Column 1T H E
P A R L I A M E N T A R Y D E B A T E S
IN THE FIRST SESSION OF THE FIFTY-FIRST PARLIAMENT OF THE UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND
[WHICH OPENED 27 APRIL 1992]
FORTY-FIRST YEAR OF THE REIGN OF
HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH II
SIXTH SERIES VOLUME 218
TWELFTH VOLUME OF SESSION 1992-93
House of Commons
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Gwilym Jones) : The national garden festival was an extremely successful event and, despite the adverse weather from July onwards, it succeeded in attracting more than 2 million visitors.
Mr. Bruce : In congratulating the Welsh Office on its role in promoting the garden festival, may I ask my hon. Friend whether there was a greater benefit to the economy in general, not only through visitors and tourists, but in expanding the economy and demonstrating that the Government are wholly committed to regenerating jobs in south Wales?
Mr. Jones : On behalf of my right hon. Friends and myself, I am happy to accept my hon. Friend's congratulations, which are very much due to Philip Weekes and everyone else who worked with and for Garden Festival Wales Ltd. They did an exceptional job,
Column 2as did the local authorities--Blaenau Gwent borough council and Gwent county council. I remember that thousands of people attended on the last day and everyone who went to see the garden festival came away impressed by what can be done in reclamation and by the positive images of Wales that it presented.
Mr. Llew Smith : While I accept all the remarks about the people who made such an outstanding contribution to the garden festival, and while the Government helped to finance the festival and to bring about those good works, on the other hand the Government have brought about a situation in which basic credit approvals for Blaenau Gwent have been slashed by more than £600,000. Environmental schemes in other parts of the constituency will have to be slashed, so the good work done through the garden festival is being outweighed by bad works in other parts of the borough. Will the Minister meet the local authorities to discuss the fact that the basic credit approvals for Blaenau Gwent are the lowest for any district council in Wales?
Mr. Jones : I am certainly not so pessimistic as the hon. Gentleman. I seem to recollect that the Government provided more than £30 million in support for the garden festival. That was a substantial and worthwhile investment for the local authority to build on. I know that Blaenau Gwent borough council and Gwent county council have formed a partnership with the Welsh Development Agency--the Victoria partnership--which has some interesting plans to take that forward. I look forward to developing the end use of the site.
Column 3programmes will total approximately £1,500 million for the first time ever. With permission, Madam Speaker, I shall arrange for details to be printed in the Official Report.
The information is as follows :
1. Planned gross capital expenditure for 1993-94 in respect of all programmes within my responsibility totals some £1.5 billion. 2. The expenditure plans of my Department, including those public expenditure programmes with capital components, will be set out in the Departmental Report to be published in February.
3. The provision of £1.5 billion covers a range of Welsh Office capital programmes.
The main components are :
|£ million ------------------------------------------------------------------- (i) Local authority gross capital expenditure |620 (ii) Central government roads and transport |180 (iii) Central government health (including NHS Trusts) |138 (iv) Housing for Wales |130 (v) Welsh Development Agency |124 (vi) ERDF grants |70
4. Lists of major projects included in the programmes are as follows.
Major capital projects in progress include: |Estimated Total |Spend |£ million ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Central Government Roads A55 Pen-y-Clip Tunnels |121 M4 Earlwood-Lonlas |59 M4 Briton Ferry-Earlwood |60 A487 Port Dinorwic Bypass |14 M4/A4042 Brynglas Tunnels/Malpas Road |69 A483 Welshpool RR |16 M4 Baglan-Briton Ferry |37 A55 Aber |11 A465 Glynneath-Aberdulais |84 M4 Link to 2nd Severn Crossing |53 Transport Grant Schemes A472 Maesyowmner-Newbridge |36 Talbot Green Bypass Extension |11 Pontypridd Inner relief road |35 Butetown Link |132 Hospitals Ysbyty Maelor, Wrexham |20 Ysbyty Gwynedd II |9 Morriston IV |33 Torfaen Community |6 Arts and Libraries Museum development of Cathays Park building |21 WDA Land Reclamation Schemes Bargoed Colliery and Tips |11 Oakdale Colliery and Tips |8 Pentre Colliery Tips |5 Phurnacite Works, Abercwmboi |3 Georgetown Cyfarthfa Tips |3
Major capital projects planned to commence in 1993-94 include: |Estimated Total |Spend |£ million ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Arts and Libraries Provision of third library building |11 Central Government Roads A4042 Llantarnam By-Pass |18 A5 Glyn Bends |11 A470 Pentrebach-Cefn Coed |58 A483 Llandeilo Eastern By-Pass |18 Transport Grant Schemes A4048 Tredegar By-Pass |9 A4067 Swansea Valley Dualling Stage 1 |16 Hospitals Singleton Theatre/SDU Development |9 West Mon Community |7 Barry Neighbourhood |8 Cardiff Neighbourhood |7 Other Environmental Services Cardiff Bay Barrage (subject to Parliamentary approval) |147 WDA Land Reclamation Schemes Maerdy Colliery Tips Phase 2 |2 Brymbo Steelworks |10 Barry Marine |13
Mr. Richards : Will my right hon. Friend confirm that that represents an 8.5 per cent. increase in spending in the last year? Will not those record figures accelerate the transformation of the Welsh economy that we have seen in the past 13 years, particularly in view of the new industrial projects which I understand are to be announced today?
Mr. Hunt : I am, indeed, pleased to confirm that seven new industrial projects, involving investment by companies of more than £13 million, the planned creation of 614 new jobs and the safeguarding of more than 260 others are being announced today. That is very good news for Wales and, in particular, for the county of Clwyd. As well as the projects in 1992, my Department has been able to give regional selective assistance to help to create a total of 12,690 jobs in Wales.
Mr. Rogers : Does the Secretary of State accept that we need a garden festival every week in Wales to recover from the industrial dereliction of the past? The present programme of capital funding is by no means adequate to deal with the problems in the south Wales valleys. When will he give special treatment to the valleys so that they can recover from the situation caused by the decline of heavy industry?
Mr. Hunt : I recognise that the hon. Gentleman constantly pleads the cause of his part of the valleys, the Rhondda, but I hope that he will recognise that since my predecessor announced the programme for the valleys in 1988 there has been a remarkable transformation of those valleys-- [Interruption.] Of course there is much more to be done. That remarkable transformation, which came about as a result of a positive partnership between local authorities and the Welsh Development Agency has resulted in the largest land clearance programme anywhere in Europe and has attracted an enormous amount of
Column 5private sector investment. I hope that from time to time the hon. Gentleman will pay tribute to my predecessor for having initiated such a successful programme.
Mr. Hunt : The figures that I have announced today do not include the £300 million project for the second Severn crossing, which is a private-sector-led project. The record level of capital programme in Wales invested by the Welsh Office, combined with the enormous projects such as the second Severn crossing, will involve the biggest capital spend ever seen in Wales. That is good news for Wales.
Mr. Wigley : Will the Secretary of State clarify whether the capital investment programme is a deliberate strategy aimed at cracking the unemployment problem, particularly the black spots in Gwynedd, Dyfed and the valleys of Glamorgan, where thousands of young people are unemployed and where construction workers are looking for work? There is work to be done on schools, hospitals, housing and roads, but we seem incapable of bringing the two together and cracking the problems.
Mr. Hunt : Of course, I recognise that parts of Wales need capital investment and I shall do my best in terms of housing, education and the Welsh Development Agency. Where possible, all capital programmes will be directed in the best possible way to secure, among other aims, growth. The Welsh economy is already at the forefront of the economic upturn in the United Kingdom and I am confident that there will be many more job announcements in the coming months and many more job opportunities in Wales. I agree that we need to ensure that we do everything possible to reduce the difficult rise in unemployment throughout Wales, but we must recognise that we in Wales are doing better than the rest of the United Kingdom, Europe and many other parts of the world.
3. Mr. Michael : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what guidance has been issued by his Department on the way in which finance is to be allocated to NHS units by health authorities in Wales ; what assistance he has sought from the Audit Commission in ensuring that this is done fairly and in the best interests of patient care ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Gwilym Jones : Welsh Office guidance to health authorities has rightly concentrated on securing quality health care rather than the allocation of budgets to providers. The Audit Commission's current study will further inform health authorities. I am pleased to announce that I have today agreed the release of an extra £750,000 for health authorities to secure additional hospital treatment before the end of the current financial year.
Mr. Michael : Is the Minister aware that, even with the additional money provided, there is still capacity in Llandough hospital to deal only with very urgent and emergency operations and that the hospital cannot undertake elective surgery for chest and geriatric patients? Will the Minister undertake an independent investigation into the way in which money is provided--or not provided
Column 6--to the units in South Glamorgan? Will he let us have an objective view of exactly how the finance will be spread among the different units?
Mr. Jones : What the hon. Gentleman asks for is already in hand. My officials are in touch with the health authority on the question of Llandough hospital. In terms of South Glamorgan more generally, I met the chairman and general manager on Friday afternoon, when they were able to tell me about the progress being made. In the first seven months of this year, more operations were carried out than in the previous year and by the end of this financial year they expect, like the other health authorities in Wales, to have achieved another record throughput.
Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman : May I put it to my hon. Friend that the most important ingredient in health care is the patient? Does he accept that the proof of the pudding is in the eating and that infinitely more patients are being treated in Wales, as in other parts of the United Kingdom, than were ever treated under the Labour Government?
Mr. Jones : I could not agree more. Let us quantify it : since this Government came to power in 1979, a further 161,000 patients per year have been treated in hospitals, as well as 126,000 more out-patients and 133,000 more day patients. All in all, the health service in Wales is now treating almost 400,000 more patients each year--and the number is increasing all the time.
Mr. Gareth Wardell : Will the Minister help the House by telling us how, after 1 April, he will ensure that the financing of health units in Wales will be able to continue and that enough urgent and non-urgent hospital beds will be in place? He will know that under a Welsh Office circular issued in 1991 elderly people can choose, with their relatives, not to be discharged to private nursing homes and be means tested but to have the entire cost borne by the health authority. Will he provide money for that?
Mr. Jones : Yes, we have already made money available under both headings. I have been able to announce a further £38 million for social services departments throughout Wales for care in the community and we have already announced that spending on the national health service in Wales will have increased by significantly more than the rate of inflation- -by 5.2 per cent., in fact. I look forward confidently to next year's figures showing another record number of patients treated by the health service in Wales.
Mr. Fabricant rose--[Interruption.] The Opposition may jeer, but my mother was born in Wales and brought up in Aberavon, so I am as Welsh as Welsh Opposition Members--and is not Wales part of the United Kingdom anyway?
Is my hon. Friend aware that only this morning, in the "Today" programme, evidence was given that more and more people are being treated by national health service trusts? Would he agree that trusts in Wales are showing themselves to be equally as successful as those in England?
Mr. Jones : My hon. Friend is quite right. I am delighted to find a strain of Wales healthily represented in his blood. Our national health service trust in Pembrokeshire is already treating more patients this year than last and I am looking forward to the new health service trusts coming onstream from 1 April this year following suit. One
Column 7obvious factor is the growth in day treatment cases. Since the Government came to power there has been a dramatic 329 per cent. increase in such cases in Welsh hospitals.
Mr. Morgan : In the light of the figures recently published by the Minister showing that the number of senior bureaucrats in the NHS in Wales has been rising almost as rapidly as the number of English Tory Members coming to Welsh Question Time to ask phoney questions--the numbers have risen from 180-odd to 850-odd--may I ask the Minister how he intends to curb the increasing number of bureaucrats and accountants who are running the NHS in Wales? If he does nothing, in five years' time there will be more accountants than medical consultants working for the NHS in Wales.
Mr. Jones : Clearly, something as important as the NHS in Wales has to be properly managed. There is no point in taking selective figures, often out of context, when what really matters is the number of patients being treated, which continues to increase in Wales. Last year was a record and the current year looks like being a record. Given the above-the-cost-of -living increase in funding that we have provided for the health service, I am confident that next year will be a record as well. That is the important test.
4. Dr. Kim Howells : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales when he last met representatives of the local authorities and water companies to discuss the effects on Welsh commerce of repeated flooding in urban centres.
Mr. David Hunt : As the hon. Gentleman knows, on 4 December I visited Pontypridd and Tredegar to see for myself the difficulties being faced by many people as a result of the flooding. I took the opportunity to meet representatives of the local authorities and the National Rivers Authority.
Dr. Howells : Does the Secretary of State agree that for far too long the rivers of industrial south Wales have been treated as little better than open sewers? The sewerage systems serving the communities along the banks of those rivers are mainly of Victorian vintage and in heavy rain they discharge back into the streets causing misery to households and threatening the livelihoods of many of our commercial centres. Will he recognise that rebuilding those sewerage systems and reconstructing the waterways of Wales is a great civil engineering project that the Government should take seriously? It would provide a great focus for jobs in south Wales, help to reinvigorate the heart of our commercial centres, and lift the fear of flooding.
Mr. Hunt : As the hon. Gentleman says, that is money. Since 1979 my Department has grant aided £34 million worth of flood prevention works in Wales. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will pay tribute to Welsh Water for the way in which the quality of our water has improved. Welsh Water's investment programme is now running at £500, 000 per day. Of course there is still a need for schemes to be presented. As the hon. Gentleman knows, my
Column 8Department does not have power to carry out the works, but it has power to grant aid schemes. I hope that some imaginative and innovative schemes will be presented so that we may address them from the point of view of grant aid.
Mr. Hunt : With regard to investment and the Bellwin rules, authorities incurring expenditure on eligible works have to submit their initial claims by 1 March. Three authorities--Blaenau Gwent, Rhondda and Cynon Valley--have told my Department that they will be able to make eligible claims. I understand that the remaining authorities' expenditure is below the threshold. I am awaiting a further report on the flooding in Monmouth and will obviously look carefully to ensure that such flooding can never happen again.
Mr. Murphy : Does the Secretary of State accept that the Bellwin formula applies to spending after flooding and that much misery and hardship could have been avoided if proper preventive measures had been taken in the first place? Will he undertake to carry out a survey of river banks in Wales that are most at risk and ensure that the survey will involve special funding by the Welsh Office to our local authorities and the National Rivers Authority?
Mr. Hunt : As I pointed out to the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells), my Department does not have power to carry out the works, but we have the money to grant aid those who have such powers. I have already said that since 1979 the Welsh Office has grant aided £34 million in making sure that those projects can be taken forward. I have been given evidence from within my Department that if those works had not been carried out Wales would have suffered much worse flooding. Of course I am interested in any other schemes to prevent further flooding, especially in certain parts of Wales. The hon. Member for Pontypridd knows what I have said about Pontypridd and I undertake seriously to consider any schemes that are put forward.
The Minister of State, Welsh Office (Sir Wyn Roberts) : Figures for 1992 are not yet available, but in 1991, despite a difficult economic climate, the tourism industry showed considerable resilience. There was an estimated increase of 5 per cent. in the number of tourism trips taken in Wales by United Kingdom residents, compared with 1990, while expenditure by domestic tourists remained unchanged at £900 million at current prices. In addition, the Wales tourist board estimates that earnings from overseas tourists in 1991 were about £120 million.
Mr. Coombs : I thank my right hon. Friend for that somewhat cautious answer. Does he agree that there is every reason to think that the figures for 1992 will confirm a similar rising trend for tourism in Wales? Does he further agree that credit for that goes, first, to the Wales tourist board, which has carried out excellent work, and secondly,
Column 9to the fact that section 4 grants continue to be available in Wales? What figure does my right hon. Friend estimate for section 4 grants for last year?
Sir Wyn Roberts : As my hon. Friend knows, it is a little premature to speak of tourism in Wales in 1992, but I hope that he is right. On the question of giving credit for the success of the tourism industry in Wales, there is no doubt about the important role played by the Wales tourist board. There is also no doubt that section 4 grants have helped enormously to improve the tourism product in Wales. In 1991-92, some £4.2 million of expenditure was approved in support of 258 projects with an estimated capital value of £23.7 million. It is anticipated that almost 500 jobs will be created as a result of those projects. It is clear that the leverage factor of 1 : 5 in terms of section 4 grants is extremely good and the grants are very much valued by the Welsh tourism industry.
Mr. Hain : Tourism is no substitute for proper investment in industry. What action is the Welsh Office taking to promote tourism in the Neath area? The Wales tourist board official guide, "Wales 93", which is the bible of visitors to Wales, does not give Neath a single mention, although almost every other parliamentary constituency is mentioned. The guide takes no account of the fact that the Penscynnor wildlife park attracts the second largest number of visitors to any tourist attraction in Wales. There are many other scenic places, such as Gunsmoke in Seven Sisters and the Resolven canal. The Welsh Office should be promoting the many opportunities for tourism in that area.
Sir Wyn Roberts : The fact that we all know of Penscynnor and the other attractions in Neath says a great deal about the area and the work that has been done not only by the WTB, but by the local authority and others to attract tourists to the Neath area. Tourism is an industry which provides employment for 95,000 people in Wales. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman should think that it is not an industry ; it is an important industry.
Mr. Harris : Can my right hon. Friend help me with a conundrum? He said that the £4 million of section 4 tourism development grants were very much valued in Wales. Can he explain why the tourism industry in my constituency and in the constituency of our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is denied access to such grants?
Sir Wyn Roberts : My hon. Friend knows that I have no responsibility for tourism outside Wales. All that I can say is that we are extremely glad that Wales has section 4 grants. We have been allowed to retain them because the industry in Wales is rather different from the industry in England. We do not have major hotel chains, and so on ; our industry is very much based on small family-sized and medium-sized companies.
Mr. Win Griffiths : The right hon. Gentleman must be aware of the prime importance of the seaside resort of Porthcawl in any strategy for raising money for tourism in Wales. Having failed to give Ogwr borough council money under the urban programme to redevelop and improve the promenade in Porthcawl, will he now have discussions with the Welsh Development Agency to ensure that money
Column 10is made available under its tourism initiative to bring Porthcawl into the 21st century, to help tourism and to provide facilities for residents?
Mr. Roberts : Of course I shall look at the situation in Porthcawl that the hon. Gentleman described. I can only reiterate that we lay enormous emphasis on tourism and the benefits that it brings to Wales. For example, the tourist board recently devised an overseas marketing strategy. We hope that the number of overseas visitors to Wales will increase over the next three years.
Mr. Flynn : Why does Wales have the highest proportion of low-paid workers of any region in the United Kingdom? Why is it that since the present Secretary of State took office there has been a 6 per cent. deterioration, in relative terms, in the personal incomes of the people of Wales? How long must the Welsh people continue to be the skivvies and drudges of Europe? Does the right hon. Gentleman have any jobs to offer today that are more rewarding than the weekend offer for people to be tied to posts while high-speed trains speed past?
Mr. Hunt : I announced today another 614 new jobs. The hon. Gentleman is selective in his use of statistics, and I will give the correct figures. Since I became Secretary of State, wage levels in Wales have increased faster, at 16.7 per cent., than in Great Britain as a whole, where the figure is 15.8 per cent. I wish that the hon. Gentleman would get his facts right.
Mr. Jonathan Evans : Is it not the case that in the past week the Confederation of British Industry has referred to a great improvement in terms of orders and optimism in Wales, and in the intention of many businesses in Wales to invest more in training next year even than their English counterparts? Is it not true also that wage levels in Wales will depend ultimately on the success of those particular businesses, which are now demonstrating more confidence than is the case nationally?
"Welsh firms much more confident",
"Welsh optimism holds on to its record rise",
"It has been an encouraging start to 1993, with signs of green shoots all round".
-- [Laughter.] Those are not my words. [ Hon. Members :-- "Oh."] they are the words of John Smith--[ Hon. Members :-- "Oh."] I am referring to someone whom I will call the enlightened and far-sighted John Smith. He is the John Smith who used those words in the Western Mail. I am, of course, quoting the former Member of Parliament for the Vale of Glamorgan, I quote him again :
"It has been an encouraging start to 1993, with signs of green shoots all around us."
I hope that Labour Members will permit me a moment of reflection, because this is the first time I have ever agreed
Column 11with a John Smith--not the John Smith who masterminded Labour's election defeat but the man who suffered as a result. It is about time that Labour Members faced the facts and stopped being the merchants of doom and gloom.
Mr. Simon Hughes : Will the wage earners of Point of Ayr, Taff Merthyr and Betws see green shoots in the weeks ahead? What representations are being made by the Secretary of State and his Department to the President of the Board of Trade--who was born in Wales--to ensure that the jobs in those pits, and those communities, are still here in the months to come?
Mr. Hunt : As the hon. Gentleman knows, I cannot possibly anticipate the results of the energy review and the publication of the Government's White Paper, on which I am working closely with my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade.
Mr. Ron Davies : Despite his earlier histrionics, the Secretary of State knows as well as any Opposition Member that Wales has grievous economic problems--the problems of low pay and high unemployment. Surely, one way of tackling the problem of low pay would be to do something about the current appalling levels of unemployment. Last week, the Select Committee on Trade and Industry made it clear that the coal industry's future now depends on political decisions. Will the Secretary of State give Welsh Members a direct and unambiguous assurance that he will not accept in Cabinet any decision to end mining, and the hundreds of jobs that depend on it at the Welsh collieries--Point of Ayr, Taff Merthyr and Betws?
Mr. Hunt : I have already explained that I cannot anticipate the results of the Government's deliberations. I shall certainly not do what Labour did in the 1960s, when it shut many of our Welsh pits, often without providing job alternatives. More than 70 pits were closed in a single year.
I hoped that the hon. Gentleman was rising to agree with his former colleague, John Smith, and to start talking up the Welsh economy instead of talking it down. He has indeed become noted in Wales--as the merchant of grunge.
7. Mr. Rowlands : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what will be the basic credit approvals for capital provision for (a) Mid Glamorgan and (b) Welsh counties in total for 1993-94 ; and what the figure was for 1992-93.
Mr. David Hunt : The basic credit approval issued to Mid Glamorgan county council for 1993-94 is £14,626 million, compared with £19,086 million for 1992-93. In total, basic credit approvals for Welsh counties for 1993-94 are £77,067 million, compared with £99,050 million for 1992-93. The reduction in 1993-94 reflects the transfer of responsibility for further education institutions to central Government. Separate provision has also been made available to local authorities for 1993-94 to cover expenditure which is to be reimbursed by grants from the European regional development fund.
Column 12threat of capping--many county councils, including Mid Glamorgan, are now having to abandon, postpone or cancel vital school and road-building projects, all of which could have created employment? At the same time, hundreds of jobs are going in every Welsh county as a result of the right hon. Gentleman's rate grant settlement proposals. How does all that square with the idea that public expenditure- led growth is possible in Wales, particularly in Mid Glamorgan?
Mr. Hunt : If the hon. Gentleman looks at the overall totals for the next financial year compared with those for the current year, and at the gross capital provision, he will see that in Wales the settlement is expected to yield gross capital spending of £620 million by local authorities. That is an increase of £61 million, or 11 per cent., and does not take account of the £70.6 million that I set aside to cover expenditure to be reimbursed by ERDF grants. The figures speak for themselves.
Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones : The Secretary of State will understand that, because of the introduction of his capping criteria, Gwynedd, for example, will have to cut a standstill budget by at least £3 million this year. Inevitably, that will mean the closure of old people's homes and of some schools, and the loss of jobs. Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the issue seriously? I invite him to speak again to local authority leaders in Wales and to ensure that they are properly resourced this year.
Mr. Hunt : I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman realises that we are dealing with basic credit approvals. Provided that you, Madam Speaker, are happy that I should extend the answer to cover the whole local authority settlement, I would point out that in Wales it represents a 3.1 per cent. increase over the equivalent figure for last year. Per capita expenditure amounts to over £900 for every man, woman and child in Wales, towards which the Government will be providing through aggregate external finance, £810. In all respects that is a reasonable settlement, bearing in mind the present difficult economic circumstances. I pay tribute to all those involved in local government who, like the Government, are having to face up to those difficult decisions, against a background of difficult economic circumstances.