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Mr. Hanson: My right hon. Friend regularly meets the First Minister and I hold regular meetings with the Assembly Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning, when we discuss a wide range of issues including unemployment levels in Wales. I also addressed the Wales New Deal Task Force in November on the Government's future plans for the New Deal.
Since the Government's New Deal was launched throughout Wales, there has been a 73 per cent. fall in the number of 18-24 year olds unemployed and claiming the Jobseeker's Allowance for six months or more from 6,555 in April 1998 to 1,774 in October 2000.
Mr. Hanson: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State regularly meets the First Minister and I hold regular meetings with the Assembly Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning, when we discuss a wide range of issues including employment levels in Wales.
This Government's continued firm handling of their sound economic policy has seen a significant reduction in the number of people claiming benefits in Wales, with a fall in the claimant count from 4.7 per cent. in December 1999 to 4.3 per cent. in December 2000.
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Mr. Paul Murphy: The bilateral concordat between the Assembly and the DETR sets out the principles for dealing with cross-border environmental issues and the arrangements for joint sponsorship of the Environment Agency.
Mr. Paul Murphy: Over the past weeks, I have discussed the future of the steel industry with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I have also held numerous meetings with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the First Minister of the National Assembly for Wales.
I have to tell the House that the Government have not been given any detail about the forthcoming re-structuring of the British steel industry, much of which is based in Wales. The company has not engaged with the Government. I regret this, and I urge Corus to recognise the record of our steel works and steelworkers, and not to take any short term decisions.
18. Mr. Greenway: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for the Home Department with regard to the early prisoner release scheme in Wales. 
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Mr. Hanson: The National Assembly for Wales published a reported entitled "Mapping social exclusion in Wales", 1999 Edition. The report contains 50 indicators related to aspects of social exclusion and maps their concentration across Wales. Copies of the report are available in the Library of the House.
In December, the National Assembly published a consultation paper entitled "Regenerating Our Most Disadvantaged Communities, Communities First". Copies of the consultation paper will be placed in the Library of the House as soon as possible.
In addition, the Welsh Affairs Committee published a report on social exclusion in Wales on 15 January. The report acknowledged that social exclusion affects people of many different kinds and that it is not unique to Wales; it is a fact of life across the United Kingdom.
This Government are committed to tackling social exclusion and I welcome the high priority that the National Assembly places on bridging the gap between the most deprived communities in Wales and the more affluent ones.
Mr. Paul Murphy: I met all four Welsh chief constables on 15 January to discuss a number of issues affecting policing in Wales, including police funding and crime levels. I meet the First Secretary regularly to discuss a range of issues, including this one.
23. Ann Clwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what discussions he has had with the Department of Trade and Industry on the number of miners' compensation claims which have been (a) made and (b) settled in Wales. 
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example, on 4 January I chaired a very constructive first meeting of a Welsh sub-group of the Coal Health Claims Monitoring Group which I established specifically to address coal health issues in Wales. The group will meet on a regular basis and will discuss progress made and ways of further speeding up the processing of coal health claims.
Mr. David Hanson: The Government are committed to creating employment opportunity for all to fulfil our long-term employment ambition that, by the end of the decade, there will be a greater proportion of people in work than ever before.
The Government announced on the 30 November that we had reached our New Deal target for getting 250,000 people off welfare and into work. Over 17,000 18 to 24-year-olds in Wales have obtained employment since the New Deal was introduced and, there has been a 73 per cent. fall in the number of 18 to 24-year-olds unemployed and claiming the Job Seeker's Allowance for six months in Wales over the same period.
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