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5. Hywel Williams (Caernarfon) (PC): What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for the Home Department on the policy of UK Border Agency staff at airports towards people from Welsh-speaking communities in Patagonia wishing to enter the UK in order to visit Wales. [278178]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Wayne David): The United Kingdom welcomes Patagonians who are visiting Wales. We welcome the fact that they are keen to explore their Welsh heritage, and of course the UKBA does not have any separate policy in relation to Welsh-speaking people from Patagonia.

Hywel Williams: I thank the Under-Secretary of State for that answer. Does he share my outrage, and that of people throughout Wales, including my hon. Friend the Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd), at
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the treatment of a young Patagonian visitor, Miss Evelyn Calcabrini? She travelled for 35 hours to get to Heathrow, but was summarily ejected and sent back. She is not the only young Welsh Patagonian who has, unfortunately, suffered summary ejection for no good cause that I can see. Will the Under-Secretary therefore use his good offices to facilitate a meeting between myself, my hon. Friend and the immigration Minister, so that this disgraceful stain on our welcome to Welsh Patagonians can be remedied once and for all?

Mr. David: I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that issue. I am aware of the concerns that he and the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) have about the matter. I give my commitment that the Secretary of State and I will meet the relevant Home Office Minister as soon as possible. Clearly the issue is important, and we want it sorted out as quickly as possible.

Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) (PC): May I, through the Minister, congratulate his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on his return to the Front Bench, and also wish the right hon. Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy) all the best for the future?

The point on the subject of the question has been well made by my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarfon (Hywel Williams). The Minister knows of the historical cultural connection between Patagonia and Wales. The young woman in question had every right to stay for six months to brush up on the Welsh language. I am grateful for the commitment that the Minister and his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State have given, and I look forward to having a very early meeting with the Minister for Borders and Immigration.

Mr. David: We have already had a conversation about the issue, as the hon. Gentleman knows. Obviously, I cannot refer in any great detail to the case that he cites, but I underline the fact that it is important that the cultural links between Wales and Patagonia be enhanced. We should make sure that everything is done to ensure that free movement can take place.

David T.C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): As somebody who has consistently opposed the Government’s policy of unlimited immigration, may I say how horrified I was that the young lady in question was turned back for no good reason? May I ask the Minister to ensure that amends are made in some way, and to ensure that she is given the welcome to learn Welsh in Wales that she deserves?

Mr. David: As I just said, it is important that we have the greatest possible cultural interchange between Wales and Patagonia; that is of both historical and contemporary importance. It would not be right for me to go into any great detail about the particular case to which hon. Members have referred, but I underline the commitment that I have made to make sure that meetings take place. We hope that the situation can be resolved and will not arise again.

Welsh Economy

7. Ann Winterton (Congleton) (Con): What recent discussions he has had with the First Minister on prospects for the Welsh economy. [278180]

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The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain): We are determined, together, to deliver all the help we can to businesses and employees, and to build a stronger economy for the recovery to come.

Ann Winterton: Unemployment is higher, and is growing more rapidly, in Wales than in England, Northern Ireland or Scotland. Men have been affected most adversely, and young people between 25 and 34 have experienced the highest percentage increase in unemployment. What discussions will the Secretary of State have with the first Minister about trying to alleviate the problem, especially as those with no qualifications are the most vulnerable in the market?

Mr. Hain: I would point out to the hon. Lady that there are already 120,000 more jobs in Wales than there were when we came into power in 1997. There are serious unemployment problems, but I ask her to consider how those problems could be addressed by the Conservatives’ plans to cut Labour’s guarantee that all 18 to 24-year-olds unemployed for a year will receive either a job or training, to cut this year’s £60 cash boost for pensioners, and to cut support for families who are under real pressure, and who need to defer interest payments so that they do not lose their homes. I understand her concern, but her policies would cut all support for all those seeking to get a job.

Mrs. Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): Yesterday Lord Mandelson announced the backdating of the trade credit insurance scheme to October 2008. That will be a huge opportunity for the Welsh manufacturing industry to move forward. Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming that move, which demonstrates the Labour Government’s commitment to supporting the Welsh economy?

Mr. Hain: I certainly will, particularly with regard to the furniture industry in my hon. Friend’s constituency. I know that she will agree that the employment prospects and economic prospects in her constituency can only have been enhanced by the Prime Minister’s outstanding leadership of the world at the G20 summit, at which he led the world in a rescue from the global crisis. It is that outstanding leadership that we want to see continue, taking Britain forward; we do not want to be plunged into the terrible cuts that the Conservatives plan for the British economy.


8. Mark Williams (Ceredigion) (LD): What recent discussions he has had with the Welsh Assembly Government and ministerial colleagues on policy to provide a universal service for broadband in Wales by 2012. [278181]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Wayne David): I have met stakeholders from the public, private and voluntary sectors across the United Kingdom, including Wales. The purpose has been to consult on digital inclusion, in both a social and a geographic sense. The UK and Welsh Assembly Governments are committed to achieving a digital Britain with a universal broadband service for all of the United Kingdom, including, of course, Wales.

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Mark Williams: The Minister will be aware of the success of the Assembly’s RIBS—regional innovative broadband support—programme and the six communities, including Cilcennin in Ceredigion, that are part of that project. Will he make the strongest possible representations to the Assembly Government to extend that project, and will he work with BT and the Assembly Government? The universal service commitment is some way from being met and there is real impatience, particularly on the part of small businesses.

Mr. David: The hon. Gentleman is correct in pointing to the work already being done with regard to his constituency. I know that BT, for example, is closely involved in the work being carried out. There is a good partnership on the issue between ourselves in London and the Welsh Assembly Government. We must make sure that that partnership is rolled forward, and that we achieve our commitment to universal connection as quickly as we can. With regard to the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, I give a personal commitment to take a particular interest and to make sure that that comes about.

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked—


Q1. [278778] Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire) (Con): If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 10 June.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall have further such meetings later today.

Andrew Selous: Our specialist hospitals are the jewels in the NHS crown, but unfortunately their knowledge and expertise are not always passed on to district general hospitals, which means that some patients undergo inappropriate operations which later have to be reversed by specialist hospitals, or even worse, are prevented from having operations which could free them from pain. Could the Prime Minister spare just 10 minutes to meet the chair of the federation of specialist hospitals to see how matters could be improved?

The Prime Minister: Of course I will, and I think he will understand, as I will understand, that that depends on proper investment in specialist hospitals. He will be as concerned as I am by the remarks of the shadow Health Secretary that he will cut spending in the vital areas that are important to our country. The shadow Health Secretary said that he would review the national health’s organisations on a “zero basis”. He said he wants to ensure that the unit costs considerably reduce, rather than increase. He said this morning that he wants a 10 per cent. reduction in the departmental limits. Before the Conservatives ask for more spending on the health service, they should talk to the shadow Chancellor and the shadow Health Secretary.

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Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab): Will the Prime Minister affirm the Labour Government’s commitment to maintaining funding for public services such as housing, universities, police, law and order, transport and pensions, and reject the Tory party policy of a 10 per cent. across the board cut, which would take this country back to the worst days of Thatcherism?

The Prime Minister: Specifically, this morning the shadow Health Secretary spoke of

He said that the job of the shadow Chancellor was to be clear about where the spending restraints bite. There can be no doubt that the choice, whenever it comes, is between a Government who are prepared to invest in the future and a Conservative party that will cut.

Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): When even the old-timers are reading out the Whips’ handout questions, we know things are really bad for the Government. May I say how pleased I am to see the Prime Minister in his place? Let me be clear about what we think of electoral reform. We want to keep the existing system. We support the link between one MP and one constituency, and we back our system because weak, tired and discredited Governments can be thrown out. We supported the system when we were behind, when we were ahead, when we won, when we lost. Why has the Prime Minister suddenly discovered an interest in changing the electoral system? Does it have anything to do with the fact that his party got 15 per cent. of the vote last week?

The Prime Minister: Finally, after many, many weeks, a question on policy. Is it not remarkable that it has taken that amount of time for the Conservatives to come up with a question? [Hon. Members: “Answer.”] The statement that I shall make in a few minutes, after 12.30, will deal with exactly those problems. I have to remind the right hon. Gentleman that there are different electoral systems in different parts of the United Kingdom, in many cases with the Conservative party’s support. There is a different one in Northern Ireland, a different one in Scotland, a different one in Wales, a different one for the European Parliament, which is based on proportional representation, and a different one in the House of Commons. I shall deal with the issue in the constitutional statement in a few minutes.

Mr. Speaker: Mr. Eric Illsley. [ Interruption. ] My apologies, I was too quick. Mr. Cameron.

Mr. Cameron: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am sure that you will agree that it is no good the Prime Minister saying, “Wait for the statement,” when he has briefed all the details to the press. And, I have to say that, on asking questions about personalities, what is there left to ask when so many members of the Cabinet have walked out because they cannot work with him?

I want to ask the Prime Minister questions about the issue of electoral reform and the process that he intends to follow. On that issue, does he agree that a truly proportional system has massive drawbacks? Did we not see that on Sunday night, when the British National party, a bunch of fascist thugs, got two members elected
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to the European Parliament? Does he agree with me that that is a very, very strong argument against proportional systems?

The Prime Minister: Let the whole House send the message that the politics of discrimination, prejudice and bigotry have no part to play in the democratic life of our country. Let us all take action together to expose the racist and bigoted policies of the British National party. And, let us be clear that, on the Labour side of the House, we will do everything in our power to show that the problems that made people vote for the BNP are the problems that we are dealing with—on housing, on social justice and on employment. Nobody, however, will support the BNP’s anti-Semitic policy or its policy that is even against mixed-race marriage. I believe that the whole country can unite on that.

What I say about electoral reform, however, is that I have never myself supported the policy of proportional representation for a Westminster Parliament; that has always been my view. The right hon. Gentleman has to accept that the policy of proportional representation exists for the European elections, and I do not see a proposal from his party to change it at the moment. He has to accept also that the Jenkins proposals for the additional vote plus PR laid down criteria by which it would be impossible for the British National party to hold a seat—even under the PR system—in the British Parliament, unless it won a constituency seat.

Mr. Cameron: Everyone will agree with what the Prime Minister says about defeating the BNP, and it does mean all mainstream parties making sure that they go door to door and get their voters to go out and vote.

Let me ask about the process, and let us be clear about what the Prime Minister seems to be considering. We are in the fifth and final year of a Parliament, and there have been reports that a referendum is being considered for before the general election. Can the Prime Minister confirm those reports? Is that something that he is considering?

The Prime Minister: There are no plans for that, and let me just say that when the right hon. Gentleman hears the statement later, he will hear that there is an interest throughout the country in what happens on electoral reform. We published a review— [ Interruption. ] I am sorry, but we published a review on electoral reform only a few months ago. That has led to a serious debate in the country, but we are not putting proposals forward today. If I may say so, I said that he had moved on to policy, but there seems to be an element of self-interest in the way that he is approaching— [ Interruption. ] Is it not strange— [ Interruption. ] Is it not strange, Mr. Speaker— [ Interruption. ]

Mr. Speaker: Order. It is getting too noisy— [ Interruption. ] Order. I am not getting much help from the Opposition Chief Whip. Maybe I can get a bit of help from him here. It will be a bad day when I have to tell the Opposition Chief Whip to be quiet, but the Prime Minister must be heard.

The Prime Minister: Is it not strange that the Opposition are not even interested in discussing that democratic reform, and that the first questions that the right hon.
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Gentleman asks on policy are not about the economy, not about the health service, not about education, not about public services—not about the issues that the public out there know that we and they are concerned about?

Mr. Cameron: I have to say to the Prime Minister that remarks such as that make him a figure of ridicule across this country. Everyone is entitled to ask what the Prime Minister’s motive is. For 12 years there was not a squeak about electoral reform, but now that he has been trashed at two elections he suddenly wants to put it on the agenda.

This is all of a piece with the Prime Minister treating the nation like fools—expecting us to believe that the right hon. Member for Edinburgh, South-West (Mr. Darling) is his first choice as Chancellor, and telling us that he cancelled the election because he was going to win it. The Prime Minister said that he had “no plans” for a referendum. We all know what that means—he said that he had no plans to put up taxes in 1997. Instead of saying “no plans”, let him stand up at that Dispatch Box and rule out a referendum.

The Prime Minister: I said that I had no plans, and I repeat that I have no plans. Is it not again remarkable? What MPs are being told by their constituents is that they should concentrate on getting the politics of this country sorted out, on getting us through the recession and on building us a better future. Not one question from the Leader of the Opposition has been about the central issues facing our country.

Mr. Cameron: The Prime Minister has chosen today to make a statement about constitutional reform; he cannot complain that I am asking questions about it. The Prime Minister talks about the economy, but let us be clear about what his legacy will be: not the most useless Government that we have had in history—although they are—but the biggest budget deficit in Europe and the biggest that we have had in our history. So let us be clear about “no plans” or “no proposals today”, as he put it. A man with no democratic legitimacy, who has never been elected as our Prime Minister, who has been defeated every time the public have been able to vote for him, is now considering trying to fix the election rules before the next general election. Is that not what is happening?

The Prime Minister: First of all, on public spending and deficits, let the right hon. Gentleman confirm that his proposals are for a 10 per cent. cut in most departmental expenditure. If he wishes to raise the question of deficits and debt, let him confirm that the proposal of the shadow Chancellor is now to cut public expenditure by 10 per cent., as confirmed by the shadow Health Secretary this morning.

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