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Volume 885: debated on Monday 27 January 1975

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Homeless Persons


asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is the present number of homeless people in Wales.

On 30th September 1974, the latest date for which figures are available, there were 1,146 persons in Wales who were in temporary accommodation. I have no reliable estimates of others who may be homeless.

I thank the Minister for that reply. Is he aware that there are a number of married couples who have been on the council house waiting list for up to five years? Can he hold out any ray of hope that they will be housed within the next five years?

I can offer more than a ray of hope. Approvals for local authority house building in 1974 were the highest since 1967.

Does my hon. Friend accept that the figures he has given, encouraging though they are, reflect only a small part of the problem, since they deal only with those who have been on the council waiting list? There are others who are sharing with relatives and living in grossly overcrowded conditions.

Yes, that is the position. We have a great deal of concealed homelessness in Wales, with young couples living in their parents' front rooms, and so on. We must break this backlog of need which we inherited. The local authority building programme will, I hope, reflect that need.

Is the Minister satisfied with the liaison between local authority social service departments and the housing departments of district councils, in view of the transfer of responsibility to the housing departments in the recent circular on homelessness?

There is a general problem in the relationship between the social service departments at county council level and the local housing authorities which are increasing their responsibility for homelessness. We are conducting a wide-ranging review of the whole process and hope to issue a consultation document in the not-too-distant future.

What advice has my hon. Friend given to housing authorities to ensure that the housing list is fair, and is manifestly seen to be fair?

The allocation of local authority houses is the responsibility of the local authority. There has been a great deal of advice from central Government. I recall the Cullingworth Report, which some years ago looked into the allocation of local authority houses. This matter remains the responsibility of the local community and the local authority.

What is the total requirement for new houses in Wales and what steps is the Minister taking to meet the need indicated by that figure?

The hon. Member has a cheek to ask such a question at the Dispatch Box—suggesting that somehow the Government are letting the side down. We inherited a potential list of 50,000 people wanting local authority housing. That is the net figure and does not take account of concealed needs that we do not know about. I have urged every housing authority to prepare medium-term plans for housing over the next three-to-five years to set a programme that we shall certainly endorse.

National Water Development Authority


asked the Secretary of State for Wales what arrangements have been made to ensure that the decisions of the Welsh National Water Development Authority are co-ordinated with the actions of his own Department in preparing plans for housing and other developments.

The Welsh National Water Development Authority is made fully aware of our priorities in relation to housing and other developments, in the light of which it is for the authority to decide its capital investment programme.

Does the Minister recall telling the South Pembrokeshire District Authority that it should build houses and that he would make the resources available? How does he reconcile that statement with the delay to the South Pembrokeshire sewerage scheme by the Welsh water authority—a delay which the dis- trict authority believes will bring all the housing and industrial development in the area to a standstill, including preparation work for exploration of the Celtic Sea?

I have told the authority that it can have as much resources as it needs within the resources that are available for housing. As to the special problems of the sewerage scheme, officials of the Welsh Office have been endeavouring to resolve this dispute, and we are hoping to arrange a meeting in the near future between the water authority, the local authority and ourselves acting as honest brokers.

Redundancies (Gwynedd)


asked the Secretary of State for Wales what consultations he has had relative to the recently announced redundancies in Gwynedd; what plans he has to develop new job opportunities in the area; and how many new jobs are currently in the pipeline.

My right hon. and learned Friend is kept informed of notified redundancies which occur in Gwynedd and elsewhere. The Government's whole economic strategy is designed to protect and create jobs throughout Wales. Although precise figures are not available for Gwynedd, there are about 1,000 new jobs in the pipline for North-West Wales.

Is the Minister aware that 50 of these redundancies have been caused in a factory in Llanberis which has closed, and that the men have been offered similar work at a factory in Manchester? During the election, Labour candidates said that this factory was the safest in the constituency, since its main customer was a nationalised industry—a subsidiary of the British Steel Corporation. Will the Minister draw the attention of the Secretary of State for Industry to the situation in the factory with the possibility of the Government's taking it over as a going concern and running it on a co-operative basis?

The present Government watch every job in Wales with the greatest interest. We take every job most seriously, particularly when it is in danger. To emphasise that, I remind the House that we have taken three effective steps to help North Wales. We have made North-West Wales a special development area, we have doubled the regional employment premium, and we have announced three new factories in Gwynedd.

What estimate has my hon. Friend's Department made of what the condition of Gwynedd would be—let alone the future economic condition of that part of the country—but for the opportunities afforded to the people of that area by nationalised industries and public enterprise and by centrally-directed and assisted and bribed and cajoled private enterprise?

My hon. Friend speaks with his usual expertise on these matters. He may have in mind, as I have, the hydroelectric scheme as one of the instances of a nationalised concern.

Advance Factories


asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many Government advance factories there are in Wales where no industrial production is currently taking place.

Two, plus two nursery units. Five other Government-owned factories, plus four nursery units, some of which were originally advance factories, are also available for letting.

My constituents will not be cheered by that reply, particularly those in the Blaenau Ffestiniog area, because we shall shortly be celebrating the second anniversary of the vacation of and subsequent non-production in premises in Blaenau Ffestiniog. I remind the Minister that I have had discussions with the Welsh Office about the matter over the past nine months. We are anxious that the factory should be tenanted, if not by private enterprise, by public enterprise in the area.

It would have been gracious of the hon. Gentleman if he had indicated the enormous amount of work put in by the Department of Industry, by my Department and by myself to try to get a tenant for the factory. It was regrettable that all our efforts did not bear fruit. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we shall continue to do what we can to get a tenant for the factory. The officials of both Departments are vitally concerned.

We have announced for Wales, in less than a year, three separate advance factory programmes, which will provide a total of about 300,000 square feet of factory space in Wales. There will always be some that are empty, but it is the whole object of the exercise that when industrialists show an interest the factories are there. I shall continue with my efforts.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that my constituents have been greatly encouraged and heartened by the initiatives taken by the Government since they came to office last March? Is he aware that an advance factory in Amlwch, which was vacant for four years under the previous Government, now has a tenant as a result of the present Government's efforts? We in Anglesey, and, I suspect, the people of Merioneth and other parts of Wales, are very grateful to the Government for the more compassionate and effective view they take of the employment needs in the Principality.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. The hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas) knew the tremendous effort being put into bringing a tenant to Blaenau Ffestiniog. He sought to take credit for himself, and fell flat on his face. We are anticipating the need, and in addition to providing factories we are ensuring that land is bought in advance of need so that we can take speedy action when required.

I acknowledge the efforts of the Department of Employment and the right hon. Gentleman's Department, and appreciate the value of advance factories, but will the right hon. and learned Gentleman consider to what degree the occupation of some of the advance factories at the periphery is held up or handicapped by the quality of the road communications to some of the remote parts of North Wales and other parts of Wales?

We are always doing out utmost to improve road communications. The hon. Gentleman is right to put his finger on that matter, although perhaps it has not been a particular problem for any one of the factories. We shall always do our utmost to improve the road programme which is so badly needed in Wales.



asked the Secretary of State for Wales whether he will make a statement on the additional powers which he has now taken in order to ensure a higher level of employment in Wales.

From 1st July I shall be responsible for administering selective financial assistance. This is one of the most important means of helping to stabilise and develop industry in Wales.

That is very fine, but is the Secretary of State aware that all his praiseworthy efforts are being largely undone by those of his ministerial colleagues who, by their vindictiveness against the self-employed or by the penal rates of capital transfer tax which they propose to apply to family businesses, are liable to take away many more jobs than he can ever create? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman admit that the time has come to save jobs rather than to clobber those who do not vote Labour?

The hon. Gentleman must be living in a wholly different world. As regards saving jobs, I remind the hon. Gentleman that he voted for the British Steel Corporation's proposal to close down Shotton within a very short period. I wholly reject the hon. Gentleman's suggestions.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend get in touch with his colleagues in the Department of Industry to bring forward the legislation on the National Enterprise Board and hasten the day when we have a Welsh development agency, which will carry out the functions of the board in Wales? Will he make representations to the agency at an early date to use the derelict land in the valleys of South Wales for industrial development, rather than take good agricultural land elsewhere?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his positive remarks. We shall speed on with our proposals for the National Enterprise Board, and I hope that within a very short time we shall publish our consultative paper on the Welsh development agency. My office has made it a priority that the money available for derelict land should go to sites needed for industrial development and housing. The programme we have published, with limited resources, has been welcomed throughout Wales.

The Secretary of State says that we are living in different worlds. Is not the world in which we are living one in which Welsh unemployment is rising? Is the substantial recent increase in Welsh unemployment considered a satisfactory outcome of Government policies? To what level does the right hon. and learned Gentleman expect Welsh unemployment to be forced by those policies?

I assure the hon. Gentleman—so that we come back to the same world—that I would never regard any figure of unemployment as satisfactory. I want to do my utmost to reduce the present unemployment figure in Wales. But I find the hon. Gentleman's protestations very odd, coming from a supporter of the previous Government, who saw unemployment rocketing.

Local Government Staffs


asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many people were employed in local government in Wales in the years 1970–71, 1971–72, 1972–73 and 1973–74, respectively; and what were the total salaries and wage bills for those personnel in the same years.

The information is detailed and, with permission, I shall circulate it in the Official Report.

I cannot thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for a helpful answer. Do not the figures indicate an escalation in the number of people employed, and in the cost? Are not all the indications that the so-called reform of local government undertaken by the previous Government has been extremely expensive for Wales, with very few compensatory advantages?

The hon. and learned Gentleman is absolutely right. The numbers of staff and the cost have risen. There is public concern about increases in both. I want to make it abundantly clear that I share that concern. That is why the local authorities have been asked to limit any future increases in staff to those required to meet inescapable commitments. We are setting up a new system of monitoring.

Whilst I support the hon. and learned Gentleman's protest against the increase of bureaucracy in local government as a result of local government reorganisation, so hurriedly pushed through the House by the last Conservative Government, I find it difficult to reconcile it with his own party's support of British membership of the Common Market, which will further increase that bureaucracy. How can the hon. and learned Gentleman reconcile that contradiction in his argument?

I understand my hon. Friend's point. In due course we shall debate this issue, when we know what terms have emerged from the negotiations which, as my hon. Friend fully knows, are now taking place in Brussels.

Following is the information:

Information about the total numbers employed by local authorities in Wales is available for June each year.
The figures—excluding police forces—are:

Total local authority expenditure on wages and salaries—other than the police service—was:

Comparable figures for 1973–74 are not yet available.

Water Rates


asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he is yet in a position to make a statement about the level of water charges in Wales.

It would be inappropriate for my right hon. and learned Friend to do so until he has received and considered the report of the Daniel Committee.

In view of the expected enormous increases in the water rates in certain areas, and the advice given in favour of phased equalisation by various bodies, will the Minister give me an assurance that phased equalisation has been considered? If it has been turned down, will he say why?

The hon. Gentleman speaks at the Dispatch Box time and time again on the principles of the Water Act 1973. Time and time again I have to tell him that he and his hon. Friends are responsible for the Water Act and for the consequences that flow from it. To spill crocodile tears about them at almost every Question Time is reprehensible. Equalisation is the decision of the Welsh water authority. I gather that the authority discussed phased equalisation and unanimously came to the conclusion that it should go for equalisation straight away. That is the authority's decision, and it must be responsible for it.

Will the Minister inform the House of the progress that is being made towards the establishment of a truly national Welsh water authority, inclusive of the whole of Wales, which will have the power to sell Welsh water to English conurbations at, for example, 20p per 1,000 gallons, and which would reduce the Welsh water rates to a nominal level?

I know of a number of hon. Members, including the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson), who at this time would not wish to be part of any Welsh water authority. The Daniel Committee has been asked to report on these vital issues and we must await its report.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the equitable solution to the problem would be the equalisation of water rates throughout England and Wales? Will he say what progress is being made towards that objective?

Certainly. There are many feelings on the matter. On many occasions many people, including ourselves, have claimed that there should be a more equitable distribution of water charges not only in Wales but between Wales and corresponding English authorities. That may be one of the matters that the Daniel Committee will bring to our attention.

I agree with the view expressed by the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes), but does the Minister agree that whatever reforms are needed for the water authorities the rivers must be run as a whole? Does he agree that in the second half of the twentieth century it is nonsense to suggest that England, Wales and Scotland cannot sufficiently co-operate to ensure that one river is managed as a whole?

That certainly is the principle and philosophy which underline the drawing of the boundaries of the Welsh water authority and the neighbouring water authorities. That is why we have bits of England in Welsh authorities and bits of Wales in English authorities. It makes a lot of sense.


asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he has had any recent discussions with the borough of Newport concerning water charges.

No. Nor has my right hon. and learned Friend received representations from the borough.

Are the proposed charges consistent with Circular 282/74, issued from the Welsh Office, which urges local authorities to keep down charges of new rates to a 20 per cent. increase? Is my hon. Friend aware that the new sewerage charges alone would mean an increase of between 150 per cent. and 200 per cent., while the increase in the water rate would be no less than 142 per cent.? Does he appreciate that this sewerage charge would be about equal to 70 per cent. of the rates required for borough purposes, and that the Dukes Committee, which studied the matter, urged that equalisation should not start until after April 1976? Will my hon. Friend see to it that this new super-bureaucracy is in line with Government policy?

We have no control over the rate charges in any particular area, other than in the sense of controlling the general criteria, and then only in a reserve sense. I am sorry to have to tell my hon. Friend that the charges are a direct and inevitable consequence of the Water Act 1973.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

Further to that point of order. As Welsh Questions were taken only once in the last Session of Parliament, as today we have been unable to reach several important Questions, as there has not been an opportunity for many supplementary questions to be taken, and as this—

Order. The hon. Member is making it more unlikely that we shall get back to taking Welsh Questions today. May I take his point of order at the end of Questions?

Cardiff (City Centre Plan)


asked the Secretary of State for Wales what proposals he has to safeguard the jobs and economic security of firms and individuals displaced by the first phase of the Cardiff city centre plan project.

I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my right hon. and learned Friend to my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes) on 20th December 1974. Payment of compensation arising from the central development area proposals is the responsibility of the city council.—[Vol. 883, c. 749.]

Does the Minister's Department accept that it has a moral responsibility for ensuring that the city authorities have the loan sanction that they require? After all, it was an assumed moral responsibility when it agreed to the CPO in the first place. Does the Minister realise that unless his Department persuades the Treasury to make the money available to save the individuals and firms now threatened with going under, the good name of both local government and central Government will be dragged in the mud?

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's concern. The decision was taken by our predecessors in the light of the circumstances then prevailing. We make no criticism of that, because it may well have been a perfectly sound decision. But that does not mean that the approval of the compulsory purchase order guarantees the availability of funds. That is a matter for the city council.

Housing Action Areas


asked the Secretary of State for Wales what advice he intends to give to Welsh local authorities about the implementation of those provisions of the Housing Act 1974 relating to housing action areas.

Two major circulars will be issued this week on housing action areas, following a comprehensive circular on renewal strategies issued last week.

I know that my hon. Friend, personally, has worked very hard on this issue. It is relevant to Wales, because of the large proportion of unfit houses in Wales. Will my hon. Friend now say what steps he has taken, apart from the circulars, to publicise what is available to local authorities? Will he give an assurance to local authorities that the cash will be available?

Yes, I can give an assurance that the maximum publicity will be used to ensure that not only local authorities but individuals appreciate the rate of grants that will be available under the new Act and the concept behind the housing action area circulars.

I am pleased to report to the House that the first housing action area ever to be declared in England and Wales was at Blaenau/Gwent, in Wales. Finance will be available to assist local authorities in their task of renewing and saving the maximum number of our older homes.

Will the Minister confirm that in the circular that we shall see later this week there will be evidence for the local authorities that they can apply housing action areas in rural areas where the needs are very great? Does he agree that the needs in such areas are often as great in degree, although not in number, as the needs in urban areas?

Yes, certainly. The housing action area circular—I refer to the main one which is coming out this week—is issued by the Welsh Office and has been written with the special needs of Wales in mind. The hon. Gentleman will find paragraphs in the circular which refer directly to the needs of rural communities and the application of the Housing Act 1974.

Does my hon. Friend appreciate that people of Pillgwenlly, Newport have been fighting for over 10 years to keep their homes, along the lines of the policy now being advocated by the Welsh Office? Meanwhile, many hundreds of homes have been bricked up. That is having a detrimental effect on the quality of life in the neighbourhood. Will my hon. Friend ask the local authorities to consider the whole issue of bricking up houses and to consider how many can be refurbished and opened up?

I sympathise greatly with my hon. Friend. It is because of the experience of a number of local authorities in slum clearance, clearance areas and the application of comprehensive clearance area policies that the new advice which we now offer to local authorities has come into being. My hon. Friend will find that the new circular will answer many of the points he has raised.

Mid-Wales (Development)


asked the Secretary of State for Wales what proposals he has for setting up a rural development board to cater for the needs of Mid-Wales.

The Government's policy is to create effective arrangements to develop rural Wales.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend realise that many people in Mid-Wales believe that the area has suffered considerably because of the problems raised by the proposal of the previous administration? We are anxious that such a proposal should not be brought forward again. We do not want Mid-Wales and rural Mid-Wales suffering under the umbrella of an all-Wales agency, so that its special needs are not catered for properly. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that many facets of life in Mid-Wales—not only industrial development—would be assisted by such a policy?

As a Mid-Walian I have felt deeply the rejection of Mid-Wales by the previous Government's proposal. A great deal of time has been lost and a great deal of responsibility lies with those in Mid-Wales who objected to our proposals. That is why I am now proposing to publish speedily my consultative papers dealing with arrangements for the whole of Wales. That is the priority for this Session. That in no way precludes the possibility of creating some further organisation dealing exclusively with Mid-Wales. Let us first set up the development agency and then determine where we should go from there. No one is more mindful than myself of the needs of Mid-Wales.

In view of the increasing cost of going to work, brought about by the petrol increases, what representations is the right hon. and learned Gentleman making to his right hon. Friend?

We are all deeply aware of the high cost of petrol. Every member of the public and every member of the Government is fully aware of that. It is not for me to catalogue the representations, if there are any, which go on between Departments.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that it would be folly on his part and on the part of the Government to impose a similar rural development board, with compulsory powers, on the people of Mid-Wales? He is a Mid-Walian, and I know that he is aware that I am a Mid-Walian. It would be much better if the Government were to prepare a comprehensive policy to safeguard the future of rural areas.

That is what we are doing. We are announcing shortly our proposals for the whole of Wales. I have said before that the proposals for Wales and for Mid-Wales must be both effective and acceptable, and try to get over some of the difficulties of the objectives. But the hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that many people in Mid-Wales bear grave responsibility for the time which has been lost there.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that what is needed is an extension of the activities of the Mid-Wales Development Corporation—for which I was responsible and which has done a remarkable job—to the other Mid-Wales towns?

My right hon. Friend's suggestion will certainly be taken into account in considering legislation, but there may well be differing views on the question whether that would be the right way to proceed. It will be looked at, but I cannot give any indication in advance of the publication of our proposals for the whole of Wales. They come first, and I have indicated what might be further possibilities.

Comprehensive Education


asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he is satisfied with progression towards universal comprehensive secondary education in Wales; and what proportion of Welsh secondary schools are organised in a manner which satisfies criteria laid down by Her Majesty's Government.

Yes. Seventy-six per cent. of maintained secondary schools, providing for 86 per cent. of secondary school pupils in Wales, are organised on comprehensive lines. Local education authorities and teachers are to be commended for this rapid progress towards establishing a fully comprehensive system of secondary education.

Is my hon. Friend aware that I consider that most of the unfortunate 14 per cent. of the secondary school population who are not receiving comprehensive education seem to be in my constituency? Will he ensure that sufficient finance is placed at the disposal of the Gwent County Council to ensure that the necessary expansion of Crosskeys College of Further Education takes place, so that when we embark upon full comprehensive education in that part of my constituency the start will not be blighted by homelessness among these senior schoolchildren?

I take the point. Next Wednesday I am going to Gwent to examine the situation. My hon. Friend the Member for Bedwelty (Mr. Kinnock) has been a long campaigner on this issue. I remind him and the House that the overriding need at present is to contain public expenditure. This means that only the most pressing school building projects can be programmed, but I hope that I can find some in Gwent on Wednesday.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the great depth of feeling aroused in Bangor over the conflicting proposals for the reorganisation of secondary education there? Will he give an assurance that no irrevocable step will be taken without consultation with him?

I am fully aware of the strength of feeling in the Bangor area, so I shall say nothing to antagonise the community at this stage; I merely give an assurance that before a reorganisation scheme comes into being the local education authority of Gwynedd will have to present the scheme to the Welsh Office.

Whilst the hon. Gentleman is progressing with the organisation of comprehensive education at secondary school level, will he indicate what progress is being made towards a comprehensive structure of higher education, and ensure that the reorganisation of present colleges of education and technical colleges will not hinder further development towards full-comprehensive higher education?

That is a strong philosophical point. I take note of what the hon. Gentleman said. However, it includes matters to do with the Department of Education and Science as well as the Welsh Office. I assure the hon. Gentleman that there is a very strong, continuing and sympathetic Welsh interest.

Is my hon. Friend aware that many areas are not satisfied with the criteria laid down, that these criteria refer to buildings, and that, very often, the quality of education and the opportunities afforded to youngsters have changed very little in places where the style of education continues as before?

My hon. Friend is making a case for equality of opportunity, which for decades has been a great ideal of the Labour movement. We take full note of that.

Bilingual Road Signs


asked the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has now received protesting against his decision to give priority to English in bilingual directional signs in Wales.

Since announcing my decision to the House on 10th June 1974, I have received 135 letters of protest.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment stated, on 17th December, in a letter to my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) that no attempt had been made to establish the effect of reading speeds on road safety? Is the Secretary of State further aware that this makes nonsense of his requirement that Welsh place names be placed underneath those in English? The English place names are often corrupt forms of the Welsh. Was not the right hon. and learned Gentleman's decision based not on road safety but on political grounds?

I do not know what political grounds the hon. Gentleman has in mind. I take notice that this is the first oral Question tabled by the hon. Gentleman that I am answering since his re-election to the House. It is an odd sense of priorities, when the concern of most of the Welsh people is with jobs and homes.

The letter of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment must be read in the context of Table 5 of the Second Report of the Road Research Laboratory. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman has read the report. If so, perhaps he will tell us whether the difference of 137 ft or, perhaps, 100 ft, is a significant factor in safeguarding life over the distances that would be involved in adopting the course he suggests if a car were travelling at 70 mph. No Minister with the slightest sense of responsibility—I speak as a former Minister responsible for safety in the Ministry for Transport—would have taken any other course.

Area Health Authorities


asked the Secretary of State for Wales what plans there are for the allocation of financial resources to area health authorities in Wales.

My right hon. and learned Friend is considering the revenue allocations for 1975–76 and reviewing the capital allocations made last August. Before reaching a final view, he will be meeting area health authority chairmen on 21st February to discuss both their proposals and also the report of the Working Group on Resource Allocations, set up last May.

Will my hon. Friend assure us that what he has in mind would have the effect of making a fair distribution of resources throughout Wales, in terms of the area health authorities? As well as concentrating help on the large base hospitals, will he strengthen the help and give higher priority to the development of health centres, day hospitals, community hospitals, and the like?

I give that assurance. We are aware of the feeling in a number of quarters that the system of resources allocation used hitherto has not led to equitable distribution. That is why my right hon. and learned Friend set up the working group to look into the matter. My hon. Friend would no doubt like to know that the report recommends that in respect of the non-psychiatric hospitals Mid-Glamorgan should have a rate of growth above the average next year.



asked the Secretary of State for Wales what consultations he has had with a view to strengthening Welsh links with Europe.

There are already close links between Wales and Europe in a variety of fields, including the economic. My Department, in particular, maintains regular contact with Brussels, and I see no immediate need for further consultation in these matters.

In view of the comments being aired in some quarters that we should base our policy on strengthening our links mainly or only with the English-speaking world, does not my right hon. and learned Friend think that, in logic, we should set out to strengthen our links with Welsh Patagonia? Or, in common with the rest of us, does he agree that it is nothing more than idiot chauvinism?

If my hon. Friend will put down a Question about strengthening links with Patagonia, I shall answer it.