping the dignity and worth of that sick person or even the dignity and worth of his or her close relatives. Many doctors, in sincerity and truth, will give an overdose to relieve the pain of the patient, knowing that it will quicken the time of his or her death. I know from close experience that this happens. Doctors are doing it with care and thought and not recklessly.
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I would be the first to agree that this subject addresses acutely the dignity of the incapacitated and their families. The noble Lord raises a difficult question--again, one that will be addressed in the consultation--that that which is done by a doctor to a patient may confer a benefit on him in a medical sense but may also be thought to have the shorter term effect of abbreviating life. This is an acute problem.
The Earl of Lauderdale: My Lords, I apologise to the noble and learned Lord for not being present for the Statement. I was delayed in getting back from hospital where I had treatment in connection with my pacemaker. Does the Green Paper make reference to children who may be born with a great disability? I think of one child who is suffering from hydrocephalus and another aged 10 who has cerebral palsy. These are terrifying situations for the families as well as for the victims. I shall be glad to hear if the Green Paper addresses those situations. I apologise again for not having heard the Statement.
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, in essence the Green Paper covers three groups: those who have never had capacity and have now, say, reached the age of 18--people with learning disabilities; secondly, those who have lost capacity, for example, as a result of an operation or a road traffic accident; and, thirdly, those who lose capacity later in life. I gave as an illustration those suffering from dementia. The Green Paper has the widest ambit. The noble Earl will therefore see that children are covered.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving my Motion, I declare three interests which I think are relevant. I am a director of Associated British Ports, chairman of HTV and president of the university in Cardiff.
There is much talk at present in government circles about a new Britain and, by implication, a new Wales; and therefore it seems a good moment to consider the state of Wales and the remarkable transformation of Welsh economic and social conditions that has taken place over the past 30 years. We should be clear about where we have got to and what our priorities might be before we begin to transform the government of Wales.
This is not a Second Reading debate, but I hope the Motion will provide an opportunity to identify some broad principles against which the Government's proposals can be judged. From soon after the end of the First World War Wales had suffered the devastating consequences of the decline of the old basic industries on which its economy depended. When I entered Welsh politics 30 years ago the final painful phase of that process was about to begin.
Just before the Conservatives came into office in 1979 the Labour Government had been forced to accept the closure of the steelworks at Ebbw Vale and at East Moors in Cardiff. Shotton, in North Wales, was under grave threat, and the two great strip mills at Port Talbot and Llanwern were part of one of the most inefficient and uncompetitive steel plants in the world. The hike in energy costs was to be the final knock-out blow for much of the heavy industry that remained. Today Port Talbot and Llanwern are among the most efficient plants of what is probably one of the three best steel companies in the world.
Wales, with about 5 per cent. of the UK's population, has, year after year, attracted about 20 per cent. of its inward investment. These foreign companies have formed a nucleus of modern, high tech. industry, around which the indigenous economy has grown. But the overwhelming majority of the workforce are still employed by British companies in the public service or self employment.
There has been an astonishing improvement in the unemployment statistics. For most of my lifetime unemployment in Wales has been among the highest anywhere in the United Kingdom. The October unemployment figures for parliamentary constituencies, which can be found in a publication in the Library, now paint a picture that I would have hardly dared to believe possible in the early 1980s. There is not one Welsh constituency in the top (that is the worst) 100 in the United Kingdom. The Rhondda, with male unemployment at 8.7 per cent., ranks 187th. In Alyn and Deeside, which in the 1980s suffered so heavily from the closure of the Courtauld plants and Shotton, it is only 4.9 per cent. Total unemployment at 5.7 per cent. is less than 1 per cent. above the UK average.
Black spots remain, particularly in west Wales and the north west. BP's lubricants plant near Swansea is now to be added to earlier oil refinery closures around Milford Haven. There is declining employment in agriculture now brutally hard hit by the Government's ban on the sale of beef on the bone. As we heard at Question Time, GDP per capita remains stubbornly below the UK average. In part, the difference is accounted for by the concentration of financial services in London and the south east and partly by the kind of
It is not only the employment situation which has changed; but the transport infrastructure, the housing stock and the environment in the old industrial areas have had equally beneficial change. The M.4 across south Wales, including the second Severn crossing, and the A.55 in north Wales have been completed except for the final section across Anglesey. Modern roads from the M.4 into the south Wales valleys have replaced the old, tortuous lanes. The condition of the valley railways, which was also referred to at Question Time--the lines which run down to Cardiff--has been enormously improved. I believe that those were the right priorities over the past two decades or so to strengthen employment and economic conditions. But I note from the remark made by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, that there are those who will now demand a great through road from north to south. I warn him of this: the new assembly will find that there are big financial and environmental obstacles in the way.
Those who knew the industrial valleys 30 years ago would hardly recognise many of them today. Tips and dereliction have largely disappeared as a result of the greatest programme of derelict land clearance in Europe. The urban landscape looks very different as a consequence of a succession of housing improvement schemes. Town centres which were run down and depressing have been much improved by a succession of valley's initiatives. In the lower Swansea valley and in Cardiff Bay other initiatives have turned once-polluted deserts into what is indeed a new world.
Nowhere has the transformation been so substantial as in the health service. There is a myth propagated about cuts; but the reality has been a huge programme of hospital and community health building. By the end of the 1980s there were six new general hospitals as well as several new community hospitals. There has been a growth in the facilities for heart surgery; the development of what is probably the best renal dialysis service in Europe; and a major initiative for better care in the community of mentally handicapped people. There was a large increase in the number of doctors and nurses in my time at the Welsh Office. When I turned up the statistics in the Library last week I found that once again there had been a substantial increase over the past five years.
I have talked about the infrastructure and social conditions. I could have talked about the language, so vigorously and successfully supported over 18 years by Conservative Governments, and the arts, which have also thrived. But I shall conclude what I have to say about the state of Wales by pointing to the transformation of morale and attitude. Not surprisingly, in the 1970s Wales lacked confidence. There was a sense of hopelessness. There was what
It is at this moment that the effective instruments forged across the party barriers in the shape of the Welsh Office and the role of the Secretary of State, are to be smashed to smithereens and replaced. A huge responsibility rests on those who propose these changes. By no stretch of the imagination can they claim to have the wholehearted endorsement of the Welsh people. The referendum proved in many ways even more unsatisfactory than some of us had feared, and leaves behind a divided Wales.
However, I firmly believe that, narrow though the margin was, the verdict must be accepted. In my judgment this House and my own party would make a profound mistake if they sought to overthrow the Bill that is now before the Commons. It would be an action that would not be understood and would be resented by very many in Wales, and not just by those in favour of the assembly.
However, we are fully entitled to amend the Bill and to improve it, particularly in view of the unprecedented decision of the Government to take all but six of the 149 clauses and 14 schedules of this constitutional measure, off the Floor of the House of Commons and upstairs to a committee despite the Opposition's offer of an agreed timetable of seven days in Committee on the Floor of the House and two days on Report.
If we are to have an assembly, I believe that it is our job to make it work effectively. I hope that my own party will want to make it strong, not weak; and in due course will play a very active role in the work that is undertaken.
An assembly which is effective and whose functions and relationships are clearly defined, is much less likely to risk the unity of the Kingdom than one which has serious inadequacies that create tension and disillusionment.
So one principle that should guide us will be to create clarity about where responsibility lies. That is not just a matter of functions. We need to have an electoral system and a structure that leaves us with no doubt where executive responsibility lies; providing the electorate with the opportunity to form a judgment and deliver a verdict.
What is proposed at present--namely, an executive that consists of the leaders of the subject committees--essentially replicates a local government system that pretends to be inclusive, but which in reality obscures accountability and drives decision making underground to the party group. The most important single change that is needed, and for which this House should press, is for the kind of Cabinet model suggested in the 1996 Constitution Unit's report An Assembly for Wales. I welcome the indication given by the Secretary of State in his speech in another place at Second Reading that his mind is not
It is odd as well that in setting up a national assembly advisory group to prepare guidance on the way in which the assembly should operate, the Secretary of State has personally selected the individual who is supposed to represent the Conservative Party, without proper consultation. That is not an acceptable basis for inter-party co-operation. The unfortunate individual so selected--we do not yet know who he is--cannot, in the circumstances, have authority to speak on behalf of the Conservative Party: he will speak only for himself. The committee is apparently to advise the Secretary of State who will, in his turn, advise the statutory committee. It is a pretty shabby charade.
We should not be lured either by the siren voices of the recent report from the Institute of Welsh Affairs, Making the Assembly Work, which wants 80, not 60, members or by the Western Mail, which wants them to be full-time. Sixty members are quite enough; and if that means having fewer committees, so be it. Quality is of importance; and I shall argue on another occasion why it seems certain that an insistence on full-time membership would have a devastating impact on quality. In my view, the proposed party list system, even if it is confined to additional members, is unlikely to compensate in terms of quality for its other grave deficiencies.
Cabinet government; clarity of responsibility; and quality are my first three principles. There is a fourth: there must be practical means of involving the assembly in negotiations about policy with Westminster and Brussels, and of settling disputes. Already the warning shots are being fired over the Barnett formula and regional policy. It is not enough simply to refer to the Barnett formula as a sacred text. I sat through quite enough passionate discussions in Cabinet about possible over-funding for Scotland not to know that the outcome is essentially political. Indeed, it is clear from the Treasury note placed in the Library this week, which refers to the need for an in-depth study of reliable spending requirements and for full consultation before there are substantial revisions, that revision is possible and that we must be prepared to consider a situation in which they are proposed or imposed. Already the English are demanding them; already studies have begun and Select Committees are examining those issues.
Somehow, before the Bill becomes an Act, we have to find better means of resolving those fundamental problems--"better" that is than the Government's present scheme which places the Secretary of State in a wholly absurd and unsustainable role. The report of the Institute of Welsh Affairs, to which I have referred, is worth reading on that subject. Mr. Ted Rowlands in another place yesterday was right to concentrate on the relationships between the assembly and Parliament and
I have one final principle. We must effectively protect the interests of those institutions which span the border and which cannot be solely dependent on an assembly with a narrow Welsh interest. I can think immediately of two examples: the Environment Agency, where practical considerations and environmental impact demand a wider perspective; and the University of Wales. The majority of the university's students come from outside Wales. It has to compete on a level playing field with other British universities. We must be certain that the new arrangements do not weaken higher education in Wales.
Lord Prys-Davies: My Lords, I should like first to welcome the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, to his place on the Official Opposition Front Bench where he is to speak on Welsh affairs. We know that the noble Lord comes to the Front Bench with immense experience of Wales and of the working of the Welsh Office.
I am sure that we can all unite in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, for having launched us on this very wide-ranging debate, drawing in the need for economic progress, social progress and good governance. I believe that we can also all agree that we wish to see economic and social progress and the good governance of our society. I am sure that there is support for that principle in every part of the House.
The first aspect of the Motion addresses economic progress. The experience of the Welsh economy since the mid-1980s has been presented by the Conservative Party and again today as an unconditional economic success story. Nevertheless, it is correct to say that it has been the eastern corners of Wales which have mainly benefited from the economic success to which the noble Lord referred. I therefore welcome very much the Welsh Development Agency's recent evidence to the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs that the WDA,
The WDA has to encourage development right across Wales. That conclusion also emerges in the study, Winner or Loser in the New Europe, by Dennis Thomas of the Department of Economics, University of Wales, Aberystwyth, which was published early last year.
I shall not deal with the weaknesses in the Welsh economy, which were touched upon at Question Time today, but I should like to refer to two aspects of the Welsh economy. A number of speakers with profound knowledge and expertise of rural Wales will, I am sure, speak with considerable concern about the declining employment in agriculture, compounded by the BSE crisis and, in South West Wales, by the closure of
I can recognise that scene. Indeed, last Saturday's weekend section of the Guardian identified one such district, the Gurnos Estate in Merthyr Tydfil. It is one of the largest housing estates in Europe. It was described as still suffering,
I shall not pray in aid the facts relating to the estate, in so far as they were facts, found by Mr. Justice Sachs in the Cardiff Crown Court earlier this year, except to say that it seems to me that he was describing a grave social situation where hope had been all but extinguished. I have little doubt but that the WDA had such an estate in mind when it reported to the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs that there,
When asked how the Government can cope with the massive economic and social problems at the Gurnos Estate, I hasten to add that there is prima facie evidence that there are other large housing estates in the valleys of South Wales where the problems are just as great. The new Government have inherited this problem. The Welsh Office is working hard and consulting on the proposed economic powerhouse and the economic strategy for Wales. I very much hope that the Government will urgently press forward with analysing the very real needs of the valley communities and produce a solution.
Many concerns have been voiced by industry about the failure of the education and training system to deliver workforce skills and qualifications. This problem has been on the agenda for years. In his paper, Mr. Dennis Thomas cites examples. One major international company reported that only three out of 200 applicants for apprenticeships in Cardiff were suitably qualified. That story speaks for itself. To a disproportionate extent the unskilled make up the long-term unemployed. We must concentrate on making the unskilled skilled. The pursuit of economic and social progress is a vital aid to good government. We want policies that produce greater employment, prosperity, fairness and unity.
This brings me to the third aspect of the Motion; namely, the good governance of Wales. I believe that that is one of the fundamental principles on which the rule of law depends. I believe that an elected Welsh assembly will strengthen progress towards the social and economic goals that all of us have in mind.
Lord Hooson: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, has told me that he does not intend to take part in this debate. I mention it to indicate that there may be a little more time available to the remaining speakers. I reiterate the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, in welcoming the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, and congratulating him on his position on the Front Bench. A lifetime of political differences has never separated us in our personal friendship. We look forward very much to his contribution to this debate.
I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, on his wisdom in finding such a wide subject for the Motion before the House today. After all, the House of Commons has spent the past two days considering the good governance of Wales within the UK. I do not intend to follow that line at this particular moment. I shall concentrate on the so-called economic and social progress in Wales particularly as regards rural areas.
I declare an interest. I am a hill farmer and I live in the heart of rural Wales. My area and similar areas in Wales have been plunged into despondency by the crisis in agriculture, the bedrock of the rural economy. In my judgment it has been aggravated by government measures that show little understanding of the real factors involved. If the present state of affairs is allowed to continue unalleviated there is a foreboding of disaster for areas such as my own in Montgomeryshire. One must remember that the slump in the 1920s, as opposed to the later slump, began in agriculture.
Farmers and their families, shopkeepers, butchers, those involved in the web of supportive and dependent industries like machinery manufacturers, suppliers of agricultural tractors, cars, etc.--all those whom I meet when I return home every weekend--tell me that they are feeling the pinch. Banks are restricting credit to farmers. In particular, younger farmers who have borrowed a great deal of money are up against it. They wonder whether this winter it will be possible for them even to feed their breeding stock because they do not have the resources to do it. From today's events in the other place and the lobbying and canvassing in Parliament Square as we came here, we know about the Government's much-vaunted policy of moving people from welfare into work. Unless the Government show greater appreciation of the nature and depth of the crisis in the rural economy, aggravated by the rumoured closure of rural manufacturing industry including that in my own area, they may soon be presiding over a programme in rural Wales of work-to-welfare. What people there require are not incentives to work--because the employment figures show that they always find employment if they can--but guarantees and safeguards to preserve the sources of work.
The basis of the current farming situation is, first, the BSE crisis. I expressed the view in the previous Parliament that this was dealt with in a hopelessly inept and unenlightened way by the previous government. They aggravated the problem that arose from that crisis. Secondly, because of the strength of sterling this year beef and lamb imports have been sucked into our
BSE was a great misfortune. A very strong pound--there are arguments against it--is something of which farmers like the rest of the business community must bear the brunt. Sometimes it works in your favour, sometimes against. But the other factors are brutal and unnecessary wounds inflicted without due thought or consideration by the Government's own action. BSE is experienced throughout Europe and in other countries to a greater or lesser degree. It is now accepted that probably only Australia and New Zealand do not have BSE. We are importing beef from those countries where the safeguards come nowhere near the standard applied in this country. For example, how much of the beef now imported into this country comes from animals under 30 months of age? There is no means of discovering how much of the beef goes into prepared hamburgers for supermarkets. For example, some of them are prepared in the Republic of Ireland. How much of that comes from cow meat as opposed to animals under 30 months of age? How do those countries deal with the offal that cannot be used at all in our country? We have no means of knowing.
The Government have not provided a level playing field for the home beef farmers as opposed to their foreign competitors. This lies at the heart of the angry reaction of farmers which we have witnessed in the past fortnight or so. Surely, the restriction on British beef is in the interests of health. That should apply also to the importation of beef. British hygiene requirements and so on should be followed to ensure that imported meat meets the standards imposed here.
So the chance that anyone eating beef on the bone would contract BSE is roughly one in a billion! How does that justify the reaction of the Minister of Agriculture? What right has Big Brother to prevent British customers from exercising their traditional right to buy beef on the bone?
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