1 CKKKKKL House of Commons Standing Committee (pt 9)

Legislative Programme and Pre-Budget Statement

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Mr. Wigley: Will the Minister discuss the Chancellor's statement about the use of fiscal powers to stimulate the economy by way of regional policy, especially with regard to operating aids? On the Floor of the House this afternoon, the Prime Minister made the positive statement that the matter is now for the Treasury, not Brussels, following the Nice conference. Will the Minister assure us that the Wales Office will work positively with the National Assembly to try to secure those important instruments of policy?

Mr. Hanson: I understand that the Assembly's Economic Development Committee will consider a progress report on that issue. We should want to see what is said on the matter, and to take account of the outcome of Nice. We will consider the issue, but I do not want to give the right hon. Gentleman any commitment on policy issues.

The legislative programme has shown, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Ms Morgan) mentioned, that devolution has worked. The right hon. Member for Caernarfon pointed out several measures that will support the Assembly and provide it with powers. As the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire said, we are trying to give the Assembly maximum flexibility with respect to the Bills. The special educational needs Bill, the commonhold leasehold Bill, the homes Bill, the health modernisation Bill and the Children's Commissioner Bill will establish additional responsibility or flexible powers for the National Assembly. That shows that the devolution settlement has worked.

The Children's Commissioner Bill has been welcomed by the right hon. Member for Caernarfon and by my hon. Friends the Members for Cardiff, North, for Rhondda, for Clwyd, South and for Bridgend. My hon. Friends the Members for Bridgend and for Cardiff, North highlighted the speedy and positive reaction to the Waterhouse report by the Government and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.I welcome the support that the hon. Member for North Dorset gave to the Bill. I take a similar view to that of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North, that it is not irreconcilable to want to support families in the home at the same time as wanting to tackle child abuse and protect children in the community. I look forward to the Opposition's comments during the passage of the Bill, but I hope for support that is neither grudging nor lacking. I hope that Opposition Members will be in the Lobby with us when the time comes.

I welcome the measures in the health Bill on tobacco. It is an England and Wales Bill, but within the modernisation Bill there is flexibility for the National Assembly to consider matters in a Wales-wide context. I and many other hon. Members are pleased that we are to take action to ban tobacco advertising.

Mr. Rogers: My hon. Friend mentions pre-legislative consultations with the National Assembly on various issues. Would he consider pre-legislative consultations with Members of this House?

Mr. Hanson: We have indeed produced draft Bills for consultation and there will be opportunities for comment during the passage of measures.

The special educational needs Bill mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda is a matter of particular importance, as is the crime Bill, mentioned by my hon. Friends the Members for Vale of Glamorgan and for Clwyd, South. Vehicle crime accounts for 30 per cent. of all the crime in Wales. If we can legislate in this House to reduce it, we should. Similarly, the homes Bill, mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, is an important measure for tackling homelessness.

Lastly, the hunting Bill is the subject of a manifesto commitment. All Members of Parliament will have an opportunity to take a view on hunting. The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire and my hon. Friends the Members for Clwyd, South and for Bridgend have explained their views, and I know mine. I have a hunt in my constituency. The Government are giving hon. Members the opportunity to take a view on the issue. That is a manifesto commitment that is being fulfilled. Like so much else in the Queen's Speech and the pre-Budget statement, it is a question of achieving what we said we would do on 1 May 1997, before the next general election, whether that comes at the end of this Session or the end of a further Session in May 2002.

The Queen's Speech and the pre-Budget statement highlight the differences between the Labour Government—who try to deliver on the issues and are committed to social justice—and the Conservative party, which has pledged to reduce public spending in every constituency in Wales and to take on the Assembly in order to cut its public spending and deny legislative opportunities.

Plaid Cymru, a nationalist party, has a wish list that it cannot achieve, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli said. It will not allow people in Wales to take decisions.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

    That the Committee has considered the Matter of the Government's legislative programme as outlined in the Queen's Speech and the Chancellor's Pre-Budget Statement as they relate to Wales.

Committee rose at Six o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Jones, Mr. Barry (Chairman)
Ainger, Mr.
Caton, Mr.
Davies, Mr. Denzil
Edwards, Mr.
Evans, Mr.
Griffiths, Mr. Win
Hanson, Mr.
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Livsey, Mr.
Llwyd, Mr.
Michael, Mr.
Morgan, Ms Julie
Murphy, Mr. Paul
Öpik, Mr.
Rogers, Mr.
Rowlands, Mr.
Ruane, Mr.
Smith, Mr. John
Thomas, Mr. Simon
Touhig, Mr.
Walter, Mr.
Wigley, Mr.

 
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