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Baroness Ludford: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his reply; indeed, I believe that the Government deserve some congratulations in proposing indicators. However, can I press the noble Lord on why these two most important quality of life determinants have been left out as direct indicators? After all, we have had the recent report of Sir Donald Acheson on inequalities in health in which he identified low income, especially for families with children, as a major cause of ill health. Moreover, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation recently reported that one-fifth of householders perceived crime as a major problem in their area. Therefore, surely crime and poverty are two major indicators which should be included in this respect. Can the noble Lord assure us that the Government will include them in the final proposals?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am always happy to accept the congratulations of the noble Baroness on our general approach. However, on the specific indicators, I can say that we will consider representations during the consultation period. Clearly, both poverty and crime have an effect on the quality of life. There are already in the public arena a number of fairly clear crime indicators which are widely covered in the media. However, poverty is a much more complex matter and falls under education, health and employment sides as well as applying more generally to the quality of life.
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, will the Minister consider commissioning some sort of research which would indicate that the quality of life actually suffers because of the extent of crime and poverty in some of our inner-city areas? Indeed, that may prove to be a very good indicator to take into account on future occasions.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I accept what the noble Lord says. However, crime and poverty are not headline indicators as regards particular aspects of sustainable development. There is a much wider government policy behind all this, particularly related to issues of social exclusion, which will tackle many of the problems in the inner-cities to which the noble Lord referred.
Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Bearing in mind that three other United Kingdom areas qualify for objective one status under the GDP criteria--Merseyside, South Yorkshire and Cornwall--are the Government broadly content with this as a possible outcome of the final negotiations? Secondly, will the Government consider setting up special arrangements in the case of West Wales and the valleys--which, I think the Minister will agree, is a pretty disparate region--to ensure that there is an ample supply of projects over those years which are acceptable to the Commission and which will enable that region to have the full benefit of the resources available?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the noble Lord makes two extremely valid points. As regards his first question, objective one status would bring around £1.5 billion in structural funds to West Wales and the valleys. That would be a fortunate and justified outcome. On his specific question of having projects available, again he is quite right. I am happy to be able to tell your Lordships that the Welsh Office has already established a European task force to design a strategy
Lord Islwyn: My Lords, does the Minister appreciate that as well as its immediate ill effects, heavy unemployment brings about ill health, an increase in the incidence of crime and a general down-grading of the community? The news that West Wales and the valleys are in line for objective one status is to be warmly welcomed. I wish the Government every success in their efforts to bring this about.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, of course the social consequences--not least in poor health--are extremely important. We have done extremely well to negotiate this likely outcome. The NUTS II area includes no fewer than 15 Welsh local authorities out of a total of 22. These 15 include Anglesey and Conwy--to forestall further questions--and include two-thirds of the population of Wales.
Lord Elis-Thomas: My Lords, I have to disappoint the Minister in that I am speaking as a resident of the county of Conwy, although not specifically on the issue of that county. I would like the Minister to convey our congratulations to the Welsh Office and to the task force on the work that they are doing. I would ask: what are the implications of any additional European funding on the block funding--which will be the funding for the assembly--bearing in mind the deliberations on these matters of the noble Lord, Lord Barnett?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, at present the position is that, normally, additional public expenditure for matching would have to come from within the Welsh block grant. Negotiations on the future of structural funds are under way within the European Union and the arrangements post-2000 remain to be determined.
Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, will the Minister give the House an assurance that he will bear in mind during the course of the negotiations that are taking place in regard to this matter that after all it is our own money that we are claiming?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, if it comes to assist West Wales and the valleys--and bearing in mind what the noble Lord, Lord Islwyn, rightly pointed out--I do not care whose money it is as long as we get it.
Lord Dean of Beswick: My Lords, is it not the case that, apart from Wales--to which I wish every success in the review taking place--there are areas in England, such as the north west, the north east and South Yorkshire, that are every bit as disadvantaged as anywhere in Wales, south or otherwise? Will the
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the criteria are general criteria and affect and relate to each relevant area within the United Kingdom. Therefore, curiously, Wales is not being unduly favoured on this occasion.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: No, my Lords. The position remains as I have indicated. There are negotiations under way within the European Union on the future of the structural funds for the United Kingdom as a whole. The future arrangements post-2000 therefore remain to be decided.
Lord Monkswell: My Lords, bearing in mind the timescale of the baseline and the per capita income levels as criteria, will the Minister confirm that it is a sad reflection on the stewardship of the country under the previous administration that we end up having to claim these particular categories for any part of the United Kingdom? Will he confirm categorically that unlike the previous administration, who would not make matching government funds available so that European moneys could be claimed, this Government will ensure that matching funds are available if necessary?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, we are dealing with the consequences of the stewardship of the previous regime. There have been long-term structural problems in the Welsh economy. I am not sure that I want to point the finger at any particular regime, but we are dealing with the situation which we found. The Welsh Office is doing extremely well building on the work, if I may say so, of our predecessors. It is extremely gratifying that in an area of grave social difficulty we are managing to get funds to put things right.
Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, we are all very grateful to the Minister for the illuminating replies that he has given and for the quiet tribute that he has paid to the previous administration. In return, I can tell him that the real problem is the one touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell--the problem of securing matching funds which may well fall to the assembly to achieve. Does the Minister agree?
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